Travel on a Sunday
We had decided that Sundays would be our big travel days. Our first Sunday we picked up our rental car, and then went on our way from Brussels to central Burgundy (Bourgogne). My last trip to Europe (18 years prior) I recall that many places were closed, and it was nearly impossible to find an open restaurant on Sunday. Before we left, a friend of ours in London, who recently went to France for a mini-vacation, confirmed that it may be difficult to dine because all restaurants will be closed on Sunday. To prepare for everything to be closed in France on Sunday, we spent time on Saturday buying giant bottles of waters, bread, cheese, bananas, almonds, and raisins, to get us through the 400 miles (650 km) we were traveling, and a 4 pack of Belgian beer to drink at our destination. The bread was not that good as it was just from one of the grocery stores in Brussels, and the cheese was just the laughing cow cheese. These provisions were better than nothing.
As we were on our way, we stopped about 1/2 way for a rest stop and found that the Autoroute rest stops are quite open, with a fantastic looking restaurants, amazing salad bars, fresh tarts, a wide range of French entrees, soups, and beverages. The stop where we were had a great gift shop, candies, and plenty of coffee vending. Since we already had our "road food" we did not partake in dining at this Autoroute rest stop, and I regret we did not partake in the dining room. Our rood food was kind of bad, but our road food did provide us with calories to get by. On the way back, we made sure that we stopped for a meal on the Autoroute, and we were pleased (future blog post).
What I have learned is that the Autoroutes in France are great for smooth sail, and worth the tolls. The Autoroute rest stops with a dining room are very good, and open on Sundays. In the USA, the highway and toll road rest stop dining usually includes fast food like McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, or other unhealthy options. The French Autoroute dining options are really fabulous. The Autoroute dining shows the French pride in the quality of ingredients and preparation of the recipes, and it is just Autoroute food! Amazing!
The one thing that I knew about, but could not get here in the USA is a chip and pin credit card, that is what the UK mandates by law, and what France has converted to. The USA still has the antiquated magnetic strip - swipe and sign credit cards, so they don't work in automated toll booths, or automated gas pumps. At night, the Autoroute toll booths are not manned, so tolls need to be paid by a chip and pin credit card. It was a little tricky trying to gas up the car, and to pay the tolls at night.