Monday, October 22, 2012

The land of wine and cheese

On Friday, my lovely kiwi friend Marion came to stay the night. She used to live in Tours, but her boyfriend had a last-minute move to Poitiers for his studies and she decided to go back to London to work, since it was too late for her to enrol at uni and she doesn't have the right to work here (and didn't want to spend another half a year hanging about doing nothing in the middle of France). Anyway, you can fly directly from London to Poitiers, I believe, but on this occasion she decided to take a detour via Tours to catch up.

We had a fun evening - caught up on the gossip while sipping cocktails and champagne at mine before hitting up three different bars along with Charlie. I got into another argument with a French guy. Sigh, seriously, even I'm getting tired of fighting with French men, why can't we just get along? Actually, I got into a minor disagreement with one who, in the middle of chatting up my friend, poked me on the breastbone to tell me that he could see the safety pin that was holding my dress together in the front (then stop looking down my dress maybe? I probably need a smaller safety pin, but that's neither here nor there), and then later I had a HUGE fight with an old man.

I'm not a crazy person though, it was totally justified. I was standing next to him at the bar, talking to my friends. He grabs my arse, and I barely even reacted, just like "don't touch me". And then I had my eye on him, so a little bit later out of the corner of my eye I see him going for it again, so I put my hand down next to my side and grabbed his wrist. And then what really made me absolutely furious was that he denied it! I almost literally caught him red-handed! He was all "how could you say that, I would never do such a thing", and I completely flipped my lid at him. If nothing else, I'm proud that my French skills have progressed to the point that I can shout "casse-toi, vieux connard" at a dirty old pervert in a bar at 4 in the morning. Quite cathartic.

I swear to god though, I know there are bad apples everywhere, but I've had it up to here with all these French men who think they're entitled to comment on what you're wearing or yell things at you or touch you. We're going out for Halloween next Wednesday, so I pinkie swear I'm taking this weekend off and staying in, watching the F1, maybe buying myself some winter boots. (I really really need them cos mine have holes in both the toes, but waiting to see what's left in the bank at the end of the month. I'm like a raggedy Victorian orphan, ha ha.)

Anyway, on to happier subjects, I got woken up on Sunday morning (grumble grumble) by a text inviting me out to a last-minute wine and cheese tasting tour (yay) with my friend Philippa and a visitor from Australia, Zach. Our first stop was a goat farm in Sainte-Maure-de-Touraine, where we sampled four varieties - fresh, semi-dry, dry and very dry - of the eponymous cheese. I love Sainte-Maure cheese, it's very yummy. I'd only had the fresh and semi-dry before, and the intensity of flavour of the other two was a big surprise! The very dry variety is almost spicy, it's so strong, and the flavour stays with you for quite some time! It's also very dry in texture, not at all soft and creamy. I liked all of them, but my favourite was probably the demi-sec, so I bought a roll of that (for about 2€ cheaper than it would be in a supermarket).

Sainte-Maure is pretty much a one-horse town as far as we could tell, so we went straight on to Chinon after the cheese farm. We stopped just outside Chinon at a winery offering dégustations. We were a bit confused about where to go once we got into the place, as there was basically a barn and an open door leading into what looked like someone's living room (with two very cute cats on the steps). While we were wondering, some people who were obviously friends of the family turned up and found the vintner for us. With hindsight, I think we must have delayed the start of Sunday lunch, because it was about 1 pm. Sorry!

He was very nice though, and ushered us into a barn for the most sophisticated wine-tasting you're ever likely to find. Philippa was driving, so I asked if there was a crachoir she could spit into. Much to our amusement, he said she could spit into the drain running behind the barrel! Think on that the next time you're around wine snobs... (PS she's much too refined to spit in a drain on a barn floor, she just had a sip of each.)

Small-scale wine-making. The barrel represents the "salon de dégustation"
We tasted a rosé and three reds, and very nice they all were as well. I love Chinon wines - I'm not a big red-wine drinker, but they are nice and light and not oaky or tannic, which I don't like at all. I suppose some sophisticated types might find them a bit lacking in body or flavour, but that doesn't bother me at all. And the rosés are of course lovely as well. I'm not sure the name of the actual vineyard, but I bought one red called Domaine du Grand Portail and one rosé called Clos de la Grille. But don't go looking for them in a supermarket near you - I was chatting to the vintner about where to buy them, and he doesn't sell to any wine shops or restaurants, even locally - they all get sold to individuals turning up and buying them, or at wine fairs etc. It is frustrating sometimes to find great wines and then you can't buy them anywhere even if you're only living 50 km away!

We continued on our merry way to Chinon, and stopped off first at the Couly-Dutheil wine tasting rooms. I was dying for the loo, but Philippa assured me that they had a bathroom I could use, since she'd been there with her parents the weekend before. However, the door was locked and the wine tasting lady earned my undying hatred by acted all shocked that I dared to ask about using the facilities and made us go across the street and up the hill to the chateau in the pouring rain to use theirs. She also made some kind of snobby remarks about people who "didn't know what they were doing" buying wines to store - apparently if you know what you're doing, you have to buy a case and drink one every year to see the evolution of the wine. (By undying hatred, I mean I vowed to seek revenge by tasting her wines without purchasing any. I've had Couly-Dutheil wines before and they are quite nice, but they started at about 8€ a bottle, so this wasn't a huge hardship.) I don't know if this post is reflecting very well on me - I'm really quite mild-mannered, I promise.

Oh, I just read on the internet that there is a bit of a family feud between the Couly-Dutheil and Pierre & Bertrand Couly winemakers. My sister and I visited P&B Couly back in 2010 and enjoyed the wines we had there very much, so with that and the snobbish salesperson, you can put me down on Team Pierre & Bertrand. The t-shirt to that effect is being designed as we speak.

View of Chinon castle from inside the Couly-Dutheil tasting room
We then intended to get some lunch, but it was about 3 pm on a Sunday by this stage, and everywhere had stopped serving :( Zach had to be back in Tours for about 5 to catch a train, so we just had a little wander around the pretty town centre (I think this was my 3rd or 4th trip, but it's still very pretty) and then headed back to Tours. We walked along the Vienne river to get back to the car, which is lined with trees that look nice but turned out to be full of spiders! Kept feeling strands of spiderweb on my face, or seeing them floating about, and then there was a spider in my hair!!!! Major freakout.

Moi in Chinon

The Vienne river, lined with scary spider-harbouring trees
But spiders aside, it was a pleasant trip! And I went home and made jacket potatoes stuffed with pesto and Sainte-Maure cheese - delicious!


  1. Yum yum yum yum yum yum yum!

  2. So, that's where the spider comes in! I was wondering when I saw your tweet the other day but didn't get the chance to ask you.

    French men - what can I say. Not much except that the topic is a relevant one for me because I just read an interesting article about the book, "How the French Invented Love". Here's an excerpt:

    Ms. Yalom suggests that this is the same sort of playful flirtation and innuendo that one still encounters at Parisian dinner parties, and even in casual interactions. It is sadly not the norm chez nous. After a sabbatical in the U.K., Ms. Yalom says that she decided: "Enough of men who avoid my glance and make me feel like a talking block of wood. I'm going to France!"

    Maybe the French just have a completely different take on what's flirtatious than we do.

    Get some boots!

    1. There's flirtation and then there's arse-grabbing! Unfortunately I seem to be always meeting with a controlling, sexist streak rather than witty banter. I just don't seem to gel well with French men. I was having a conversation with a French guy at a bar last night who was of the opinion that all women were sluts and I was an "ultra-feminist" (and proud of of it!)

  3. Spiders are good!!! Why won't anyone believe me?! LOL! They eat the bad and gross insects and protect and serve us! Love the spiders, Gwan. Please.

    The black and white photo of you is really beautiful. Everything about it. If I were you, I'd be very proud of it. : )

    I'm a Chinon fan too. Next blogger date (hopefully with MK!!), we must share a bottle...or two.

    1. Nooo, they're terrifying! They can eat bad insects outside, not in my house & certainly not in my hair!!!

      Thanks so much, I turned it to b&w because I didn't really love the expression on my face. Black and white covers all sins.

      And for sure on the blogdate (should totally set something up) and Chinon, it's very yummy. I converted my sister too & take some over to the UK for her whenever suitcase allowances permit.

  4. I'm coming to your chignon get together too, I want to meet you lovely bloggy ladies!! :-)

    1. That might be hard if we don't know who you are!

  5. Your scrappy, and I like that! But seriously, why do they think they can be so rude and grabby like that?! Someone needs to put them in their place and I'm proud of you for doing your bit.
    And on the subject of spiders, my mother is super superstitious about them, and believes that they bring good luck (some bizarre Irish mumbojumbo, she also thinks cats kill babies) and having this brainwashing me since I was a little kid basically means that's it's almost impossible for me to kill a spider.

    1. Thanks, sometimes it has to be done! I'm all for killing spiders, but too much of a wuss to do it up close and personal. That made me laughabout cats killing babies, lucky there's no baby around here!

  6. When we were kids the killer cats were always on the prowl. I remember that women with babies in prams (the old fashioned type) used to have "cat nets" across the front of the awning to stop cats jumping onto the pram and lying on top of the sleeping baby's face. I wonder if cats got the blame for cot deaths and that's what gave rise to the fear of cats suffocating the babies.

  7. Hmmm you typically have two 'anonymouses' commenting on your blog. Let's see if we can decide who is who ;-)

    1. Oh I see... Was thinking a Paris-based anonymouse!


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