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Weekend in France
Le Jockey & Le Porc St Leu
A little Bar Brasserie, this was the first place we came across on this grey and drizzly day. Not having anything else to compare it to, we decided to try it. At first, I was disappointed because of the amount of cigarette smoke, but I relented when I remembered we were, after all, in France, and anyway after a while it became less obtrusive. A bottle of the house red set the scene. The Marg and Rayanne tried Croque Monsieur, and Croque Madame (the latter has an egg on top) respectively. Karl ordered a mushroom omelette (Sorry Sir, No mushrooms!) then settled on Ham Omelette. I tried a "Flammenkeusche" (Maybe spelled incorrectly - this is effectively a Pizza without Tomato). All of us were impressed with the food which we all agreed was of a much higher quality than we would expect from a similar establishment in England.
An additional bonus was the staff. The waiters were extremely helpful, and gave us all assistance in our attempts to speak and understand French - they spoke slowly and clearly enough, and made efforts to understand us, without any fuss at all. I make a point of telling you this because it contrasts vividly with our experience the following morning at the boulangerie, where the staff behaved with outright hostility, making no attempt to understand or be understood. I do not exaggerate when I tell you that "Quatre Croissant, s'il vout plait", whilst pointing to the enormous tray of croissants which dominated the counter, was met by "Que?" It would have been easy to let that cloud our perception of the French, had we not had such good experiences elsewhere.
That evening, we wandered around town and eventually happened on "restaurant row" down by the canals next to the Somme and in the shadow of the cathedral. We were too early to eat - most of the restaurants were still closed, but we were too far away from the hotel to walk back then return, so we decided to hang around in one of the Pubs. Karl and I were insistent on doing the french cafe bit and occupying the pavement tables. However, this was mid October, and in the dark grey evening, the girls gave up the fight and had Hot Chocolates while Karl and I had Beers!.
Around 7:30 we made a move to check out the restaurants, which were still only just
coming to life. We had passed one earlier which had a suckling pig on a rotisserie, and we
had this in the back of our minds as we passed the first restaurant, which was quite busy.
We wondered why this particular one should be busy so early while the rest were
Le Porc St Leu
+33 (0) 3 22 80 00 73
Again, Karl and I wanted to take to the Pavement - not as mad as it seems because across the pavement before the canal, there was a marquee equipped with those giant mushroom shaped gas heaters. The girls were happy, at least until they realised that beneath the tables, their legs weren't getting the full benefit of the heaters.
During the day, we had perused quite a few menus, and by now Rayanne was sure that "Andouillette" sounded suitably French, and would try it - "Just check for me what it is, will you?". My French wasn't good enough to know without asking the waiter, and it's a good job we did ask - Andouillette is Tripe, and the thought that she'd nearly ordered a plateful of it nearly put her off for the evening!!! As it was, she opted for Suckling Pig, as did Karl and I. Marg settled for Steak again (!). The house speciality of suckling pig was very good and plentiful it was too!! A couple of bottles of the house red helped things go with a swing.
There was a moment when the girls nearly panicked - the little boy on the next table got up halfway through his meal and brushed against the heater, triggering its safety cut-out. The girls were horrified, thinking the gas had run out!. The waiter quickly re-lit it.
The following morning, Sunday, we opted not to have breakfast in the hotel, and went to do some shopping before they closed at lunchtime. This is when we had our bad experience in the boulangerie - we had wanted to stock up with bread and croissants, but the attitude and rudeness of the staff put us off. Having purchased a few delicacies at another store (I bought a nice (I hope) bottle of Cognac), we went for breakfast, and had coffee and croissants in a small but busy bar. What a convivial way to start the day. What a mix of people. Young, old, one guy in a very sharp suit who had just parked his bicycle - his suit suggested a Rolls Royce!. The coffee was good, the croissants were good - we had second helpings and had our good opinion of the French people restored.
Stocking up on Wine and Beer
This was one of the excuses for our trip to France. Four of us were travelling in a large estate car, fitted with a roof box into which our clothes fitted, leaving the load bay free.
On the homeward bound leg, we arrived at the coast with enough time to divert to Boulogne, where we had lunch in the old town at the top of the hill. We couldn't persuade the girls to sit outside, so we sat inside, next to the window. The girls suddenly pulled faces and expressed their disgust at the spectacle of the diners immediately outside consuming Oysters. Of course, now that Oysters had been mentioned, I had to have some!
The first time I'd ever had oysters was in Boulogne some eight years ago - I couldn't resist trying one of those "Assiettes de fruits de Mer" - great pyramids of various shellfish and crustacea. Unfortunately, the experience wasn't good, as I now know that the dish was past it's best when it was served. Nevertheless, I did not give up, and several years later I tried oysters again and was amazed at how much I enjoyed them. As children, on holiday on the Med, my brother and I had been taught by my father how to prise limpets off the rocks with a penknife, squeeze a little lemon on, and eat immediately. My second attempt with oysters brought back memories of the fresh taste of the sea that those shellfish provided me as a child.
I cant remember the name of the café, or even what we had after the oysters just that we enjoyed the meal without it taking "centre-stage".
We managed to fit in 18 6-bottle cases of wine and 4 24-bottle cases of beer without going over the level of the tonneau cover - at least one car in the car park had had its windows smashed while we were there so we didnt fancy the idea of leaving all those goodies in plain view. In any case, I didn't want to overload the car (or my Credit Card!). The disappointing part of the trip was that we were returning on Sunday, and most everything was closed - even the gigantic Cite Europe shopping Mall. The one place which was open, the Wine and Beer Company (an English-owned and run establishment) didn't have a very large choice. Still, I'm quite pleased with the wines we've already sampled from our choice. The fact that all the wines we bought were in fact Italian pre-dated the "problems" we're currently experiencing with the "Trade War" that is threatened over British Beef.
Coming back through Le Coquelles Tunnel Terminal, we were again disappointed - the store (in France!) did not stock any Pastis or Pernod, had a very limited choice of Cognac.
Sandro and Marg