Tuesday, 28 June 2011

154. Lunch in the Pays Basque..

28th June 2011. Just back from a very pleasant lunch to mark the passing of another marital kilometre stone. We returned to 'our' old restaurant where we'd spent many happy holidays in the past. They have a nice new set menu now that includes 2 glasses of wine.

Today, we started off with a celebratory glass of champagne before the food arrived.. Madame had chosen to start with a delicious salad with St Jacques (scallops) while your scribe had foie gras. Despite the menu offer of 2 glasses of wine, in typically generous fashion Bernadette (the owner) brought us a 50cl carafe of Colombelle white wine instead (must try and find where to buy this locally).

For the main course, we'd chosen the pièce du boucher (for 2) fully expecting a quivering chunk of juicy beef. However, when Bernadette brought it, the oval serving platter was covered with slices of v rare beef.. (just as we like it!). And somehow, between leaving the kitchen and arriving at our table, the two glasses of red that we were expecting were transformed into another 50cl carafe of rouge..!

We were surrounded by dog lovers and Chibby (our cocker) was in his element. A couple at a neighbouring table asked - "Does he like sausage..?" (Was the Pope Polish? Do bears.. etc etc) It reminded me of when we went to the Jura last year and we had lunch at Madame's cousin. Pooch had the charm cranked up to max and, after 2 minutes at the table, we had the classic question - "Your dog looks hungry - don't you ever feed him?"  (he should get an Oscar!) Here he is with his famous impression - "The light's on but there's nobody in.."

And then to cap it all - with the coffee, Bernadette offered me a large complimentary armagnac. According to a 14th century cardinal, armagnac has forty virtues: 
"It makes disappear redness and burning of the eyes, and stops them from tearing; it cures hepatitis, sober consumption adhering. It cures gout, cankers, and fistula by ingestion; restores the paralysed member by massage; and heals wounds of the skin by application. It enlivens the spirit, partaken in moderation, recalls the past to memory, renders men joyous, preserves youth and retards senility. And when retained in the mouth, it loosens the tongue and emboldens the wit, if someone timid from time to time himself permits."
I've said this before but they really spoil us..

Afterwards, we went around to the kitchen and met J-M, the great stalwart in the kitchen, who's been there for years. Built like a rugby prop forward (which is not surprising since he was one), he's a superb chef and we were surprised to hear that he's retiring next year. He always looked after us well. Needless to say, we had a prolonged walk around the village before setting off for home.

Here's a nice evening shot of the 'our' village with the restaurant in darkness just below the church. 

30th June 2011. There were surprisingly few down at the river this evening - just enough to put together a coxless IV and a pair.. I was out in the IV and it went quite well.. we did 16km. (Running total: 823km) There was enough of a wind blowing up river to form waves. However, boats like ours don't ride waves, they just cut through them and with their low freeboard they are vulnerable to shipping water at speed! Most of us were well & truly soaked by the time we got back to the pontoon!
I was just deleting some old files when I found this old clip.. Now, be honest, who amongst us hasn't ever tried to dance the syrtaki when on holiday in Greece..? Scroll forward to around 06:25..
I was once quite a dab hand at it.. late at night, with a few ouzos onboard, by the light of the silvery moon etc etc.. Hup-haaaa!

Not long after we were married, I took Madame to what was advertised as the last unspoilt Greek island. Walking barefoot along the beach there one evening, just as I was about to put my foot down, I caught sight of something glittering in the sand right where my foot was going.. Aargh! A hypodermic syringe.. Talk about a mood-shattering moment.. What with that and the late night bars for the tourists (young N Europeans mainly) selling 'slammers' - cheap spirits guaranteed to put them straight into an instant coma - well, yes - I thought the islands had changed greatly since I lived there in the sixties.

2nd July 2011. Hot morning on the river - felt like 24° or so.. Had a very forgettable outing in a coxless IV - which actually got worse as we went on. Lack of concentration, timing all over the place, sloppy bladework, untidy finishes, rushing on the slides - where to start! Did 15km (Running total: 838km).

The DSK affair rumbles on.. I must admit to finding it slightly strange that a poor black woman in New York who reportedly has $100,000 in the bank was still working as a chambermaid! It's odd that no-one has mentioned this so far. Think there's much to emerge still in this case.

In the meantime, I think a restorative armagnac could well be on the cards this evening.. bearing in mind all the benefits I can expect according to that list above!

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