My Favorite Travel Memory

I suspect that for most of us who love to travel, there is a place we’ve been or an incident we’ve experienced that has some kind of hold on us. For me, it’s the memory of a lunch at a small hotel in the medieval town of Domme in southwestern France. 

From Gare de Montparnasse in Paris, it was a little over two hours by high-speed train to Bordeaux. A change of trains there and another two-plus hours brought me to Sarlat, where a rental car was reserved.

Leaving Sarlat, the road to Domme crosses a lovely fertile valley, starts a gentle climb and ends at the massive ancient gate to the town. From there it’s climbing through a labyrinth of stone houses on narrow, one-way streets.

This village of about a thousand people is almost 800 years old. It was built in a defensive location on a mountainous outcropping hundreds of feet above the Dordogne River valley.  And at the end of the road, at the top of the mountain, is the Hotel L’Esplanade.

It’s not luxurious—in fact, a modern luxury hotel would be inappropriate in this setting—but this 15-room property is exactly right: lovingly maintained, beautifully run, and featuring a truly superb restaurant.

But the main feature here is always the extraordinary view of the Dordogne River valley, sweeping probably 120-degrees around the prominence on which the hotel was built and constantly changing with the weather as the day progresses.

After returning to the hotel, hot and tired from a long morning of sight-seeing, I was led to a choice table on the outdoor patio by the lovely Sophie, the hotel’s ever-present owner. She handed me a luncheon menu and I had barely started looking over the choices, when she plucked it from my fingers and said, “I will have an omelette prepared for you!” And she disappeared in the direction of the kitchen.

Ten minutes later, I was absorbed in that view when Sophie returned with what I can only describe as a perfect omelette: perfect in presentation, perfect shape, perfect texture and taste—light, fluffy and with a delicate hint of something.

In fact, everything about that luncheon was perfect. The lovely day. The incomparable view of the river valley. The ambiance of the hotel patio. The nice glass of white wine. And that perfect omelette. Without doubt, my favorite travel memory.