Chicken crumble and rolled, poached
Which congnac for madame, monsieur?
There was no option for breakfast other than the hotel and we were annoyed that the breakfast cost E13.50 and consisted of reconstituted OJ, prepackaged cereals and fruit, pastries, bread and jam and coffee. If you wanted eggs that was a E6 supplement and so on. After the wonderful meals of the previous nights it was quite a letdown.
We used the mill as a base for exploring the surrounding countryside, beginning with the very large citadel of Brouages. Once a thriving fortified army town, an armed fort, it was also the birthplace of Simon Champlain, the founder of Quebec, so there are strong Canadian ties there. The fort is very long, over 400 metres, with multiple lookout towers, even two forges and two under-wall harbours.
But the sea has receded and the need for the fort diminished with Vauban’s later chain of fortifications. More recently the place has been restored, there are shops and people, even a school, in line with the French philosophy of making these places alive again, not just exhibits.
Shop, roses, baskets, toys; scene on the main street of Brouages
A sentry box on top of the walls
Across the square was an ENORMOUS church spire, 85 metres tall. It looked big enough for Salisbury cathedral (123 metres) especially attached to a smallish church. Nick joked it was a bell tower with attached church. Called St Pierre it had inside, hanging from the ceiling, a beautiful model ship also called the St Pierre. So far I haven’t found out why though it may be something to do with the wars of religion and the Hugenots or the settlement of New France in Canada.
The “St Pierre”
We also visited the waterfront near the long bridge over to the Isle d’Oleron to see the fort of Louvois which can be reached by walkway at low tide. Of course it was high tide and the tourist boat rides out have not started, but it was an interesting little port area with many flat bottomed fishing boats, presumably for the marshy shallows and maybe for the oysters.
|Fort Louvois and flat bottomed boat |
Long bridge to Isle d’Oleron and the beginnings of the walkway to Fort Louvois
The parting of earth and waters
Side nave of the abbey church
The little town of Cognac was unexpected. We walked up the hill from the quai area through massive stone buildings, the headquarters of Cognac distilleries, plus some grand old homes. At the top was another church of St Pierre and a great little shopping street full of interesting little shops. We spent a pleasant time before our guided tour at Hennessy Cognac.
The tour began by crossing the river in their special boat to warehouses where they displayed all the information in a walk through museum, from soil profiles to vine pruning to harvest and distillation, all methods and growers controlled by Hennessy’s exacting requirements. Then we walked into the storage and blending area where the Master Blender and his assistants ensure that each batch of cognac tastes the same through a process of tasting and blending up to 100 different variants. What a nose and palate he must have!
The other drink from this area is Pineau des Charentes, a grape juice cooked down then mixed with cognac from the same vineyard. Used as an aperitif over ice and as a liqueur. Unfortunately we didn’t get to taste it though Nick had it as a gelee with his foie gras and said it was delicious.
Next time: The Loire valley and its gardens and castles.