2002 was different though. Sunday was as usual. Monday was more or less okay, except that the weather never cleared up completely and the temperatures hardly climbed over 20°C. There were some sunny spells, but when I look at the photos I shot that year, we’re always wearing long-sleeved sweatshirt or even an extra jacket. I can’t remember us picnicking and in fact I only found one photo of me by a picnic table on the banks of the Loire River North of Chinon.
2002: The Ussé château on a cloudy June day.
On Thursday we visited the weekly Chinon market in the morning and, as it wasn’t raining, bought a baguette, some goat’s cheese and twelve large cooked prawns for our picnic. We found a picnic spot and started to unpack our hamper when gusts of cold River wind suddenly hit us in the face. Shivering with cold we decided to sit it out, the time to eat our lovely fresh prawns, after which we packed up our things again and started looking for a little restaurant to have a meal in order to get warm again. Halfway between Chinon and Ussé, in the village of Huismes, we came across a nice country ‘auberge’, called ‘Auberge de la Lanterne’. It looked cosy, inviting and, above all, nice and warm inside.
When we walked in a few patrons were drinking at the bar and there were two tables with people having the daily special. We got a small table close to the chimney where a gas burner was spreading a lovely warm glow into the room. We settled down and asked for the daily special. I can’t remember what it was, but am quite sure that it wasn’t to our liking as we both ordered a main course from the menu, having had out prawns as starters.
My friend had an extremely tender ‘Coq au vin de Chinon’ and I had a juicy leg of rabbit with mixed vegetables and a light mustard sauce. We drank a robust Chinon with it and topped of our meal with some goat’s cheese and a small coffee.
The best place to judge a restaurant is the state of the ‘sanitary facilities’. In this case they were extremely small and narrow. A big person would have had a lot of difficulties getting in and out of them, but they we unusually clean and fresh … which is a lot more than what can be said for a lot of places in France …
If I had to rate the ‘Lanterne’, I would give it a 7/10 for food and 8/10 for service and cleanness. It’s eight years ago and I don’t know if the light in the ‘Lanterne’ is still glowing, but at the time, it was certainly a very pleasant experience. If ever you go there, don’t expect ‘grande cuisine’, but a simple, honest and well prepared meal at a very affordable price.