I am back from my trip to france. 4 nights at sea or on the road, 6 nights in Paris with the children walking eating visiting (people and museums). Good to be back to do the maison djeribi job among other things, to bake, to eat my own bread and also to bottle feed our two orphaned kids (doing really well, thanks).
Good hot chocolate at La Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Le Marais. Two good shows, one Japanese one French, more on that later. Free entry from 5 pm on wednesdays (I love that). Lovely lunch at Tokyoeat at the Palais de Tokyo, poor show (ha ha a lot of money was actually thrown at it) in the gallery but who cares great space, perfect art space, rough and ready in a clever way, open until 12 midnight (I love that), €1 for artists (I love that), the book shop could be bigger and should have solid walls in order to turn it into a place, the friendly staff deserves no less.
Since deciding that plane trips are to be avoided where and when possible and since I live on an island (Ireland) I have been experimenting with ways to go home (france) once or twice a year. In the past I travelled via the UK from Dublin by bus-boat-bus-boat-bus (which took one night, one day—wrecked—in London and one night) and more recently from Leitrim by either train-boat-train-train and train-boat-bus-train. The train-boat-train-train overnight is not to be recommended, it involves waiting for train connections for over an hour twice during the night including around 5 am in Birmingham station sitting on a concrete floor because there are no seats, there are seats but that area is partitioned off during the night just in case some god forbid homeless person might want to spend the night there. A definite anti-poor policy being in place in most ‘rich’ countries. All those trips are relatively tiring, the bus less so, the bus is also the least stressful of all (highly recommended for traveling between Ireland and the UK) ; the eurostar is good and cheap when booked well in advance. When we go to Brittany we drive the car to Cork and sail to Roscoff with Brittany ferries and drive to south finistère. We try not to use Irish Ferries since they laid off all their staff and decided to hire a subcontractor ensuring minimal pay, even though they have been since been brought to boot a little, we do not approve. I long ago sailed p&o with a car from Cherbourg to Rosslare, a trucking ferry that was more like a boat than the usual floating supermarket/fastfood/arcade, one of their boats is now operated by Celtic Line, a one boat ferry company. This, like the Norfolk line to the UK do not take foot passengers so I decided to try driving there with my mother’s minuscule twingo car that is quite fuel efficient, it saved on packing as everything was thrown into the boot inelegantly. It turned the holiday into a funky road trip. The ferry is great, it is like a small boat as most space is given over to trucks and containers. The return crossing was just over €600 which is reasonable, although one’s judgment is skewed by the obscenely cheap cost of air travel. All meals are pretty decent and all included and there is hot water/tea/coffee/cold water on tap. The cabins and the beds are comfortable. There is a bar with a television and perhaps even some money machines but that is easily avoided. There is a large room/lounge at top level with a lovely deck, as there are few passengers and a small crew it all feels quite homely, it would have been almost cruise like if N had not been rather sea sick, both ways. Despite the red wrist bands, the ginger, the lemon, Tabacum (homoeopathy), and remaining horizontal for most of the trip. The crossing takes about 20 hours over to Cherbourg and 18,5 hours return, a good way to catch up on sleep and sitting around generally.
Two shops I will recommend : in Ireland, in Tullamore a charming little shop packed with organic goods including handsome-looking (did not taste) locally-made organic bread : Wild Harvest. Good place.
In France in Cagny (24, route de Paris) on the way back we bought three different types of bread in a small boulangerie patisserie: E. and F. Cornu, two different baguettes (out of 5 models available) and one round loaf of Pain bûcheron, all lovely. On their bag they claim to run a bread service 24h 7/7, so there. (no, I regret, maison djeribi does not plan to do that, ever)
eating lunch in Ireland (i)
On the way to rosslare we stopped in Portlaoise for lunch and ended up in a restaurant that tried hard to look sophisticated, dare I say, continental, serving (really) overpriced food that we strongly suspected had not been prepared in the kitchen. More and more this is the case : food is prepared in factories and delivered frozen to restaurants who then hire minimal staff, display a varied and thorough menu and are able to keep the Environmental Health Officer sweet—most enrironmental health directives are designed for factories : hence for instance the global takeover of the plastic-wrapped sandwich and muffin. We were served the pinkiest sausages ever—colouring suspected, the salad was fresh although since my spotting of a van outside Connolly station in Dublin claiming to deliver ready-cut ‘fresh’ salads to restaurants all the way from Cork on a daily basis, fresh has become a relative. The chips were, again, alas, undercooked from frozen.
eating lunch in Ireland (ii)
Is it still possible to get a simple cheese and onion toasted sandwich anywhere ?
In the midlands I would recommend lunch at The Aubergine in Longford town, and Gallery 29 in Mullingar, but in general, bring your own pic-nic.