Friday, 26 August 2011

Simple good food, et pas cher

Arriving at Gare du Nord, breakfastless and very hungry, I strode down the Rue Lafayette (9eme) in search of the Bistrot Casimir off  a church square but missed it, passing into the Place Monthelon. Under a hot humid sky, I was delighted to see a little bistro, BEBE, the doors open to the air and tables on the pavement. What followed was one of the best-value quick lunches in ever-dearer Paris, The pas de choix (aparrt from dessert\) two-course lunch( 14 euros) was everything it should have been. Excellent crusty bread, a plate of marinated mushrooms, then penne with both smoked and fresh salmon, lubricated with a fine fresh glass of 010 Julienas, Domaine des Bruyeres. with excellent espresso- the bill tout inclus 19.80 euro.....Or, push the boat out from the changing blackboard - tartare of loup de mer, foie de veau, filet of bar (cold-water bass) or a fine entrecote with frites & bearnaise. Good Loires & Rhones, gently priced.

Could you ask for more as a consolation for pitiful £/$ exchange rates!

BEBE 8 rue Pierre Senard 75009 Paris Tel 01 48 78 70 31

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Early Morning in Reims

North Tower of Basilica St Remi
Last monday I arrived in Reims, having enjoyed the luxury of being driven from Paris Gare du Nord to the city along 90 miles of the Marne, the valley dappled in sunlight and freshened by a light wind that should please Champagne's growers, who are tense and preoccupied with the start of the harvest next week. It is quite understandable that they are anxious, as  a glorious spring and perfect June has been followed by a cold wet July and a changeable early August. So, after a good night's sleep, I rose early on tuesday morning to calm my mind by visiting one of my favourite churches, the Basilica St Remi, which has at least as strong a link to the heart of Champenois culture as Reim's great Cathedral of Notre Dame.

The one thousand-year-old Basilica takes its name from St Remi, one of the seminal figures of the early medieval French church who became Bishop of Reims at the age of 22. Later, in 493 AD he famously baptised the pagan Clovis, King of the Franks, after the monarch had been nagged into taking the plunge by his Christian wife. Remi lived on well into his 'nineties, the memory of him still jogged today  every time you look upwards to the crown of 96 candles in the Choir.

side chapel
The Benedictines started to build their great church around 1000AD and though there was a delay due to lack of funds, the Basilica was completed and consecrated by Pope St Leon IX in 1043. Despite the ravages and depredations of nine centuries - most of the monks' treasures were lost during the Great War of 1914 -1918 - it remains a peach of the Romanesque style, the walls of the Great Nave, its side chapels and the North Tower still intact. Above all, it is wonderfully atmospheric instilling a sense of calm perspective, as one steps out into the real world of Climate Change, economic turmoil and rioting on the streets of my beloved England.

Tomb of St Remi

Nave & North rose window

Thursday, 4 August 2011

...And those bedrooms!

Terrace de la Maison
The spirit of LES AVISES is like that of a country house of a friend with very good taste - informal, convivial, free of pretentiousness. But the bedrooms and suites are something else. Tho'  sharing the elegance of downstairs, they are unashamedly opulent and luxurious, exceptional places to rest your head for those rare moments to share with a loved one.

Enlisting the skills of interior designer Bruno Boriani, Corinne Selosse has brilliantly succeeded in creating a series of ten rooms that span the light and shade of  differing styles  to satisfy most tastes. Some have lush fabrics, traditional furnishing lifted by bright mediterranean colours; others are audaciously contemporary, uncluttered, even minimalist, but always warm and supremely comfortable, often with lovely views of the Cote. The attention to detail is impressive from luxurious towelling and bathrobes, to powerful showers and hand-adjustable short-wave/FM radios that bring you Mahler or Miles Davis, say, in perfect sound. The rooms' names charmingly say 'good health' in every language of Champagne lovers around the world ....salaud, prosit, skol, salute, kampai, tchin. 
La Cote from a bedroom

From 230 euros for two.

Hotel-Restaurant LES AVISES, 59 rue du Cramant 51190 Avize
telephone +33 (0)3 26 57 70 06