La Gironde (it’s in France)

Posted on May 26, 2012 by


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France is famous for food, cafés, cheese, wine, brasseries and bistros. Right? Right, except for The Gironde. OK, maybe wine, but as for somewhere half decent to eat, forget it. The hotel served a local delicacy. Tongue. Not wafer thin, see through slices of pressed tongue, Tongue with a capital T. A huge fat lolloping thing which once had a life of its own served in its original bumpy coating of skin. Gross.

Think Gironde. Think vineyards. Miles and miles and miles as far as the eye can see and in the middle, Toy Town Twee St. Émilion which gets away with I Saw You Coming restaurant prices because, presumably, many diners are château owners. Er – say I to over zealous waiter mugging me for custom – je cherche le croque monsieur.  He paled in shocked exclamation marks and hissed pas en St. Émilion Madame. The church, in one of France’s wealthiest regions (Chateau Rothschild is around the corner), even has the front to suggest you pay £5 – £10 to go in. The so called English Speaking Town Guide was unintelligible. Inspector I ‘ave a beumb Clouseau sprang to mind although she did manage to communicate the fact that its eponymous saint is not recognised by the Vatican.

In the Tourist Office peeked into a French Cooking Recipe Book. Mmmm, let’s see…Black Pudding…take one litre of pig’s blood and one pig’s intestine. Veal Stew…take one arm and two marrow bones. Foie Gras…remove gall and outer skin from the liver, open the lobes, remove nerves and blood vessels. Grilled Rock Lobster …split lengthways, stab with sharp blade, remove gravel sac, place the roe and coral  (the grey gland in the head) in a mortar. Think not.

St. Émilion being too far up its own bung we head for nearby Libourne. Oh dear. Bad. So bad a non-stop Big Brother 1984 tannoy blares out orders to not drop rubbish. True. Dirty streets! In France! As Dr Johnson said (of Edinburgh) the best road is the one that leads out.

Oh well. Try Coutras. Tell you what. Let’s not. Didn’t bother to get out of the car. Must be twinned with Libourne. Next stop Guîtres.  Gasping for caffeine and a wee with ne’er a caff in sight, nothing for it but to headbutt Tourist Info. Not only did the nice femme offer her loo she offered the key to the Abbey. Bliss. Just us in there. I even sang a hymn. It felt appropriate.

Then, onwards and upwards to Bourg. Now desperate for sustenance we hit the one and only caff. Ghastly. No other word.  Ghastly.

As for Sainte Foy La Grande, well, one incident made us laugh. DIY afternoon tea. As someone who has never willingly foregone Tiffin I explain to the Maître D in the Salon de Thé precisely how I want my cuppa. He looks at me as if I am a Martian and returns with tea pot, hot water, milk (hot and cold), sugar and an industrial size box of various tea bags. He was not, I’m sure, surprised to see it returned depleted of Twining’s English Breakfast.

Tell you this for nothing, Sainte Foy locals are no animal lovers. Making our way back to the car park we see a traumatised cat on the pavement, blood oozing from its mouth. Remembering we passed a Vet practice I run into the boulangerie and practice Franglais Madame!! M’excusez! Vite. Vite. Un chat est – er – mourit  à l’extérieur. S’il vous plait, appelez le vêt. She gave a Gallic shrug: Ah oui. Le chat (pigs would fly before she called a vet)….un voiture…and trailed off. I run into Hotel de Ville. Like public servants the world over, the two on duty ignore me. Monsieur! Madame! M’excusez! Vite. Vite. Un chat  – er – mourit  à l’extérieur. S’il vous plaît, appelez le vêt. Studiously avoiding eye contact with this deranged Englishwoman they put their heads together, whisper, then finally agree to call the police. Heading back to the car we’re relieved to see the poor thing has been removed. Result.


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