On the weekend Y & I travelled to Paris on the Eurostar (having previously enjoyed 4 hours stuck on the Eurostar in complete darkness and in the tunnel, Eurostar had given us free return tickets) and then drove a hire car from Paris out to Reims in the Champagne region (I dare not relive that experience as I value my sanity too highly - let's just say driving through Paris traffic + no clue of direction + not only on the wrong side of the road, but on the wrong side of the car [in a manual!] does not a relaxing start to the weekend make).
Y had planned the most fabulous 4 day weekend, starting in Reims, Champagne, driving through Epernay, staying just out of Dormans, and then a day in Paris at the end. I had no involvment whatsoever - all the places I'm about to rave about are solely the result of the hard work and tenacious researching of Y.
In Reims we stayed in a gorgeous B&B run by the charming Madame Larcher (11 Rue Ponsardin 51100, tel 03 26 47 32 50). She has lovely, very clean rooms in a central part of Reims.
We had a lovely dinner at Flo Brasserie . It is located at the end of a pedestrianised street with several touristy type restaurants and cafes. Flo however is like a little garden oasis at the end of all this. We sat outside amongst lovely gardens. The service was excellent - treading that fine line between inattentive and pushy, perfectly. Y had the 3 course set meal, whilst I had 2 entrees for entree and main. Y was most impressed with her oysters, followed by fish with chorizo and an aubergine type ratatouille. I had a generous serve of parma ham and rockmelon, sprinkled with pine nuts, followed by carpaccio of beef topped with rocket and parmesan (in retrospect, did I think I was in Italy?). Y can't say no to a creme brulee, and this was no exception. We had such a lovely night and the food was excellent, as was the wine. Don't expect your own special English menu though! (which makes it all the more authentic in my opinion)
Saturday morning we explored Reims, in particular the food markets. I love a good food market and this one lived up to expectations. It is located to the north part of the town, near some Roman ruins (we felt very much like locals when we bumped into Madam Larcher from our B&B "Bonjour Madame!"). Using our best pointing skills and "merci, merci" we were able to procure some delicious raspberries and strawberries, as well as beautiful ham carved from the bone. From Reims we drove to Epernay and along the Champagne Route to Dormans, where we enjoyed our picnic of the ham, some goats cheese and the berries by the river - never have raspberries tasted better!
That night we stayed at a lovely B&B in the countryside in a small village of Reuilly, just out of Dormans. The B&B is run by Bill & Meredith and is in a gorgeous spot. Y & I spent a few hours late on Saturday afternoon swinging in the hammock, reading and being happily distracted by the view over the valley. On Bill's recommendation we drove about 5km down the road to Chez Nanou for dinner - it's a great, rustic place (there are finer dining options in the area too) which fills up very quickly making for a great atmosphere. Y had veal kidneys (we now know what rognon means!) which were delicious and accompanied perfectly with mushrooms and pancetta. I had a perfectly cooked eye fillet, and helped Y out with her decadent chocolate mousse. The staff here were really lovely - thanks for the tip Bill!
One of my favourite foodie experiences of the weekend did not actually involve eating ... Bill & Meredith put on an excellent breakfast of fresh fruit, including peaches from a nearby tree, yoghurt, freshly baked bread and excellent coffee. However the highlight for me was chatting with Meredith over breakfast about Julia Child (America's Delia Smith, who introduced that country to French cooking), whilst flicking through one of her cook books. Bill & Meredith are American and Meredith remembered when Julia Child was first on TV in the 1960/70's which made for some lovely anecdotes. We were looking through one of Julia's books from 1989 - my favourite part was in relation to beans and how they may give some people "voluminous gases of rebellion and protest"!
We reluctantly left Reuilly and headed back to gay Paris ...