Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Colin Churcher - France 2003

Trip to France September 2003

Tuesday 9
Problem with the RER signals on the way in from the airport but got to hotel fairly quickly. Walked along Rue Lepic, many good cheeses available. We had lunch at the Villa des Abbesses on Rue des Abbeses.
- Colin confit de canard aux poiures & salad
- Mary Salade Auvergnaise
Rested in room.
Cafe on Rue des Abbeses watched parents bringing their children home from school, very much a community even though there are so many tourists.
Light supper in room with a chevre, Chabichou du Poitou, quite mild with a more open texture than Valencay, very good.

Wednesday 10
Left hotel in good time & validated our France Railpass at Gare de l'Est to travel to Reims. Much mistletoe in the trees and several hares in the fields. Went past the cathedral after visiting the Tourist Office but decided it was more important to visit Maxim’s before lunch. There wasn’t time to look at the cathedral.
Champagne maison Maxims
- Compte de Noiron brut v. good fruity.
- 1994 vintage brut caramel, excellent.
- Demi sec Martel - OK.
- Rosé Maxims - OK.
Lunch at Le Plat du Jour
- pate de foie gras armagnac
- Colin cassoulet (with much sausage and ham).
- Mary jarette de porc - pork hock
- Fromage - langres (goaty!), époise, local camembert with ash.
The maitre d’ brought out her special cheese tray when Colin started to ask intelligent questions about her selection.
Champagne maison Taittinger
- brut - nothing special
Champagne maison G.H. Mumm
- mumm de Cramant chardonnay only light bubbles don't last, grapefruit, pear
- Cordon rouge darker color
- Brut rose red fruit delicate honey
We floated back to the station and just caught the train back to Paris. There was a party of Americans in the car – not many of them around at the moment.

Thurdsay 11
To Chartres on RER from Gare d”Austerlitz. There were many magpies, ploughed fields, woods. Took a look at the cathedral which was dark and grim and walked around the very sympathetically restored town.
Lunch at Cave de Fromage – degustation, not particularly good, aimed at the tourist.
Fromage Marsauceaux, Feuille de Dreux - local, bought some, quite good, a bit like Brie, with a leaf.
Macarons are a local speciality, very good, also Mentchikoffs a chocolate centre with a meringue cover. It rained a little while we were tasting macarons.
On return we saw a few hunters in fields. Lots of school children on the train.

Friday 12
Took the train to Romorantin via Les Aubrais and Salbris, (in spite of the SNCF computer which would not recognize this route).
There were three trains at Romorantin when we went out to catch the train for Selles St. Dennis late morning. The lady in charge wished us “Bon aventure” as she didn’t know which train they were going to use.
Lunch at Le Cheval Blanc in Selles Saint-Dennis.
Coupe de champagne
Cour Cheverny
Pintade, Beef
- Cheese course included Crottin de Chavignol.
- Soufflé
A very good meal with some excellent sauces. The place is pretty good although the service is very stuffy.
Selles St. Dennis station has lots of flowers and plants, including a pot on the machine for validating tickets. (Le composteur)
BA still using old railcars with trailers for afternoon school train.
Bought a tarte tatin and Pouligny St. Pierre chevre.

Saturday 13
Went to the Saturday market & bought a Coeur du Berry chevre.
Locos 13 & 14 in the yard
At Romorantin there were old railcars 211 & 214
At Salbris there were 242 & 3 new railcars & 2 trailers
Took the train to Lamotte-Beuvron with a transfer at Salbris.
Foire de tarte tatin. There were a lot of exhibitors and many tastings of wine, spirits and other products. Inside there was a craft show. The foire was opened by the Maire cutting a tape and two hundred doves were released, or most of them. There was then a procession of the Confrerie which was lead by Maire & deputy. We met the president of the confrererie, not many good tarte makers around. He had a pretty negative view. The best chef was in Paris and you couldn’t buy a good tarte now, only those made privately were any good. Must cook apple for 30 mins then put pastry on top then bake in oven for 30 mins, then tip out upside down.
There was a dead wild boar hanging up outside a butchers bleeding.
Lunch at Hotel Tatin
Coupe de champagne
Cheverny red
Mary - tornedos Rossini
Colin - sanglier.
Walked across the street for a glass of Bernache.
Came back from Salbris in 211, very rough, at one point a very bad joint or possibly broken rail.

The maid at the Lion D’Or will insist on turning down the bed covers even though we may have been in the room for some time. She rang the door bell to the room at ten o'clock this evening.

Sunday 14
To Valencay
Visited chateau, lunch at Hotel d'Espagne. It looks as if the Hotel is falling on hard times.
Foie gras beef, local cheeses, (Valencay, Selles sur Cher, Pouligny St. Pierre).
Walked around the village afterwards and then went back to the chateau. As usual the Chateau had some Mozart playing – horn and flute concerti, it was very elegant.
BA new 05 at Valencay on arrival.
BA old 211 & 213 arrived during day.
At Romorantin 224 while 212 damaged in a collision.

Monday 15 Mary's birthday
Very chewy croissants & pain au chocolate for breakfast.
3 new trains at Romorantin
241 w. Trailers
To Selles sur Cher & walked to Gievre. This was along the flat land fairly close to the river. We saw a small viper sunning itself along side the road – it tried to get away as quickly as possible. The last part of the walk alongside the road between Chabris and Gievres was pretty grueling. We had lunch at La Raboliere:
- pate
- porc with spaghetti
- salad
- fromage (Munster, Selles sur Cher & Camenbert)
- apple tart
- coffee
Bottle of red wine
This was a menu fixe at 11 euros complet and was very good indeed. The waitress knew most of the diners and was giving as good as she received. There were a lot of trucks and work vehicles parked outside so it was obvious that this was a pretty popular place.

Tuesday 16
Spent the day in Romorantin and had lunch at the Bouchon à vin with saumon, rognons.
We walked along to a pretty pleasant park to the west alongside the river. In the afternoon we spent some time in the park as well as having desert in the Salon de The. Later we had a small meal at the Italian restaurant.

Wednesday 17
In the fromagerie at Romorantin the lady server paid Colin a compliment; “You don't have a Canadian accent.” Colin bought a stinky époisse to have later, it really stank out the room at Brive.
224, 242, 211were at Romorantin
The train from Gievres to Vierzon was late because an old train was used but we made our connection at Vierzon because the train to Brive la Gaillarde was also late. Brive is an interesting town with a well restored city centre. The Tourist Office is not particularly well organized. We had dinner at the hotel.
Bergerac rosé.
Mary coq au vin avec cepes
Colin confit de canard

Thursday 18
Train to Cahors through pleasant but uninspiring country although the train does run over a couple of wonderful curved viaducts.
Cathedral & old bridge but the town has nothing really special although we had a bottle of AC Cahors with lunch.

Friday 19
To Tulle. The railway dead ends there and the locomotives have to run round their train. The overall train shed is the same one which appears in many pictures showing the narrow gauge trains of the Tramways du Correze system. It was quite a walk into town which was accomplished to the accompaniment of very loud music from speakers strung out on every lamp post. There is a festival going on but the music was quite intrusive. The lady at the tourist office didn’t like being told that it was intrusive. There is a wonderful, peaceful cloister by the side of the cathedral.
Lunch - Cabecou chevre
Walked up as far as cemetery with good views over the town but it was very hot indeed.. Bought nougat, it was very good but too much.
There was a lot happening at the station when we went down to return to Brive – bands, red carpet, etc. but must have been waiting for next train.
Bought Rocamador & briquette de Quercy cheeses at the fromagere in Brive.

Saturday 20
Visited the markets, enormous loaves of bread, mushrooms, hares, chapons, paella. Chapon is capon.
Walnuts were being sold vacuum packed with AC and best before date. Very large with lots of people.
To Perigueux by train for lunch which was taken at a salon de the in the city centre.
Lunch Bergerac rouge Marquis de roc.
Terrine de legumes avec concasse de tomates - tarte de chevre
Duck steak with Roquefort sauce - very good indeed.
Cathedral with many domes was quite different. Good views from the river. Lots of speciality shops, foie gras, etc.
Many small nooks and crannies, some with restaurants or shops.

Sunday 21
Lunch near hotel
Champagne and AC Pecharmant Chateau Beauportail
Rostbif & roast duck
Met a very nice 79 year old widow & had quite a long chat. She knew the chateau in Bergerac where our wine was produced.
In the afternoon went to Uzerche. This was a very busy station with lots of students presumably returning to Paris. Village very pleasant with many old buildings, did the walking tour.

Monday 22
Travelled to Carcassonne. Quite an uneventful trip in a filthy dirty electric multiple unit which was very full by the time we reached Toulouse. The transfer to the carcassonne train was easy and we found seats in a pretty full train.
Dinner at hotel because it was Monday and was raining.
Cassoulet was quite good with duck, ham & sausage but a bit salty - good depth of flavour. This turned out to be about the best cassoulet we had while we were in the region. Had this with half a bottle of red Fitou.

Tuesday 23
Lunch at la Cité which is even more a tourist trap than before. We found a bottle of Micheline which was hard to come by in the past.
Cassoulet de Castelnaudry – it was quite good but a tourist trap.
Minervois Chateau Saint Leon.
Dinner from supermarket sheep cheese (creamy) & yoghurt.

Wednesday 24
Internet café had an English keyboard which allowed me to open my e-mail.
Lunch at Bistrot des Platanes which was well placed close to the Tourist Office.
Cassoulet - stick to the ribs with thick sauce but too fatty for Mary.
Afternoon coach trip to Corbieres.
- Abbaye de Fontfroide with an impressive church with 20th century stained glass.
- village of Lagrasse with a 12th century bridge.
- Degustation at Paulette & Roger Carbonneau at Chateau Villemagne. We tasted 9 wines and grape juice & bought a bottle of Carthagena, the Pineau de Charente of Languedoc. The people were wonderful although their wine was quite ordinary.

Thursday 25
Took a short train ride to Limoux and eventually found the way into the town square. There is not too much in this place except that it is the centre for blanquette.
Tried Blanquette brut & ancestral with bottle of Chateau Mourviels AC Cabardes at a good restaurant in the centre of the town for lunch.

Friday 26
Narbonne by TGV. The centre is a little way from the station and has been quite well restored.
For lunch we had cassoulet with Blanquette de Limoux.
Bought chevre de l'aude at the market, good, covered with herbs. The most impressive part about the cathedral is the very large organ placed high up on the back wall. We were not quite sure how the organist got up there to play it.

Saturday 27
To Toulouse. We had a short walk to the cathedral and to the Jardin Royal and the Jardin des Plantes. The latter was a disappointment because it had been taken over by a fair and there were lots of fast food stands, all of which were closed. The cathedral has an enormous organ, again placed high up on the back wall.
Lunch at Place St-Georges which is a very lively square frequented by the locals. We chose well as many people after us were waiting for a table rather than go to an adjacent restaurant. There were two maitre d’ dogs, a white Scotty who roamed the outside tables and a pug nosed black one who was inside.
Chateau de Salettes AC Gaillac. This was very smooth. Lunch was excellent with a good salad.

Sunday 28
We had lunch in la Cité at another tourist restaurant. The menu promised more than the restaurant delivered.
AC Buzet - Baron de D'Ardeuil with overtones of coffee, tobacco, blackcurrant,
ruby red, smooth - not too much tannin.
Chicken and cassoulet.

Monday 29
To Bayonne. The original plan was to take a train which started in Marseilles as far as Toulouse and then transfer, with an eleven minute connection, to the Bayonne train which originated there. This didn’t feel right and so we caught an earlier train which arrived on time and gave us about an hour to get a coffee and buy a sandwich for lunch. This was a smart move because, although the Bayonne train left about fifteen minutes late the train from Marseilles had not arrived and we would have had to face a four hour wait for the next train. The ride to Bayonne is along the foot of the Pyrenees and was pleasant if unspectacular – we went through Lourdes. The air was clean and the colours vibrant.
The hotel is really close to the station and we were able to quickly dump our things and get to the Tourist Office which is very well organized. Gateau Basque is the popular dessert here and it seems there are a few different methods. There was a Gateau Basque competition going on while we were there.
Dinner was at a restaurant close to the bridge over the river, on the south side. It was very good indeed. The wine was Gorri D'Ansa AC Irouléguy deep colour, high tannin, tobacco, chevre, blackberries, chocolate, some acid. NBG.
Omelette with piperade.
Chicken, canard - very good
We finished off with a glass of Izarra jaune to see how this differed from Izarra verte.

Tuesday 30
To Biarritz on the city bus. These are pretty good although they don’t carry too many people, mostly students and lower paid workers. We had a look at the Museum of the Sea and had lunch close to the shore.
AC Madiran du Crampilh - good, some tannin, blackcurrant.
Mussels, steak.

Wedesday 1
To St. Jean Pied de Port on a two car electric train.
This is the only place in France where we have noticed berets. There is a small interesting old street which we followed by using the self guided tour from the tourist office. There are some good views into the mountains – this is on the route to Santiago de Compostela. Lunch was at a good restaurant which has been used daily by a group of local businessmen for 15 years.
We started with beer with creme de cerise and had a bottle of AC Jurançon which was excellent, rich.
- Ham with piperade, chiperons (cuttlefish)
- Chicken basquais, confit de canard
In the afternoon we finished off the guided tour and then had a parallel tasting of 3 Izarras before catching a diesel train back.
In the evening there was a violent storm in evening which blew the pigeons off the roof.

Thursday 2
Looked at the market & bought a Bouchon de Sancerre, a small, bullet shaped chevre & a provencal goat, 5 inches long stretched on a piece of wood.
Looked at gardens in Bayonne and had lunch at a restaurant close to the river.
Txakoli - vin petillant Basquais, with AC Jurançon
Piperade de jambon, confit de canard, lomo de porc.
At an adjacent restaurant there was a diner who had parked his car on a one way street completely blocking access. A couple of motorists finally found him and he backed his car out on to the main street right in front of a police car. He drove around the block and was picked up by the police car and given a ticket. He just went back and parked his car in the same place only the other way around where he still blocked up the traffic.
Into Biarritz in the afternoon where we watched surfers and had a fairly long walk.

Friday 3
To Bordeaux by TGV. We got into a single unit and found that they had added an extra unit at Dax. We were delighted to find a consigne at the station where we could leave our cases for the time we were in the town. There is still a lot of construction under way to put in the streetcar system.
Lunch at L'Entrecote, salad aux noix, steak & fries, cheese tray very good with Compte (Savoie), Pouligny, Cammembert, Roquefort, Tome & another. This was just as good as last year.
We caught a non-stop train from Bordeaux to Paris and made our way easily through the Metro to the hotel. The biggest delay we found was in the line up to buy tickets at the machine.

Saturday 4
To Versailles. The weather was a little threatening. We had intended to eat at the same restaurant as last year but the menu was a little restricted. Instead we ate at the restaurant closer to the water. This worked out well. Although they had a couple of very large parties we received good service. One party was a bunch of staid Germans while the other was mainly French and the difference was remarkable. The French really enjoyed themselves and had fun.
Terrine de lapereau, steak, confit de canard.
AC Gaillac chateau de Gradde
In the evening tried a chevre shaped like a teardrop, soft and sharp, from the Tarn, also a small époise.

Sunday 5
Rue Mouffetarde market.
Jardins de Luxembourg - cold
Lunch in St. Germain - ravioli, leeks, chicken, duck. Coupe de champagne, Eau de Noix de Provence, AC Cotes du Rhone Villages.
Went for a walk along Rue Lepic, Rue des Abbessee to Montmartre, bought Etorki & Mimoulette cheese.

Total 47 trains

Summary of wines
Champagne maison Maxims
- Compte de Noiron brut
- 1994 vintage brut.
- Demi sec Martel.
- Rosé Maxims.
Champagne maison Taittinger
- brut
Champagne maison G.H. Mumm
- Mumm de Cramant
- Cordon rouge
- Brut rose
AC Cour Cheverny
AC Cheverny
AC Bergerac rosé
AC Bergerac rouge - Marquis de roc AC Cabardès - Chateau Mourviels
AC Gaillac - Chateau de Salettes
AC Gaillac - Chateau de Gradde
AC Buzet - Baron de D'Ardeuil
AC Irouléguy - Gorri D'Ansa
AC Madiran - du Crampilh
AC Jurançon
AC Txakoli
AC Cotes du Rhone Villages AC Cabardès - Chateau Mourviels
AC Gaillac - Chateau de Salettes
AC Gaillac - Chateau de Gradde
AC Buzet - Baron de D'Ardeuil
AC Irouléguy - Gorri D'Ansa
AC Madiran - du Crampilh
AC Jurançon
AC Txakoli
AC Cotes du Rhone Villages

Digestifs etc

Eau de noix
Chateau de Villemagne Cartagena
Izarra jaune
Izarra vert
Izarra blanc

Summary of cheeses
Chabichou du Poitou
Crottin de Chavignol
Pouligny St. Pierre
Coeur du Berry
Selles sur Cher
Briquette de Quercy
Chèvre de l'Aude
Bouchon de Sancerre
Provencal chevre
Chevre du Tarn Vaches
Reims local camembert with ash
Feuille de Dreux
Compte (Savoie)