Easter in La Rochelle

“The spirit of La Rochelle is to sit on the terrasse of a café watching the sun on the water.  This is a very important thing to do and should be done often and for long spells. ” – Míde Ní Shúilleabháin

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And so it was that with such sage advice we ventured south for La Rochelle, France.  Having been inspired by Alison from Cheeseweb’s post with suggestions for Easter getaways we decided to visit Míde’s old home.  I am ashamed to say that although she lived there for a year I never managed to get down there to visit.  But I sure hope to return one day with Míde in tow (I don’t think it will take much to persuade her).

So – it’s a 7 hour drive from Brussels, which is a fair whack, but we left Brussels on Thursday afternoon and stayed just outside Orleans Thursday evening, meaning we split the journey in half – we did the return trip in one go (fair play to the driver) but it wasn’t too bad.

In La Rochelle we stayed in Un Hôtel en Ville.  The location was perfect – just around the corner from the Vieux Porte.  We were actually in the annex part of hotel which was a separate building, it was fine, rooms were newly renovated with some of the old beams featured in the decor for a bit of charm.  The floor was a bit creaky but I imagine that’s the case in most of the bulidings in La Rochelle!  The staff were nice – though I only really dealt with one lady who checked us in – she was English which might be reassuring to anyone with minimal French!  Breakfast was €9.50 each I think, but we didn’t avail of it.

We enjoyed a lunch of galette in one of the restaurants on the Cours des Dames – which afterwards I saw Mide suggested were not the best, but we were hungry and just excited to sit outside and look at boats so it was perfectly fine.

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After that we wandered – it was a bit of a dull day – but it was nice to discover the town, everywhere is pretty, you can’t go wrong.

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We ate in dinner on Rue Saint Jean de Perot, in CAFÉ DU THÉÂTRE, 12 rue Saint-Jean Du Perot, which was lovely, we both had red snapper – delish.

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Saturday morning we hired bikes and headed off to Ile de Re. It’s a nice cycle, though we did go through a very industrial looking area just before we got to the bridge but it was brief and any dust we picked up there was blown away as we cycled across the sea.

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We went as far as La Flotte, but half way there we came across Fort de la Pree

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…. which was displaying a sign saying that there were FREE COGNAC AND OYSTERS!

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And sure why not…. ( we did not indulge in the oysters, I wish I was braver or liked them because the general area of La Rochelle/Ile de Re seems to be an Oyster-lovers heaven).

On to La Flotte – where we indulged in what was fast becoming a favourite activity: sitting, eating and drinking.

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A couple of glasses of wine later we bobbed (this is what you do when you’re un peu tipsy) around La Flotte before cycling over to Sainte Marie de Re on the other side of the island and sat in the sand for a while before heading back to the bridge.

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The wind had picked up and I maintain that side of the bridge is definitely steeper than the other side so I didn’t really enjoy the return journey all that much (let’s blame the brandy and wine).

We were hungry, but not THAT hungry when we got back so off we went to Brasserie des Dames where we got a very reasonably priced planchette of charcuterie and bread, they also provided blankets against the cold.

 

Guess what? It was almost time to eat again.  To be honest I was filling up fast so fancied a bit of tapas. So we found El Asador.  There was a rugby match playing on the big screen and it was very relaxed – it makes sense now that I’ve investigated the website – it’s owned by a couple of rugby players.  The waiting staff did have very big shoulders…

The food was fine, I was too full to enjoy it (eyes bigger than belly etc etc)!

Sunday – as is traditional this was a day of rest. And once again involved quite alot of sitting, eating and drinking…

We sat with a take away coffee and croissants looking out over the Vieux Porte, then moved over to a prime spot in the sun at Le Pass’Port where we whiled away a couple of hours and local cidres (it was after mid-day – don’t judge please).

With great intentions to explore the market we left it a bit late and things were closing up, but the weather was so lovely we sat at another cafe: A la Gerbe de Ble, Rue Thiers, 17000 La Rochelle.  Once again we indulged in a planchette

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BUT – once again I regretted not loving oysters because check this out:

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Oyster lovers – go to La Rochelle!

We then headed to Parc Charruyer.  This place is lovely, it is almost meadow-like with daisies and buttercups – I always remember as a child being sad when the grass was cut int he summer and there were no daisies left – so this made me happy.

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Parc-1

It was a lovely place to relax, read, watch the world go by (and digest until the next meal which is basically all we seemed to do in La Rochelle, eat and then wait until we were ready to eat again).

Eventually we were ready to eat again 🙂  We found this place: Ludoti, which was lovely, it had a nice atmosphere – I had pasta with Gambas and pesto which was very enjoyable, Colin had lamb which I believe was just as nice.

There are so many restaurants in La Rochelle, but in fact alot of them have similar menus so we quite liked this place which was a bit different.

La Rochelle – go there. Just go there.

 

 

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Chicken and Brocolli Gratin

How is it mid-November already? This year is flying, though I say that every year – is that what happens the older you get?

I have just spent the weekend in France – and why not? It’s only 2 hours down the road, we stayed in a very nice, small Chateau (well on the grounds of one anyway!), ate a 6 course meal, went champagne tasting and came back to Brussels with plenty of bottles clinking in the back of the car.

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Our fancy meal was fancy, there was St Jacques (I’m not a big fan unfortunately), fois gras – the cooked version, pidgeon, frogs legs – you name it.  Probably not my favourite but you only live once!  I only took a photo of the pidgeon and frogs leg, and the dessert – which was very tasty 🙂

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The following day, the sun came out and we found the Route de Touristique Champagne – it was beautiful:

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Apart from that, the day consisted of jambon-fromage croissants, croque-monsieurs and champagne tasting, after which we weren’t able for another big meal so instead got some (more) cheese, charcuterie, baguettes etc and enjoyed that with … some more champagne 🙂

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The weekend consisted of alot of cheese and bread in various forms so I thought it was time to eat some veg in preparation for the week ahead….

This is an oldie but a goodie.  I think the first time I enjoyed broccoli was in this particular dish, it’s very tasty and a great way of getting your greens in.

It can be made various different ways – using a whole chicken, or just chicken breasts – having tried both I think the whole chicken option is better, there is more flavour.

It can be made cheats-style by using tinned soup for the sauce – mushroom or chicken are best, and the condensed version I think also works best.  This has alot of flavour but be sure to use good quality tinned soup as the cheaper ones can be very salty.

I went back to basics yesterday and made a sauce from scratch – I went by the Avoca recipe but also added some curry as this always gives an extra nice flavour!

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Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken (or 6 chicken breasts)
  • 1 Spanish Onion or 2 normal onions peeled and chopped
  • 2 carrots peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery sticks chopped
  • a few sprigs parsley and thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon of black peppercorns
  • 300ml double cream
  • 120g Roux (60g flour 60g butter)
  • 1 teaspoon of curry powder
  • 1 head of broccoli divided into florets
  • 25g butter
  • 75g cheese grated (cheddar or another strong cheese)
  • 150g breadcrumbs

Method

  1. Place chicken in a large saucepan with the onions, carrots, celery, herbs, peppercorns and enough water to cover.  Bring slowly to the boil then reduce heat and simmer until the chicken is cooked ( about an  hour for a whole chicken, 20 minutes for chicken breasts)
  2. Remove the chicken from the pan and leave to cool.  Strip the meat from the bones, tear up into large bite size pieces and set aside.
  3. Strain the cooking liquid into a saucepan and boil until reduced to 600ml. (I actually left the veg in, and put the chicken bones back in whilst doing this – I didn’t boil all the way down to 600ml as I had alot but I let it boil for about another 20-30mins.  Next time I might add a 1/2 a stock cube at this point for extra flavour).
  4. Add the cream, (at this point I also added a heaped tsp of curry powder) return to the boil then whisk in the roux a little at a time to form a thick sauce.
  5. Blanch the broccoli in boiling water until just tender, then drain and refresh under cold water.
  6. Stir the chicken and broccoli into the sauce and season to taste.
  7. Pour this into an oven proof dish.
  8. Melt the butter and mix with the breadcrumbs and cheese.  Spread over the chicken dish.
  9. Bake in a preheated oven at 180degrees C for 20 minutes or until brown and bubbling.

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