Wednesday, 21 September 2011

LIZ & Tim's great trip! Part 2

So where was I??? Oh yes,  we arrived in Calais and started our journey onto Riemes and Eperney travelling on near empty toll roads at a reasonably swift pace - UK - There is such a lesson to be learnt from other European roadways!! Anyway, I digress........ we stopped for lunch in Eperney before starting our tour of the vineyards at a charming and very typical french corner restaurant and I just could NOT resist taking a camera picture of the menu above - have a close look! It certainly made us laugh......... and there was also a Sephora cosmetic shop (my absolute favourite grown up version of a sweetie shop!!) across the road from the restaurant so a fabulous start for me - food and make up!!!

After our lunch break we headed for the vineyards passing most of the big name Champagne houses and what seemed like dozens and dozens of smaller ones and some in what seemed just like private houses...... an amazing thing to see I must say! Out in the countryside in some areas all you could see for miles in each direction were rows upon rows of vines.......... absolutely amazing! We were taken to see Dom Perignon's burial site with in a church and there some really beautiful old pews with what now would be classed as graffitti but all sorts of dates scrawled on them. As we drove through the various areas Charles Ancliffe our host explained to us about the chalkiness of the soil and the effect this has on the grapes and their taste, he told us about the different types of grapes and that 1and a half kilo's go into just 1 bottle of Champagne........... we learnt all about first and second pressings and oh yes, had another bottle of Champagne on a hill top overlooking the most spectacular view and listening to the wind rustling through the tree's.......... very, very romantic (well for me anyway - not sure about my 3 male companions!).

Our third and last stop before hitting the hotel and trying to get just 40 winks before a night on the town beckoned was on a hill top where the Mumm windmill is and time for our last Champagne of the day (not the whole day you understand - just the daylight hours part!!) this time a Vintage de Castelneau... ohh I didn't half like that one!!!!! By the way, that's a bunch of grapes you might just see that Charles is holding behind my head.......

We were booked in to the Hotel de la Paix and my goodness, what a fantastic hotel!!  A hotel used by many of the big Champagne houses to put guests in and recently renovated, we were pleasantly surprised and delighted by our room. Now this one could be called a real Boutique room and guess what?? A bottle of Champagne from Monsieur Pascal Prudhomme the Directeur Generale of De Castelnau was waiting for us in our room..............

Part 3 and I'll tell you about the fab meal we had that night (what I can remember of it!) and our tour of the winery............


Monday, 19 September 2011

LIZ & Tim's great trip! Part one

This great trip of ours is going to have to be done in tiny pieces as it was sooooo fantastic and I don't want to spare you any of the fantabulous details!!!

So lets start with day one. Tuesday 6th September saw us get off eventually after having done all the 'pubby' things and leaving all in good order, getting a couple of miles up the road in my neatly packed Betsy (Smart Car) and then having to turn back as I'd forgotten to pack the Sat Nav............. well it was only a couple of miles - no big deal (!). SOH wasn't over amused but I only had to remind him of the numerous occasions we have had to turn round because HE'S forgotten something and all was well in the Hore household very quickly!!

First thing was to drive to the Wee Waif in Reading where our brewery St Austell had paid for us to have the first night of our prize winning 'Wine House of the Year' last year and then the actual Champagne tour was hosted by Champagne de Castelnau. 

Now then what can I say about the Wee Waif in Reading - clean, reasonably comfortable and frankly, you get what you pay for! The room on this our first night was far better than the one we given on our return, but for what we wanted for the few hours we were there it was perfectly acceptable. It was also close for our host Charles Ancliffe from Patriarch Wines, and quite a central location to get us to Folkestone the next morning for the 'chunnel'. With us was James Finneman who is a wine development manager for St Austell, so I was quite pleased to  find myself the only lady amongst three such charming gentleman. 

Our first meal was at the St George & Dragon in Reading, a dinner for four in a very relaxed setting with exceptionally good food and a prime example of not believing all you read on Trip Advisor!! However, we were relatively modest with the alcohol as I think we sensed it was going to be a heavy few days..............

The next day at 6.30A.M we were packing our thing into Charles's car who was going to be our chauffeur for the next 24 hours and off we set for Folkestone. A beautiful sunny (ish) day and a congenial host who told us how many times he had done this before and how much he loved showing Champagne country to people like us. So accomplished at this was he that when we got to the port and he asked me to put his credit card in to gain access on the booking he was staggered to find he hadn't actually booked the train.........!!!!  Doh. and there's me thinking I'm the only one who could do something like that!!  

However eventually and safely ensconced on Le Shuttle at 9.a.m and heading into the bowels of the earth Charles announced it was our first Champagne of the day - a charming De Castleneau Rose Champagne. Bearing in mind we had only had 2 coffees, half a kit kat each and a small croissant  - 2 glasses had the desired effect of going straight to my knees!!! A remarkable short trip saw us on French soil within about 35 minutes - my how time flies when you're having fun!!

Part two to follow in the next couple of days....................

In the meantime I'm glad to say that whilst the summer 'silly' season has ended, the Victoria is as busy as ever - so if you are coming to visit and you want to eat with us I would recommend that you really do book :)

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Wine Pub of the Year 2010

Do you remember that we won an award from St Austell for being the Wine Pub of the Year 2010?? Well, we are off on our prize trip this week to Reims sponsored by Champagne de Castelneau combined with a couple of days in Duncan Bannatynes Charlton Spa Hotel when home and a cliff top B & B in North Devon - so next blog I write I'll have a load of things to tell you..........I'm very very glad we're having a week off, we are both exhausted and so far this year whilst we've had a few breaks apart we've only been away together for about 5 days..... So I'm very much looking forward to some time together and away from the pressures of business. Now that a lot of the holidaymakers have gone home we haven't really taken our foot of the gas as yet - yesterday I was at the Kingsbridge show advertising our newly re-furbished upstairs restaurant and it's suitability for functions/weddings etc.

How big??

Happy as pigs in ????
Ok - I'm ready!!
Really good fun and Glo, my bar manager and I made some good contacts I think! Certainly made us think about doing a wedding fair proper.....???  For a previous Big City girl (and I think still one to some extent) I have a real liking for the County Fairs. I've always been quite opinionated about fox hunting and hunting in general but when you start to talk to country people about the ban and the effect its had on local communities etc and I saw a hunt in action yesterday I'm tending to not be so small minded about it............ When I was a very small girl and my Daddy died, my Mum used to send me to Selsey in Sussex to be looked after in the summer holidays by my lovely Auntie Doris & Uncle Edgar. I can remember thinking it was all such a great adventure and you were so safe to walk through the village and to the sea in 'those days'........ and there was always a village fair, and I'm sure it's that memory that triggered so many of the feelings I had yesterday as I browsed round the stalls and 'best  of's' - cakes/flowers/marrows and onions etc etc.   I felt quite weepy at one stage - I think it was the realisation of passing time and old memories.

So there you are - another summer season over and done with - our 3rd! I must say I think it's been very hard work this year for lots of reasons, but as I sit here tonight with a distinct autumnal nip in the air around me I'm grateful that we've done as well as we have and that our customers still rate us and like us. All we must do now is keep in touch with our market conditions, keep on giving our customers what they want: Value, great service and a pub they want to spend time in!!