First stop on the journey back was Saint Vincent in Aosta, near the Italian/French border. It is a small town in the foothills of Mont Blanc / Monte Bianco and close to the smart ski resort of Courmayeur. We arrived at a civilised hour and so took a stroll through the town, stopped for a small glass of beer outside the local bar and enjoyed the warm evening temperatures of 22 degrees which our hotel receptionist said was very unusual for the time of year.
We decided on dinner in a fish restaurant. Some might say a strange choice for a town, miles from the sea and half way up a mountain, but if they were going to have that as their USP it needed to be good and we were not disappointed. My risotto with fresh scallops and Prosecco was made to order and certainly worth the wait. Jamie chose pasta alla Palermitana (Palermo style) with fresh anchovies, black olives, pine nuts and sultanas. My main course was monkfish with fresh clams in broth and Jamie had steamed sea bass with pomodorini. Puds were a de-constructed sicilian cannoli and a fresh take on Tiramisu that had coffee jelly on the bottom rather than the soggy sponge biscuits.
The next morning we stopped in Courmayeur to see what it was like and had a wander through the town before stopping for a delicious cup of hot chocolate and ricotta cake in a very nice coffee shop.
The next door bakery provided crusty bread for our picnic lunch on the road. Having gone through the Mont Blanc tunnel and into France, there are regular picnic stops all along the motorways and so we thought we would enjoy the sunshine and avoid the service stations. The next stop was the delicatessen for some ham and salad and fruit, but it wasn’t until we stopped for lunch that we realized the man in the deli had not packed our ham in the bag and so we just had lovely bread with salad and a couple of hardboiled eggs we had brought with us when we left the flat.
There was very little traffic on the roads and we made good time, arriving at our next stop in Chalons-en-Champagne and the appropriately named Hotel Angleterre at around 8pm. This hotel has a Brasserie and a very smart restaurant but we decided to go for the Brasserie menu as it really did look more interesting. Choices of two dishes per course saved having to think too deeply about what to have as it was quite late by now. Ham terrine with foie gras or salmon and leek tartare to start, rabbit sauté or beef casserole for the main course and creme caramel on a rose flavour sponge base served with banoffee ice cream rounded off our meal.
By 6pm tomorrow we should be back in Nailsea and fish-and-chips at The George in Backwell.