Winning that prize was probably one of the best things that could ever happen to us as it almost coincided with the closure of our favourite hotel in Tours in February 2008. The owners, who have become friends of ours over the years, have retired and the hotel is being transformed into a residence for affluent senior citizens.
For nine consecutive years we had a lovely time there, and we met many charming and interesting people from all over the world. During our first three stays (in 1999-2000-2001) patrons mainly consisted of large parties of Americans who were on an organized cycling trip through the Loire Valley. During the day they cycled from one château to another, their luggage being sent ahead to the next hotel and gourmet restaurant where they would spend the night. I admired them for their stamina, as I don’t know how they managed to cover the daily distance on their bikes after eating every evening a full gastronomic dinner with appropriate wines!
There are lots of little anecdotes I could tell you about, like our meeting with Alfred, the wooden legged duck, our chat with a young couple from California who were on their honeymoon, a television crew filming for a documentary, etc. But the best story of all is probably our pizza luncheon by the pool.
Having no photos of that memorable lunch by the pool, here's a picture of some rowing boats on the Anglin in the village of Angles-sur-Anglin in the Vienne department.
One evening we were having pre-dinner drinks in the veranda, from where we had an excellent view on the driveway and the little duck pond. It was about 8 p.m. and people started to arrive for dinner. All of a sudden we saw a pizza delivery man on a moped puffing up the driveway towards the entrance of the hotel. The guy stepped of his bike, opened the delivery box and took out two pizza and two 33 cl bottles of coca-cola. He walked into the lobby and, without taking off his helmet, went up the stairs without even looking at the girl at reception. He came down five minutes later, counting the money he had been given, hopped on his moped and drove off … leaving patrons and hotel staff completely flabbergasted.
The next morning the whole hotel had heard about the little ‘pizza incident’. The proprietor’s wife was very upset. What shocked her most was not so much the fact that people had wanted a pizza, but that they’d ordered a take-away meal when staying in a hotel with a two Michelin star restaurant. “My husband can cook pizza too. If only they had asked! He would have been glad to make them a pizza, and even serve it in their room. We offer room service after all!” And then she looked at us … “Would you like to try one of my husband’s pizzas?” she asked?
Although we liked the idea, we didn’t want to create a precedent. “You know what?” she said, seeing that we felt slightly uncomfortable “What if we were to serve it by the swimming pool … at lunchtime.” The pool being in the far end corner of the immense garden, there would be no other people around at lunchtime. We therefore agreed.
We left on our daily excursion, which we cut short to be in time for our ‘luncheon appointment’. When we arrived at 12.30, a table was set by the edge of the pool, and a chilled bottle of dry Vouvray wine was waiting for us. Only seconds later the headwaiter appeared carrying a large tray with on it two hot pizzas straight from the oven. The crust was made of fine and crunchy puff pastry, not exactly what you would expect from a regular pizza. Finely sliced, but extremely juicy tomatoes, shredded basil, creamy mozzarella pieces and some splashes of virgin olive oil made an excellent topping. The taste was rich and yet delicate and went extremely well with the fruity white wine.
We had and excellent and romantic meal, all by ourselves, without being disturbed, as everybody was either out for the day or having lunch in the restaurant’s dining room. And do you want to know the best part? Later that evening the proprietress told us that the pizza and the wine were on the house. How lucky can you get?