Monday, 23 January 2017

Sous la Manche pour les vins

It's been a while since we did a trip to Calais, and I've missed it. We've never been in January and as I'm not the world's best sailor we decided to travel 'sous la Manche' using Eurotunnel, again something we haven't done for a few years.

Up early Friday morning we had a good journey to London to meet our friends who were joining us for the weekend. Our continued journey south on the M25 to Folkestone passed surprisingly quickly and trouble free, unusual most days never mind a Friday rush hour. In fact everywhere was quiet, we had no delay checking in, we were allocated an earlier crossing and we've never seen the car park/loading lanes so empty.

The weather Friday was actually quite good, cold but dry with little breeze, we could have smoothly sailed across in bright winter sunshine. As it was we had a quick trip on Le Shuttle and arrived just after lunch in sunny Calais.

Our weekend plans were a mix of wine shopping and sightseeing. Our first stop Auchan my favourite supermarket. However it's not good to shop on an empty stomach so our actual first stop was at the local bar for a croque monsieur and coffee, delicious.

Shopping time; my french supermarket list always includes Le Petit Marseillais soap refills, Café du Maison coffee, and Rince Couchon beer. Of course there's our favoruite wines too.

My two favourite sauvignon blanc wines from Auchan 
A great red we shared in the hotel
This square shaped bottle caught my eye.
The square bottled Pure Loire was perfect - not only a lovely crisp citrusy sauvignon blanc but the perfect shape to lie on the outside window sill at the hotel to chill whilst we went out for dinner - a very good reason to have white wine in a square bottle ! 

Dinner was a first for our friends but an old favourite for us - Flunch. It's a self service restaurant - you chose your meat/fish which is cooked to order and then help yourself to a large variety of vegetables, chips, potatoes, rice or pasta. Lovely food, great value and they serve our favourite Cellier des Dauphins wine.  

Saturday morning and we set off north for a little sightseeing. Our first stop was Dunkerque, another port which we have sailed to in the past. It was a very cold day but we did have a short stroll around before a warm up and rest in a small typical french tabac/bar. We ordered coffee and croissants which to our delight arrived piping hot as they had been cooked just for us. 

An old church tower that is now the Tourist
Office - you can climb to the top.
Dunkerque's Town Hall
Dunkerque Harbour - beautiful clear blue skies but so so cold.
Our next stop was a village I'd seen on the map, it caught my eye as it had a star shaped waterway around it. Gravelines is in fact an old fort town and the waterway a defence. In the summer you can hire boats and sail around them, it was a lovely place which I'm sure we'll be visiting again along with Grand and Petit Fort Philippe, the two villages on the banks of the long harbour inlet. 

The intriguing waterways on the map
The steep sides of the fort with the moat below
One of the gateways into Gravelines
Beautiful but cold day
 After a lovely picnic looking out to see and watching the DFDS ferry pass by we were ready for our serious wine shopping ..... don't worry it was a picnic in the car, far too cold to picnic outside.

Our first stop was at Calais Wine - a wine store we have been visiting for many many years, in it's original shop in Coquelles when it was known as Oddbins. They now have a lovely new tasting room with three machine servicing measured samples of red, white and rose wines. Unfortunately the heating was not working so the store was as cold inside as out and all the wines were served chilled.

We were not bulk buying this trip - partly because of space with being four in a car plus luggage already but also because for us it was as much about being back in Calais as bringing many items home - saying that we did fill the boot between us.

Four great whites from Calais Wines
Two Spanish reds from Calais Wines
Our second wine store was Majestic, we are big fans of this wine merchant visiting their Leicester store quite often and having enjoyed many wine courses/tasting with them. It was lovely to wander around looking at familiar labels at a lower price than home. We mainly brought home our favourites with a couple of new ones to try.

Majestic reds including Cote Mas, a new one to try.
Majestic whites - interesting Vinho Verde bottle
We did also pop into Lidl, as with here at home Lidl and Aldi offer a cheaper range and we did find a few bargains in store including a Jean-Claude Mas Viognier.

Lidl reds
Lidl white - Graves and Viognier
Saturday night was a french treat - mussels in Roquefort sauce, pure delight. We had a great night out at The Black Bull Pub in the Cite de Europe centre. A supposedly English pub serving great french food and beer - you could get English beer too. If on holiday a dessert is a must but which one? In the end we had a Cafe Gourmand which comprises of three or four mini puddings and a small espresso coffee. We decided the caramel set custard with caramel crumb topping was definitely a 'naughty' pudding.

Our stay at the Ibis Tunnel sous la Manche was perfect; clean rooms, comfy bed and great location for dining out. It was so nice to be able to enjoy Calais and it's surrounding area again. Unfortunately Sunday morning we had to travel home, another quick crossing on Le Shuttle soon had us back in misty England.

It really was a good weekend trip away, one we'll be repeating for sure and one we can remember each time we uncork one of our holiday wines - cheers !

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this. A thoroughly enjoyable read. Took me back years of doing that self-same thing.Interested to see an Ardeche Sauvignon Blanc with the Touraine variety from Auchan. Will look out for those next time we are in an Auchan. If you do this again, and knowing you enjoy some sight-seeing with attached food consumption just along from Dunquerke a few kilometres, over the border into Belgium, is Verne and its attractive town centre/square and pavement cafe culture too. Lots of Spanish influence there with the architecture...the Dutch always had spat running with the Spaniards a few hundred years back...with Spain sometimes coming out on top and occupying towns around there!

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