Don’t worry, you’re not going to get a blow by blow account of our sojourn in Arcachon but the last couple of days have been nothing short of miraculous.
The travel here has been so smooth that the only thing we can complain about was the electronic display on the Virgin Train from Chester to London Euston wasn’t working so no one knew what the coach numbers were never mind where their reserved seats were. Even here there was a hard working and efficient conductor who scuttled around sorting people out rather than skulking behind locked doors as has been know to happen.
Even the sun shone. This time we managed to find the Champagne Bar at St Pancras and defied the budget (and sense) to spend £30 on two glasses of champagne and a bit of smoked salmon (with some very nice treacly soda bread – what would be called Brown Bread in Ireland). This did, of course, include an “optional” 12.5% service charge. Then common sense kicked in and we went downstairs to Marks for a full bottle of their champagne and sandwiches for the Eurostar.
The one perennial bugbear is finding your required exit from the Metro at Montparnasse. No concessions for passengers who might be lugging substantial baggage – you can walk half-a-mile upstairs and down stairs following signs that disappear and leave you abandoned and struggling up the next way out. Which is a way of saying that I got a bit lost between the Metro and the hotel – but only a bit lost.
Dumped the bags, wandered down the Rue Daguerre in search of dinner. Rue Daguerre is a good place; off the tourist trail, lots of ethnic and unusual small restaurants, a couple of accordion shops, one of Basile Kamir’s boulangeries and a good street market at the Denfert-Rochereau end. Just off Rue Daguerre is a fantastic little restaurant called l’Entettée run by this disgustingly young woman chef and her partner where I had my birthday dinner a couple of years back. Sadly not open on Mondays. But, at the Denfert-Rochereau end, lies Brasserie Perét where we had had aperitifs before said birthday dinner and had clocked the menu at the time. Not well enough though because we tried to construct a meal from a menu which doesn’t really do starters.
Brasserie Perét is my mate Jeremy’s dream. Sausages. They really cater for people who want a one course lunch (tartines, assiettes) or a main course/pud dinner, and they specialise in old-fashioned regional dishes. So Sue ordered a pâté tartine to start followed by saucisse aux pistaches Lyonnaise and I went for saucisson sèche d’Auvergne and jarret de porc. (Sorry if the following description contains sexual overtones.) Sue’s tartine was a thick slice through the middle of a Poilâne miche, so that’s a slice of bread at least twelve inches in length, thickly smothered in pâté; I was expecting a few thin slices of saucisson but what arrived was a rather alarming eight inch length of dried sausage, a sharp knife, gherkins and a pile of Pain Poilâne – together with a basket of Pain Poilâne.
By now we had seen the size of the main courses being dished up to other tables and tried to find that balance between eating enough to look as though the food was appreciated and being stuffed. Sue’s sausage arrived a magnificent eight inches long by two inches thick atop a dumper load of warm and mustardy potato salad, while my pork was a great chunk of ham hock gently and lengthily cooked until the thick outside skin was soft as jelly with ladles of puy lentils (AOC). Anyone for pud …?
Excellent place but next time we will treat the menu a little more gently.
Tuesday three hours ten minutes straight through to Bordeaux by TGV. Just enough time to get tickets for the Arcachon connection. Our neighbour, M. Cuvelier, waiting at the station to collect us. Eating roast chicken lunch by 4.30 p.m.
Little Prologue. We have arranged for a box of essentials to be sent from Bethesda. We know the box has been collected so the only thing that can now go wrong is that it doesn’t arrive here. We are in this little studio in the out-buildings of a big house which is currently unoccupied and we are safe behind electric gates. Only problem being we don’t have a bell. So I leave a note on the gate telling the courier to phone my (English) mobile when he arrives. But I’m not totally sure what the correct number is to dial from a French phone. So I go to a phone box, dial (what I think is) my number and, bingo, it rings first time. Hang up.
According to DHL the box should arrive in 3-4 days so it couldn’t arrive the day after it was collected, could it? We’re walking round the supermarket and I think, I’ll just check my phone. One missed call. Omygod it’s a French number. I’ve missed the courier. There’s no way my French is good enough to call back and sort the mess out. Keep calm. Think.
The only thing to do is to find M. Cuvelier, explain to him and get him to make the call. Just as well I kept thinking as the panic subsided. Because if my neighbour returned the call he would have been phoning the call box from which I rang my mobile …