Steve’s Mum and step-dad have been over here for the last week or so, and we’ve been duly keeping them busy (and warm – it’s decided to drop to 2 degrees at night and haven’s really gone past 15 degrees in the daytime, though it was only last Monday we had t-shirt temperatures and it was far too warm to have the fire on)
Steve’s mum was uber-impressed (but uber-awed) by the land and the amount of work we have to do, but she likes it, and that’s very important! She’s liked the chateau at La Rochefoucauld, which is splendid and I’m also impressed about it myself. It is, if I say so myself, the finest chateau in the region. It kind of makes us very unimpressed with other chateaux. The worst thing is, you stun people into thinking the rest of the region is like that, but it isn’t. Although it’s all jolly lovely.
We’d also taken them to Cognac on Wednesday, on account of Sue being a fan of the old Cognac drink. It seemed rude not to. Cognac is a beautiful town and clearly benefits from its tourism. We sat around the main square drinking hideously priced coffee, feeling all European and cafe-society. It was a glorious France-Autumn day, blue skies, warm enough with a jumper, crisp leaves underfoot. Cognac is lovely. I don’t know why I’d had such a terrible impression of it last time. I think it must have seemed very grey or something. There are hundreds of boutique shops and it all seems very cosmopolitan. And very empty. I know we were there round lunch, but we walked down streets that were utterly deserted. It’s all very odd and Marie-Celestial.
We also went to Jarnac, smaller (and prettier, IMHO) sister of Cognac, home of the delightful Courvoisier brewery. I like Jarnac. The Charente cuts through it wide and deep (Sue’s under the impression that we have hundreds of rivers here. We have a couple: the Vienne is quite impressive, as is the Charente, but they do a lot of winding back and forward!) and it’s got several florists sitting around the car park. The Courvoisier brewery sits alongside the Charente, as it must have done for many, many years, its barrels stacked up several floors. There are three beautiful houses that overlook the river, and there’s a beautiful island park too.
And then we’d stopped at Angouleme on the way back, winding up through the remparts, past the cathedral, all very ‘joli’ indeed. We went in the cathedral this time, which is absolutely immense. Not quite as ornate as Manchester Cathedral, but would probably dwarf it. We were looking for somewhere to eat. You quickly realise that restaurants in France fall mainly into two categories: those who serve andouillette at formica tables, served by a sour-faced old woman who looks about as Parisian as Nora Batty, and those that are more in line with The Ivy, with tariffs to match. All very well if you like to eat shit-passage sausage or you like to pay 200 euros for five thin pizzas, but not so good if you want something in between. In the end, we went to Le Chat Noir, which was pricey and served some food, but was delicious all the same.
It was here Sue had her first pineau. Pineau (produced ‘Pin-oh’) is our local drink, consumed more regularly than brandy. It’s eau-de-vie (uncoloured, unripened brandy) mixed with grape must, not unlike a sherry or any other fortified wine. Sue likes pineau now!
We’d also had what will probably be the last barbecue of the year. Freezing! We have begun to get more of a sense of what it will be like in winter, although I’m not much looking forward to it!