France: blink and you’ll miss it
Well, that was quick. We’ve spent the last three days speeding south through France, trying to catch up some of the time we lost hanging about in the rain in England. What with France actually being quite large, this has meant spending most of our days in the car, only coming out at night to appreciate our surroundings.
But France being France, that hasn’t meant any shortage of interesting culinary activity. High-quality local specialities have crowded in on us at every turn, and we’ve learnt all about Norman cider and Pineau des Charentes – with the result that our new fancy car-mounted fridge is now full of both of them. We’ve also stocked up on essential preserved food (i.e. confit de canard) for the rocky road ahead – let’s see how well that survives the Sahara.
The first thing we noticed as we came out of the Channel Tunnel into France was that it wasn’t raining – after a month in England in August that seemed somehow wrong. The second thing was that it’s a long way from Calais to Normandy, but we headed that way anyway so that we could stay at Marie and Pascal Brunet’s fruit farm, La Prémoudière, where we arrived extra-late just so that we could wake everyone up by setting off our car alarm …
In the morning we woke up to fresh apple juice and proper French butter, and went to admire their cider-making operation: they make delicious crisp fresh AOC cider and poiré, as well as distilling their own calvados. Duly impressed, we got back on the autoroute and headed south.
The next stop was just outside Cognac. Having spent some time drinking Pineau des Charentes with Ros and Sara in London (they’d just come back from Bordeaux), we wanted to find out how you make it, so we came to stay with Nicole and Dominique Chainier who could tell us (first you make cognac – we suspect that’s the tricky bit – then you mix it with grape juice and age it) – as well as making us a spectacular pot au feu.
More hours of increasingly sunny driving later, and we met up with our friends Will and Chris for a spot of camping (it had to happen some time) near Limoux. Turns out that our tent works OK, and that our car-fridge serves cider and pineau at the perfect temperature for an aperitif before heading into town for a final French blowout before crossing the mountains into Spain the next day. We might even try camping again some time, although I wouldn’t hold your breath: news of the softness of Catalan beds to follow.
You can see some of our photos from France here.