Showing posts with label Brittany Ferries. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Brittany Ferries. Show all posts

Friday, January 2, 2015

Ten Top Dinners. And Lunches. 2014 Highlights

2014 Highlights

Excellent for Dinner
Oysters at Au Mille Saveurs

Le Flora (onboard Pont Aven)*
Ravioli. Le Flora
Zuni (Kilkenny)*
Sage. The 12 Mile Plate

An Canteen (Dingle)
Blair’s Inn
Brook Inn
Cafe Gusto
Cafe Serendipity
Church Lane (Macroom)
Club Brasserie
Electric F
ely Wine Bar (Dublin)
La Dolce Vita
Market Lane
Mitchell’s (Clifden) F
O’Connor’s (Bantry) F
Oysters F
Pier 26
Rising Tide F
Star Anise
The Square Table
Tuscany Bistro (Ballina, Tipperary)
West End (Killarney)

Excellent for Lunch

Bakestone Cafe
Ballymaloe Cafe
Bramley Lodge
Bula Bus U
Castle Cafe
Greenbarn (Killeagh)
Griffin’s Spinning Wheel
Pie Cafe (Dingle)
Sage (Youghal)
The Workshop
Toons Bridge Dairy

Excellent Hotel Dining Rooms
Cork International Hotel
River Lee Hotel

Newcomers to Watch
Heather (Gap of Dunloe)
Pho Bar
Square Table

* Exceptional meal on visit
F  Great for fish
U  Most unusual lunch venue (in a parked bus)

All above visited last 14 months. Lots of other good places out there. If I didn’t get to your place last year, maybe we’ll meet in 2015! Hard to keep track - might need a reminder!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Ferry Nice Magneau Double

Ferry Nice Magneau Double
Graves vineyards, near Podensac
Came home from the recent holiday in Bordeaux with a stash of wine. Nothing unusual about that! The advice that came it was to leave it rest for about three weeks after its travels. Could have done with three weeks rest myself!

Three weeks without touching the St Emilion and Sauternes could be fairly frustrating, I thought. On the day home though, I spotted (invented?) a solution in the wine shop on the Brittany Ferry Pont Aven. They had a well priced double, a 2011 red and white from Bordeaux’s Chateau Magneau. These are used to traveling, I thought, and so, with that flimsy excuse, the pair were the first to be opened.

I had made the acquaintance of the wines from this Graves chateau in the Maison des Vins de Graves on the outskirts of Podensac and had confidence in its quality. I drank an elder cousin of the rouge but hadn't tasted either of the 2011s. I wouldn't be disappointed! 

On board value, for wines in general, was pretty good too. Can’t find the receipt but the two bottles cost about £17.50 (about 25 euro). If you’re taking the ferry to France this year, keep an eye out for this and similar offers. Staying on dry land? Then, From Vineyards Direct have some interesting Graves here and so too have Curious Wines.

Chateau Magneau Graves rouge 2011
Grape variety here is 50% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc. It has spent 12 months in oak casks (1/3 new) for 12 months. It has rich aromas with hints of red fruits and it is full-bodied with an elegant mouthfeel. Tannins are well-blended and all in all it is a very pleasant wine indeed, a good complement for all red meats and cheese and likely to be even better in a year or two.

Chateau Magneau Graves blanc 2011
I do like a decent bit of Semillon in my Bordeaux whites and this, a local gold medal winner, has 40%. The other varieties, both traditional in the blend, are Sauvignon (45%) and Muscadelle (15). This, with complex aromas,  was probably the more satisfactory of the pair, well structured, elegant, fruity with a long lasting aftertaste, the perfect mix of full body and intensity.  A lovely aperitif and likely to be a good match with seafood and fish.
Mine is not the only stamp of approval! Magneau wines are produced under the method of cultivation known as Terra Vitis:  " the stamp of French vinegrower-winemakers who respect nature and Man and who craft wines to please the taste buds."

Saturday, June 21, 2014

End of the Holiday: Star Meal on Ferry - Drive Tips - Sunny Arrival

End of the Holiday: Drive Tips - Star Meal on Ferry - Arrival
Right: Scallops four ways and, bottom, crab

Our Arcachon adventure came to a very pleasant end this weekend. Left the town on Friday morning and it was sunshine all the way until we arrived in Cobh on Saturday morning.

Highlight was undoubtedly the meal in Le Flora on Brittany Ferries. We don't usually do it on the return but we were glad we did this time. Beside the great food we had a great view outside the window as the sun set to the west.

Filet (beef), Mixed Fruit, and Clafoutis!

The drive up went very well. The Rocade In Bordeaux was quite busy but there was no major build-up of traffic and it went well for us. Much the same in Nantes and Rennes. These are smaller ring roads but can be trickier, especially on the way home. For instance, there is a place a few kilometers from Rennes (towards Brest) where you exit right and stay left. Sounds contrary as the Sat-Nav shouts it but there is an immediate choice to be made once you do exit. On your guard, then!

Quite a few Irish people travel the stretch between Nantes and Bordeaux and vice versa. The toll is one payment of €28.50. It is a very well equipped road with some great stops. On the way north and just out of Bordeaux you’ll find all you want at Saugon and later at the revamped Aire Poitou Charente Sud.

Just into the harbour this morning, from the deck of Pont Aven
 If you’re on the way home and have forgotten to buy presents for your foodie friends, then don't worry. Aire de Vendee is the place to stop at. There is a separate area behind the front shop that includes an outlet selling really excellent local produce. Of course, you have all the usual food and drink facilities  

By the way, the petrol pumps here are credit card operated, like more and more in France. It is easy enough to operate as there is an English language option (though it doesn't always work). It is, in any case, easy enough to follow. You put in your card, validate it and have an euro amount (usually much more than you’ll need) approved. Then pick up the pump head and fill away.

Overall, this is one of best return trips we've ever had. The ferry even left Roscoff ahead of schedule! And wasn't it great to come back to the harbour and see all that sunshine. Happy traveling!

Cobh and its cathedral this morning.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Cork to Arcachon

Cork to Arcachon
Ravioli langoustine with Tomato Butter Sauce
Cork to Arcachon

Here we are in our townhouse in Arcachon, about 40 minutes from Bordeaux, after a long but very pleasant trip from Ringaskiddy, the highlight of which was perhaps another top class meal on board the Brittany Ferries ship, the Pont Aven.

We left Cork Harbour on Saturday. It was quite a lively stretch of water that afternoon. There were no liners at anchor but Cobh still looked resplendent in the sun. Tugboats, recently featured on the TV3 programme about the harbour, were busy berthing a tanker at Whitegate while the Pilot Launch moved right alongside to extract the local pilot from the Pont Aven after we had passed Roche’s Point.

We actually missed part of the journey down the harbour as we had to join the line to book our meal in Le Flora. Well worth it though, as you can see from the photos.

After a smooth crossing, including a drink with fellow blogger Karen Coakley (and her family), we arrived in Roscoff at 7.00am local time and got off about 40 minutes later. We had a meeting set with the keyholder in Arcachon for 5.30 and we arrived to meet Madame H. about seven minutes before that. Thank you Miss Sat-Nav, better known as Susie.

Harbour jinks
The house is quite large and very central, very close to the marina and the beaches. We took a walk that Sunday evening on the seafront and, while I have seen some huge marinas in France, I don't think I've ever seen so many pleasure craft in the one place.

On a very sunny Monday morning, we headed to the Centre Ville and wandered down to the pier from where the passengers boats depart for various trips on the Bassin, essentially a large inland sea that has a narrow “neck” to the Atlantic.

Fisherman's cottage in Andernos
I always advise people to do two things on arrival in a French town. Find the Tourist Office and find a good traiteur. We did both that first morning. Got lots of maps and brochures in the Tourist Office and bought lunch and dinner from the traiteur.

Arcachon marina
The traiteur is an institution in France. They have top quality ready made meals and snacks for sale. Sometimes you may eat straight away, sometimes you may have to reheat in the oven or microwave. For lunch we enjoyed a gorgeous Ham and Olive Cake and the main course at dinner was a beautiful Mousaka, that washed down with a bottle of red Graves.

On Brittany Ferries: Chicken w. aspargus,
Spicy Lamb and red wine.
Cheeseboard, Strawberry with pistachio cream, Grand Marnier Souffle

The dinner came at the end of a trip to the other side of the Bassin, to a town called Andernos Les Bains.  The Bassin is of course tidal and here at Andernos the effect is dramatic as some three quarters of the water flows away leaving many boats high and dry for hours. No wonder, it has a very long jetty - I read somewhere that it is the longest in France. Still, the resort is very very popular with families. And, as we left, there was a procession of fishing boats, coming up the channel as the tide started to return. There is a large fishing industry here, including all kinds of shellfish, so you can take it we’ll be eating some.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Ferry Good Wines

Ferry Good Wines
Century after century. The work goes on in Pouilly sur Loire. 

On the way back from a recent trip to the Loire, I continued to buy wine. No, not in those harbourside warehouses. But in La Boutique on board the Pont Aven, the Brittany Ferries ship that regularly sails between Cork and Roscoff. Quite a good list of wines on board, with all the major French areas covered.

And what did I buy? More wines from the Loire, of course. Didn't get over as far as Sancerre so had a shortfall there. By the way, got quite a share of wine maps and routes while in the Loire and Sancerre does not appear on them at all as they just don't go that far east.

Michel Redde La Moynerie, Pouilly-Fume 2010, 13%, €17.20
In 1630, a man called Francois Redde was a winemaker in Pouilly sur Loire. Three hundred years later, Michel Redde was born and went on to continue the tradition and now his three sons are at the helm. Their ongoing philosophy: bring out in the most natural way the best expression of of the grape variety and terroir.

They sure know what they are doing. Great fruit flavours here with a terrific acidity. Very impressive and Very Highly Recommended. Serve with fish and white meats.

Domaine Christian Salmon, Sancerre 2012, 13%, €12.66.
This Sauvignon Blanc from the home of the grape, is fruity and dry and a terrific example of the area’s expertise. From recent practice, I can say it is a wonderful companion for fish and seafood. They also recommend it with Chavignol, the goat cheese of the area, so presumably it will go well also with the likes of Ardsallagh or St Tola.

Domaine Dutertre, Clos du Pavillon, Touraine Amboise 2011, 13%, €7.73.

Made by an “independent winemaker”, this is a local award winner and is made from the Chenin Blanc grape. It is lovely and fruity, with sharpish acidity. Well balanced and with a long finish. A bit more info than usual on the back label, including the grape variety and also that it may age well (perhaps!).

* You may well find it difficult to track down these exact wines in Ireland. Still, quite a few wine shops stock Loire wines and you could well get lucky. If not, you can always treat yourself to a trip to Roscoff. Just make sure it is on Brittany Ferries!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Smooth Sailing All The Way Home

Day 21 & 22

Smooth Sailing All The Way Home
Our trusty steed takes a break as we "picnic" near Pouancé
The thunderstorms forecast for the Loire and for Brittany never materialised or at least not on our route from Chinon to Roscoff last Friday. True, there were a few showers in Brittany but nothing major and, indeed, the trip to the port was a very easy one.

The only bit of autoroute came early on and took us close to Angers. With time on our hands andthe sun shining most of the time, we made plenty of stops, one of them off piste and in the vicinity of Pouancé. Luckily, we stumbled on a nice picnic site (sign-posted) near the local football pitches and enjoyed a pleasant break before heading back to the main road.

The Sat-Nav, in conjunction with the map reader of course, took us safely through the Rennes Rocade and soon we were on the final leg, the N12 towards Morlaix and Roscoff. After another stop or two, arrived at the port just as the Pont Aven as coming in but it took another two hours, indeed it was just shortly before sailing time of 9.15pm (Friday), that we got on board.

Winding down: Closing time approaches in the Pont Aven Bar
Then it was time for some food. With the hour being rather late, we headed for the excellent self service and two excellent chicken dishes (mine a Poutlet Basque),  two desserts  and two bottles of water, and cost us less than thirty euro. Headed for the bar then only to bump into a bunch of former work colleagues returning from an annual golf trip.

This crossing was one of the very smoothest we’ve ever enjoyed on the Pont Aven and she docked in Ringaskiddy bang on the scheduled time of 10.00am (Saturday). After the inevitable delay in unloading, we eagerly hit the Cork roads and soon landed at home. Nice and uneventful trip and that’s the way we like them.

Roches Point, one of the arms of Cork Harbour, a welcome sight.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Dining in style on the high seas.

Loire Holiday 2013

Day 1 & 2
Fishermen in Cork Harbour
Quite a swell as we left the familiar arms of Cork Harbour on Saturday but nothing that the veteran Brittany Ferries ferry, Pont Aven, couldn't handle. So calm was the voyage to Roscoff that we enjoyed a great meal at le Flora, the ship’s main restaurant, as you can see from the pictures.

Duck ravioli with cream of lettuce sauce
The Pont Aven arrived on schedule, maybe even a little early in Roscoff, and, about 7.30 French time we hit the road. All familiar as far as Rennes and then some new roads as we headed for Chinon in the Loire Valley. Hadn’t been there before but the journey was easy, with the big cities, Rennes and Angers, easily by-passed.

Crab dressed in vegetable salad, diplomat sauce.
After lunch at a nearby village, arrived in Chinon as arranged and soon Sylvie showed us around our troglodyte gite. Well equipped, with a pool where the water temperature is in the high 20s. It is very close to the centre of the town and looks like a good base to explore the vineyards and chateaux of the famous river valley.

Chicken and asparagus with Albufera sauce

Cheese course

Kirsch and vanilla pear parfait

Lemon biscuit with tequila ice cream

Brocante market in Chinon this Sunday afternoon

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Tips for driving Bordeaux – Roscoff.

Raspberry tart on board Pont Aven

Seagulls follow Roscoff trawler out to sea

Pont Aven

Home, sweet home!
Tips for driving Bordeaux – Roscoff. On Coming Home

Friday/Saturday 22/23 June 2012

Drove close to 900 kilometres up through France on Friday without a bother. The initial road from Hendaye to Bordeaux is mainly motorway and not the best you’ll come across in France. It probably will be better soon as there are improvements underway, some over huge stretches.

The autoroute from Bordeaux to Nantes is different class. Just a brilliant 130 kph ride, with magnificent facilities over its 300 kilometres. Having negotiated the efficient Bordeaux Rocade (ring road), I felt I deserved a stop and made one a few miles up the road at the smashing Aire de Saugon. Very good facilities here, including hot food, but then that is true of most of the motorway stops in this section.

Foodies should make a special note of the Aire du Vendee, closer to Nantes, as they sell some delicious concoctions of the area. Well worth a stop.

You should be well stocked with petrol as you wind your way around Nantes, which is just as well, as the motorway (no longer an autoroute) between here and Rennes is poorly served with Aires, with just one petrol stop just outside of Nantes.

Mostly there are just places where you can pull in and stretch your legs. There is one to avoid very close to Rennes, with a “Hil” in the title, as it has one of those toilets with the hole in the ground and water on the floor, built especially for the ladies!

Back in early 80s, there was hardly a Cork driver on tour who didn’t get lost in Nantes. Roads have improved hugely since then but there is still at least one slightly dodgy spot on the return journey. That comes on the péripherique (ring road) after exit 38 and before exit 37 (which is the one you want for Rennes). After exit 38, keep to your left.

It is motorway all the way from Rennes to Roscoff. Again, the level of services alongside are not great, so you should make a note of the excellent Aire d’Armor et d’Argoat, a few miles out of Rennes, and top up your petrol if you are running low. Of course, you can always go off piste to one of the local villages or towns, but sometimes you may be up against the clock.

Brittany Ferries have introduced a new facility and I’m sure parents will be very happy with it. While the Pont Aven doesn’t sail until 9.15pm you can now board at 6.30 and get those hungry kids a feed and a deserved drink for yourself!

I did get myself a drink, a rather timid Beaujolais Villages in one of those small bottles. The food though, particularly the main course, slices of juicy bacon, was excellent and reasonably priced in the self service La Belle Angel.

Service is really excellent on board the Pont Aven, lots of friendly staff willing and able to help you find your cabin or your way around the big ship. Great to sail back into the familiar harbour even if it was cloaked in the familiar grey! Nice to be home.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Easy Trip to the Basque Country

Just started our Basque adventure last weekend with a lovely voyage with Brittany Ferries from Ringaskiddy to Roscoff. Enjoyed a terrific meal at the Le Flora onboard restaurant with my nephew and his wife who were returning to Paris with their gorgeous Golden Retriever Marley (he wasn't invited to the meal but got the best of care).
The journey to Hendaye on the French-Spanish border proved uneventful, aside from the fact that our Sat-Nav packed up. We made quite a few stops, including ones at the excellent Aire de Rennes and Aire de Vendee, and, having left the boat at about 8.00am, arrived here at 7.30pm.
The appartment is well located, within walking distance of a fantastic beach and a lovely busy port which has a cross river ferry to Spain.
More pics from this trip here

Crab dressed in vegetable salad, "sauce diplomate"

Creamy bouillon of sole with melted camembert