A free-ish weekend being in sight, I put aside time for me and son to go exploring another region - outside The Aude.
His choice had been to go to Orange, having dreamt about the place several times, and desirous of seeing the nuclear power station on the Rhone . . . OK, why not I had said, with eyebrow arched in incredulity.
Since there were no B and B's with an uninterrupted view of said place, and for my own reasons of wanting to be somewhere a little more scenic, I rambled about on The Net for a while, as usual not finding what I wanted - an ancient, characterful hotel with no mod cons but lots of art and interesting breakfast - and then gave up as everything remotely charming in and around Orange was booked.
During an idle moment later in the day I asked Google for 'chambre d'hôte de caractère' or something similar near Uzès/Orange, and up popped Les Sardines aux yeux bleus. Miracle! Everything I would ever want in a Bed & Breakfast: beams, stone walls, brocante furniture, terracotta tiles, pool, roses, etc. I booked a night and we set off early on the weekend.
After a detour to buy an ancient oak bed - which then creaked and groaned during the rest of our travels - we arrived at Les Sardines, unpacked, had a swim and then spent a happy day visiting Uzès and Orange, and viewing factories of the Rhone valley, including the aforementioned nuclear plant with its four layers of electric fencing, razor wire, security cameras and 'no photography' signs. As there was no tours or tea available, we left and went back to the B and B hoping to find a small restaurant within walking distance.
And there was: the Auberge d'Aigaliers.
It was one of those memorable pieces of time: a walk on a warm evening with swallows weaving and the mind empty other than what to eat and drink.
Situated seemingly within an old church tower with a vine covered terrace this is my idea of a perfect restaurant: convivial and serving unfussy food in a memorable surroundings.
Eating continued the next morning with a fabulous array of breakfast possibilities at Les Sardines including a fluffy strawberry mousse-cake - something I haven't experienced at a bed and breakfast before - but would be happy to encounter again!
Dining room at Les sardines
The breakfast cake!
Detail from our room (Rose room)
The return journey home was equally interesting as the day before with stops at Anduze, Saint-Hippolyte-du-Fort, the touristic/nick-nack shopped nightmare of St Guillem-le-Désert (beautiful, but perhaps best viewed on a foggy day in January, when you could park) and Olargues, another one of the 'plus beaux villages de France' but with no tourists and nick-nack shops at all.
I will look back on that small road trip with fondness, the highlight being our stay at The Sardines - I hope to return, and to find others like it.