Thursday, October 03, 2013

Epic trip draws to a close

On Friday evening, we went to Caveau des Arches for dinner, or "Arches!" as I'd been hilariously calling it all week, channelling Father Jack. I hadn't been there before but it came ACC-recommended so that was good enough for us, and I had done some pre-trip wine-list-reading which led me to believe this could be quite a good one.

They had a big party of businessmen in that evening so our table was in a small side room with just two tables, which ACC told us was called the Prison. We had the Traditional Menu, 30 euros each for four courses.

To start with, some gougeres which looked like snails - clever!

I won't give a blow-by-blow account of everything we ate, but it was all very good and I was completely stuffed by the end of it and unable to eat all my chocolate moelleux, disgraceful! The highlight, however, was the wine, which G chose (expertly guided by ACC and moi-meme). We went for a brace from the Domaine des Comtes Lafon - a Meursault villages 2008 followed by a Volnay 2009. I didn't make notes but they were both sensational, and at 105 and 78 euros respectively, a bargain, when one considers that the retail price of the Meursault is £80 and the Volnay £53 in the UK.

After dinner we popped upstairs where they have a new bar, and had our coffee and digestifs reclining on the luxurious chairs. I unwisely ordered a liqueur d'abricots which was sickly-sweet so I cunningly swapped it for G's better-chosen Fine de Bourgogne while he was distracted with the bill. It took some time for him to realise, as they were exactly the same colour. Once he did, he was not impressed.

The next morning we got up and packed, as we had to be out of the gite by 10.00. Luckily for us, Alain le taxi had offered to look after our suitcases for the morning, which was tres gentil and much appreciated. We spent some time at the flea market and then looking for somewhere to have breakfast. It was market day, and Beaune was very busy. A promising cafe was ruled out due to the presence of a small child, and I was getting grumpier by the second as a result of caffeine-deprivation, so we ended up getting croissants and then eating them with our coffee in what I call ACC's "locals' bar" which worked out very well.

Then we did some last-minute shopping at Magnum and la Boutique des Domaines before heading to Loiseau des Vignes for lunch.

We came here back in January and enjoyed it very much. They have a three course menu at lunch for 28 euros, very good value when you consider it has a Michelin star.

This is the cabinet with the wines available by the glass, using the "Enomatic" system, according to their website.

In fact we had this bottle of Bourgogne Cuvee L 2010 from Camille Giroud, which was wonderful. The only trouble was that the waiter placed the bottle carefully out of reach and then disappeared - the restaurant was full by this point - leaving us looking at it in despair yet reluctant to breach all etiquette by grabbing it to pour ourselves. Eventually when he did come back, we asked him to leave it on the table, and harmony was restored.

By this stage in the meal, I was taking random photos of everything.

Selection of cheeses - I was hoping we'd get to have the wonderful Epoisses we had last time, but it was not to be. The Ami du Chambertin was pretty damned good though. They have a marvellous-looking cheese trolley which we saw doing the rounds.

This was pudding - a yoghurt thing with fig ice cream, and two beignets.

Afterwards, we popped outside to have our coffee and final digestif of the trip.

We also spotted the secret door to the cellar. It was very tempting to sneak down there.

But we couldn't keep Alain le taxi waiting. He drew up with perfect timing just as we emerged from the restaurant. Merci beaucoup to Alain for everything.

We were in good time so were able to catch the train before the one we had planned to catch, which was great as the train we had planned to catch was running late. All was well and it was definitely time for a snooze.

At Dijon, we had the usual chaos getting onto the double-decker TGV, and sat opposite a party of rowdy Swiss people. Don't Swiss people know they're supposed to be quiet and well-behaved? Fortunately the announcement that we were arriving in Paris was made about half an hour early, while we were still clearly in open countryside, and they all got up and left at that point so we had a few moments of blissful peace and quiet.

At the Gare de Lyon, it was raining and the taxi queue extended for about 5 miles. The RER wasn't an option due to heavy baggage, so we stuck it out, and observed the sparrows eating people's sandwiches. After about 50 minutes, we were finally able to get in a taxi and were quite close to the Gare du Nord before promptly finding ourselves in a huge traffic jam. Our taxi driver did his best to get through it, but the chances of us catching our Eurostar were rapidly diminishing. I think we'd allowed about and hour and a half to get across Paris, but on this damp Saturday afternoon it wasn't enough.

We weren't too downcast as ACC thought they would be able to put us on the next train, but it turned out that a large coach party had also missed the train, so they were given priority and we were told to come back the next morning. Fortunately G had access to an eminent source of local knowledge, and was able to call him up for hotel recommendations. We made our way to the New Hotel across the road where they told us the good news was they had rooms available, the bad news was that they were on the sixth floor and the lift wasn't working. I'll be eternally grateful to G for carting our luggage up and indeed down six flights of difficult spiral stairs. Our room under the eaves was actually very nice, had a great view of the station, and even had a decent-sized bath.

After that, dinner at Terminus Nord was in order. I'd never been here before but ACC appeared to be quite a regular and even had a loyalty card! It was a bustling, traditional brasserie. I was very happy to get some steak-frites down me, and G and I enjoyed a bottle of red Rhone while ACC was on the beer by this point. For pudding, G had an enormous creme brulee - the table next to us had failed to eat one of these between three, but he has a special creme brulee stomach and wolfed it down with no problems at all.

After dinner I retreated to the hotel for an early night while the others went to a biodynamic wine bar. Then we were up at 6.30 to catch the 8.13 Eurostar. We had to tell the woman at the counter our sad story all over again, and were then given manual tickets at no extra charge, and found ourselves in a very empty, effectively first class carriage. Result! I have to hand it to Eurostar for their excellent service. So while the stopover in Paris was not what we'd planned, in the end it all worked out fine.

We arrived at St Pancras at about 9.30 on Sunday morning and walked home through the back streets of Bloomsbury which were very peaceful at that time of day. Then there was just time to unpack - all wine had made it back intact, with no repetition of the Great Marc Disaster of 2006 - and put some laundry on before heading down to SW2 for lunch with Baron McGuffog! It was so nice to have this to look forward to, and we regaled him with tales of our adventures while scoffing wonderful craft beers, pork pies and venison, and of course listening to the new Pet Shop Boys album, Electric. We had an amazing time, but it was good to be home.

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