Try travelling in France from East to West in a hurry
Maybe it was a sense of adventure but we decided to travel from the Vallé des Merveilles between Ventimiglia and Cuneo (although the valley is actually in France) to just near Langon in the Gironde without using a toll road! Well, not so difficult really since there are hardly any toll roads going east-west, they are nearly all north-south. And the weather! Yuk! Our time in the Vallé des Merveilles was curtailed because of the awful weather. We had wanted to take a 4 x 4 excursion up the peaks, but were forbidden to do so by the weather man. So we cut our day short and drove over some of the winding passes in to France via Cuneo again, through Barcelonette, Gap and Nyons to Orange – a city we had always wanted to visit but somehow never got round to it. Wonderfully preserved Roman amphitheatre and a couple of nice meals in an unpretentious local restaurant (which will be our restaurant of the month next update) le Parvis, with an excellent price/quality ratio. Then on to Valence. I had been trying to interview Ann-Sophie Pic (first woman to get 3 Michelin stars, three years ago) for the last two years but each time she had found an excuse not to co-operate, so we gave her a miss. (Her loss, because we would have stayed and paid – even her excrutiatingly outrageous prices). We stayed at a nice hotel in the centre of town, Hotel de France and then dined at a wonderful restaurant called Flaveurs – only been open three years but already with a Michelin star and in my opinion well on its way to two. Hugely enjoyable and the price about a fifth of what we would have stumped up at Pic. I fail to understand how some poeple act as lemmings – probably the same people who keep losing money on the stock exchange! Across the Massif Central to another one star Michelin establishment – Marco, just a few kilometres outside Cahors. There were some brilliant dishes enjoyed here but some failed – the cooking certainly wasn’t as consistent than at Flaveurs and quite a bit more expensive. The rooms (yes, it was a restaurant avec chambres) were beautifully appointed but had some really irritatting impracticalities like the poorly functioning shower, poor lighting, wi-fi not working etc. Still not a bad place. Final drive through the Lot valley (quite spectacular) and after a brief but enjoyable visit to Cahors itself, on to my daughter’s vineyard in the Entre-deux-Mers, near Saint-Macaire. Despite the inclement weather the vines had grown quite a bit over the last month and the flowering had just about set. Things are looking good there, but she will be able to let you know more about it in her diary column on this website next month. They will soon be bottling their 2009s and hopefully, I will be bringing back a few samples to the UK for assessment. Tomorow is Father’s day, so I’m looking forward to be pampered and cosseted, then off to Paris on Monday to see Sonia’s sister and to try and get tickets for Rossini’s La Donna del Lago but there’s probably not much hope of that.