After a flight up from Madrid, we arrived at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport by mid-afternoon. I rented a small car and soon we were out of the airport and on the highway toward Paris. It being Friday afternoon, I was prepared for some traffic jams, but so far it didn’t seem too bad. The highway leaving the airport was virtually traffic free, but by the time we reached the Périphérique, Paris’ big ring-road around the city center, we were in bumper-to-bumper traffic. It wasn’t quite at a stand-still, but we were inching along at less than 10 mph.
Knowing Paris and its traffic, I figured we were in store for at least an hour of stop-and-go traffic. But surely by the time we turned off the Périphériqueand headed southwest it would thin out to nothing. After two hours and less than 20 kilometers, I knew it would be hours before reaching Amboise. To make matters worse we had no hotel reservation, no real plan for the next two days, and no plans for tonight’s dinner. But getting to Amboise in the afternoon was out of the question with this traffic.
Luckily I had my GPS unit with me and we got it up and running. After another hour on the highway, and in this traffic, we finally found a two-laned road that would take us through the countryside to the Loire Valley. Well anything was better than sitting in this traffic for hours on end…so we took the little road.
Immediately there was no traffic, the road was clear, and it was smooth sailing. Uhmm…that is until we came to the first town. Friday afternoon must be the time for everyone to get out and go somewhere because there was lots of traffic. But it was no where near as bad as that we had encountered on the highway. The next hour passed with us speeding our way in the rural areas between each little town and then slowing down in the town centers. This wasn’t bad though. We got to experience several small rural towns in France like we lived there.
By now it was getting late, probably close to nine o’clock. I’d planned on finding a hotel in Amboise, but that was still an hour away. It really didn’t matter what time we arrived as long as we could get rooms for the night and a good meal. We were somewhere along the Loire River near Chambord when I saw it…and drove right on by. I know we had a goal and destination in mind, but that place back there looked like my kind of place. So at the next round-a-bout I did a 180 and decided we were going back to check it out.
The place was an old two-story stone building with lots of ivy climbing up the side. There, in huge painted-on letters, was a sign advertising “Hotel** and Grill.” Even with my limited French vocabulary I could tell we probably could find rooms and food. Pulling into the gravel parking lot I knew I’d made a good choice. There were several cars and the people milling around all were speaking French. I walked into the lobby and really had to dig deep into my French vocab to ask if they had two rooms and dinner. The lady at the desk said “no problem” offered a really good price and booked us for dinner too.
After settling in we walked back downstairs for dinner. The restaurant was just what you’d think a farmhouse grill would look like at home. In sort of the “Cracker Barrel” style there was ancient tools and stuff hanging from the walls and ceiling. On one wall there was a huge stone fireplace complete with a cozy fire. Large picture windows looked out in the back towards a little garden and the wheat fields beyond. I think we were one of the last seatings of the evening because all the other tables were either empty or filled with people involved in dessert or conversation.
The food was wonderful! Natalie and I had escargot, an assortment of duck, steak, vegetables, and dessert. All was washed down with the local Loire Valley wine. La Ferme des 3 Maillets is one of those rare finds that only happen if you let go of your inhibitions and get off the beaten path. Even though the staff spoke very little English and Natalie and I spoke very little French ,we all managed to get our points across and have a great time.
Often, I have people ask about the idea of the “French being a bit arrogant.” First of all, I don’t buy into it idea and secondly, the staff at the inn were wonderfully hospitable. They went out of their way to make our dinner and stay a grand experience. I’d go out of my way to eat and stay here again.
Recently, I’ve tried to research this place on the internet. I can’t find a website and very little search results on the web. But if you are ever in the Loire River Valley near the town of Avaray, find La Ferme des 3 Maillets stay a night, have a great dining experience, and really get a chance to explore another side of France.