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  • Writer's pictureJoanna

Duck Soup & Beyond…

Updated: Jun 20, 2023

Leaving France and bound for Belgium, we decorated the journey with a couple quick one-night stands. As it was more than a 4 hour drive from Normandy to Bruges, I thought it would be best to slightly slice and dice it up.

Take a load off.

We had booked a sweet little place in Sassetot-le-Mauconduit, called Le Relais des Dalles. It was a quaint town near the Albâtre coast and close to the white cliffs of upper Normandy. We had planned on doing a lot more sightseeing of the coastal region, but it was getting late and we made a beeline for the guest house.

Le Relais Des Dalles was a charming little inn, recently bought by a young family. The husband, originally from Quebec, was a top chef who ran the restaurant, while his wife took care of the front of house operations.

When we left, we meandered up the coast and through some very remote little villages, but it wasn’t long before the weather decided to turn on us, making cliff admiration more arduous and not as enjoyable in the wind, cold and rain. Our so far pleasant weather had abruptly cut us off, like we’d been neglect in paying our sunshine bill.

From there, our route led us to La Ferme Des Templiers de Fléchinelle. Difficult to pronounce and one hell of a long name… but this gem was a small castle fortification, located in the back of beyond. Had I not done some research into the accommodation in the area, this treasure would have gone completely undiscovered by us.

An idyllic setting in the countryside, this feudal fortress had everything necessary to plunge us right back to the medieval days of yore…. canal moat, drawbridge, iron bars, steel doors and thick, stone walls. It had a captivating history and Aunty Lin was thoroughly impressed that it had once had a place with the Knights Templar.

The living quarters had been transformed into the most delightful little guest rooms, each one decorated with care and taste. Unfortunately there had been a slight misunderstanding in our booking, and by some inexplicable mistake, Aunty Lin and I were put in a very cozy double bed room. Having driven all day, I was fresh out of patience and smiles. I was desperately needing some ‘me’ time, and hardly in the frame of mind to accept our accommodation mishap with style and grace. I wanted a nap more than proof of booking. I was tired. I was cranky.

My rope could no longer be considered a rope.

My wish for slumber and tranquility became a reality, but not without financial consequence.

For the low, low price of only €80 more, we were permitted to upgrade to her last loft chalet. It was absolutely stunning, but as beautiful as it was, it was much, much more than we actually required for one evening. It was enormous, lavishly decorated and resembled more of an extravagant ski chalet than a pit stop for weary travellers.

Of course, on par with the norm, and of zero surprise, there was no food within a 10 kilometre radius. Not even a small shop. We were given the option of a few homemade microwaveable options, and while I was napping, Aunty Lin chose veggie duck soup.

It was… not bad. Delicious, but odd.

It had a taste which was unrecognizable, though I concluded it was because I’d probably never had duck and vegetable soup before. I tried to look up the recipe for this very bizarre concoction online, but my search only resulted in pages of information about the 1933 Marx Brothers film.

Adjusting my search words ever-so-slightly, I eventually found czarnina - described as “a Polish duck blood soup and a good way to use up every part of a slaughtered duck.“ My soup suddenly didn’t have the appeal it once had. All of a sudden, I was glad I had discovered what czarina was, AFTER having dined, though the taste lingered. Regardless, it was edible… and pretty good. Perhaps slightly heavy on the slaughtered duck-meat side, but… different. It was good to have a break from a full carb diet, although that didn’t last long.

Aunty Lin took the traditional rod iron bed, embellished with white sashes and regal pillows. I took the double bed up in the loft, which had a steep ladder-style staircase leading up to a low angled attic. I’m getting older now, so I have to admit it was a little hard on the knees. Despite the unexpected, additional fee, it was worth it for the private space we both got. I was in need of time to recharge my own battery and reconnect with my own space, and if it had to temporarily happen in a cramped attic, then so be it.

Our last night in France before we would be undeniably inundated with beer, chocolate, waffles and weight gain. As someone who frequently practices the art of living without much thought of moderation, I was quite terrified to enter Belgium.

God help me…

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