I now have incontrovertible proof that many of the readers of my waffling actually read it very carefully and pay a great deal of attention to my photos and words – mine is not to reason why. The reason I know this is because they have recently caught me out in a number of errors:-
* I don’t know my left wrist from my right wrist
* I don’t know my breakfast from my lunch (just trying to wriggle out of the beer at breakfast thing)
* I don’t know my Peacocks from my Peahens
Just to keep you on your toes, I have built an error into this blog deliberately to see if you can spot it. If you find more than one error, it means I’ve cocked it up again!
Just a short cruise to Damery Tuesday (the 5th day in succession that we cruised) in beautiful sunshine and through another one of those funny locks – I think these photos are a bit clearer. I have been told that the locks were built with sloping sides to give them more stability as they were originally turfed; when renovated, it was cheaper to concrete the existing chamber than start again or build the banks up to vertical.
We tied up at our pretty mooring, emptied the dogs and hot footed it over the bridge just in the nick of time to get lunch (1.15pm is pushing it in France). Our lunchtime preference for eating out is the menu du jour; 3 courses (and sometimes a glass or two of wine included in the price) for anything between 11 and 15 euros – simple meals, often with no choices, but with freshly cooked ingredients and, whilst they wouldn’t win any Michelin stars, we’ve never had a bad one. In larger towns where there are a number of establishments offering these working lunches, they proudly display the day’s menu and price. In smaller places like Damery, where the restaurants also offer a more upmarket, and significantly more expensive a la carte menu, they try and keep it a secret from anyone other than their regular working clientele. We are wise to this one now and check out the car park for signs of tradesmen’s vans etc., and the car park at Au Bateau Lavoir had a fair number. This is not snobbery, but if you are hot and dusty and need lunch – often on your own – you are not going to want to spend 50 euros (the Brits would just have a sandwich, but the French want Lunch with a capital ‘L’), so it’s a sure sign that a menu du jour is on offer.
Sure enough, we were met with a friendly greeting and an expensive menu and, when the lass came to take our order, we asked if there was a menu du jour. Give her her due, she never batted an eyelid as she told us what the 3 courses were for 15 euros; jolly pleasant they were too. Four American tourists followed us in and they, too, were only given the expensive menus; times are hard in France and I guess you can’t blame them. This led us to realise that, despite our still crappy French speaking, we have actually come a fair way in immersing ourselves in the language and the culture. 3 years ago, we would have rolled over and ‘taken’ the expensive menu on the chin. Now we have the confidence (and the language) not to be fobbed off with expensive menus, over baked bread, cold milk with the cafe grande creme, etc., all things I don’t like.
Having returned to the boat and walked the dogs, we decided we could fall asleep or go shopping. With 60 Champagne producers in the village we decided to go shopping. The various producers display their signs outside and they varied from basic to ornate – these are a small sample within a stone’s throw of the boat. If you wish to buy (and try!), you have to ring the bell, knock or ‘phone – as a reserved Brit I found this a bit daunting at first but, after the first couple of glasses (on top of the lunchtime wine), I soon settled into the system.
Each house we visited – and no, before you ask, we didn’t go to all 60 – welcomed us warmly and happily opened bottles for us to try. The thing that particularly surprised me was that they joined us in a glass – none of that spitting it out nonsense going on here either. The inside reception areas are extremely opulent, in contrast with some of the other houses in the neighbourhood which are almost falling down.
Having stuffed six bottles in G’s rucksack and two in mine (I am still a bit physically challenged from my recent fall) we decided we should call it a day – that, or come back with my dilapidated granny shopping trolley (note to self; you need a new one) which doesn’t carry the note of sophistication that I believe Champagne buying requires; rucksacks are shabby enough. Perhaps we should have attached our new trailer to the electric bike; but then we could have fitted in multiple crates and we would have been bankrupt. As it is, our shopping trip was quite impressive when lined up in the galley.
There will be another post about the lovely Damery, but I leave you with a sign I saw whilst walking Muttley later; it certainly didn’t pull any punches and was posted at every fishing point along the Marne – I so wish fisherman would adhere to it
In deference to Graham’s mother, you’ll have to do your own translation – if you don’t have the knowledge you have the technology.