Location: Leipzig, Germany
Today we were viewing Leipzig. We looked up the things to see in Leipzig, but that seemed like a pretty dull list. The main thing we wanted to see was a museum that is closed on Mondays. But then we discovered there was a walking tour, so we decided to head for that.
It started at Augustusplatz, where we also found a Finnish Christmas market involving fur-lined teepees and smoking salmon.
The guide (Juan) walked us around the sights including Gewandhaus (the new and old concert halls), Opera Leipzig, University of Leipzig and the destroyed cathedral that used to be next to it (destroyed by the GDR, not by war), the old and new Rathaus, the Federal Administrative Court of Germany, Bach monument, St Thomas church, Goethe monument (his head faced the university, but his feet faced the beer kellar - he never did graduate from Leipzig University) and finally St Nicholas church and the peaceful revolution.
We stopped for lunch and a beer at Auerbachs Kellar before going for a quick look at the Stasi Museum. Then picked up our luggage and we're now on a train to Dresden.
Checked into the Hilton, couple of drinks in the Executive lounge (thanks to Jase staying in the Hilton a lot with work). unfortunately not at all a relaxing or executive experience given that there were two toddlers running around and a baby wimpering.
Visited a medieval style Christmas market, whereby Ali did an impressive piece of Barlowing (google Dave Gorman Barlow and watch the clip : 8.20 or so, here:
https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x5t4wnm ) to get a mug of hot mead. We also tried out some archery, had some crisped potato on a stick and am apple doughnut- like concoction, and and saw some impressive barbecued pork being made over a flaming rotisserie.
Back to the hotel to chill out. Tomorrow, Dresden tour and then off to Berlin.
Location: Frankfurt - Erfurt - Leipzig, Germany
After arriving last night in Frankfurt we had a lovely comfy night at the Scandic hotel.
We dropped off our luggage at the train station before heading off for a walk around Frankfurt. Sights included the Reine, the only medieval house to survive WW2 bombs, Old St Niklaus Church, the Christmas Market in the city centre square (we stopped for gluhwein), the holocaust memorial wall (so many names), the medieval Jewish cemetery, a 12th century guard tower from the original city walls, and the old opera house.
Then we headed to the railway station. We are now on a train to Leipzig, but have a planned stop off at Erfurt, which has a bridge like old London Bridge.
Stopped off at Erfurt. A bit of a walk to the Krämerbrücke, a medieval bridge with timber-framed shops and houses on it. Probably the closest to the old medieval London Bridge you will find anywhere in the world. It was charming.
Christmas market next, then up to the Erfurt Dom. A taste of the best bratwurst in Thuringer (allegedly) then a wander through the Christmas market, something I suspect will be a theme of this trip. Of note to you, dear reader, when ordering a bratwurst in Erfurt, it is considered polite, and mandatory to hold the sliced roll open so the server can deposit the Bratwurst in the roll. Dont let our mistake become yours.
Back to the station for the train to Leipzig. Booked into our hotel, about 15 minutes walk from the Hauptbahnhof, then a wander to the Leipzig wehnachtsmarkt (Christmas market). Like I said, a theme is developing.
Ali started to OD on Christmas, I proceeded to self medicate with Glühwein and Bratwürst. Its amazing to announce this, but after 4 Glühwein, Christmas markets are fun.
Back to the hotel for Glühwein, beer and a cup of tea before retiring for the night.
Location: Rennes to Dinard, France
I finished packing and unfortunately the gite owners weren't home so I couldn't say goodbye. I sent them an email instead.
Brian, who has been staying at the school itself, gave me a lift to Rennes. We parked under the Saturday market, and then wandered around the market together. Brian then headed off to his ferry at Caen, and I headed to the train station for my train (which turned out to be a bus) to Dinard.
I checked into my hotel, the Printania, which is rather run down but had some interesting antique Breton furniture. I changed then walked around the coastline around the headland, along the beautiful beach, and around the next headland, then back again. I stopped for a drink and ice-cream on the beachfront then walked back. Dinard has a wonderful tide-filled lido pool.
Then I had a light dinner and read in the hotel's lounge for a bit, before bed.
Friday 13th, and the last day of cookery at the cooking school.
We started the day by de-bearding mussels (rejecting any that wouldn't shut), then they went into the pot. After cooking we rejected any that wouldn't open.
We also put together a salad with the leftover chicken breast. We did a big salad with mushrooms, and (knowing I dislike mushrooms) another smaller version with asparagus.
In preparation for later we also prepared a ratatouille (lots of chopping for everyone), deboned a rack of lamb, and stuffed it then rolled it for roasting. Finally we prepared the layers for the almond, liquorice and white chocolate cake. We should have a nice simple evening.
Before eating, we trooped outside to the courtyard and practiced tossing like a chef, with salt in a frying pan.
Harder than it looks! Then we did some group photos.
- mussels soup with saffron
- chicken salad with mushrooms/asparagus and pancetta
Several people went for a walk to the nearest village after lunch, but I missed their departure because there is a competition to guess how much butter we have used during the week, so I was doing a calculation. I made it 2.3kg but I think I will round it up a bit because there had certainly been some extra used for frying and the sauces, beyond what is in the recipes.
I then went back to my gite and read until it was time for the evening meal class. Back to the school and everyone had dressed up a bit. Most preparation was already done, for our evening meal of:
- foie gras with a pear salad
- stuffed rack of lamb with ratatouille and tarragon sauce
- almond, liquorice and white chocolate cake
It was a jolly evening of preparation, with the aperitifs starting early. There was a quiz by Niall, one question each. Mine was 'what is the Breton way of saying "cheers"?' It's something like ya-mad.
At the evening meal we had our butter use competition. Everyone else was guessing far too high, 4.5kg upwards, so I felt safe in guessing 3kg. I was spot on, apparently, and was rewarded with a bottle of French mead. Then we did a graduation ceremony, with certificates, hand shaking, and trying on Paul's cuisine medals.
Lots of hugs goodbye, and I hung around for a drink outside with the die-hards, before heading home to bed.
Location: Kerrouet, France
Today we had a free day until 6pm. This was good because we were all in dairy food comas and desperately needed a lunchtime off. I caught a lift with two other singletons on the course to Dinan where we managed to find a parking space despite the market, and then walked into town. We first went to the market which was interesting although not huge. Then the two guys had not been to Dinan before so we walked around the town and I showed them the lovely little half-timbered cobbled street down to the port and back. We had lunch down at the port, and bumped into several other participants on the course throughout the day.
After arriving back at the school, we all went our separate ways for a couple of hours. I read my book in the sunshine. I then returned to the school for the evening lesson.
Today was a fish day. We started the lesson by deconstructing langoustines, which is quite easy when you know how. Then we created langoustine stock and langoustine mousse for starter, filleted the turbot for main, and made the orange cake for dessert. It was quite an easy day today. We also got the rest of the pasta out and made tagliatelle. While we were all busy Niall made us a drink containing grapefruit syrup and rosé wine. We christened it the Pink De-Niall (denial) which works on all sorts of levels (he is a gay Catholic Irishman for example) and he was absolutely delighted with that.
All the food today was pleasant but I do not think I will be in a huge rush to make any of those recipes again.
Location: Kerrouet, France
Another big day of cooking. For lunch we prepared:
- French onion soup
- vegetable and nut ravioli
We also deconstructed the rabbit, and prepared the chocolate cake in advance for tonight as well as the vanilla ice cream to go with it. The ravioli was a lot of fun. We had loads of stuffing, so we practically had a production line going in the end. We made about a hundred and ten ravioli. See the photo!
In between lunch and dinner I jumped into a car with one of the other singletons here. We went to a town called Moncontour.
It was an interesting town with a citadel which I believe from reading fantasy novels means a town whose fortifications are made up of the roads and houses and gardens and walls winding up the hill to the major fortification at the top of the hill. That certainly seemed to be the layout in this case. Another interesting aspect was that all the shops and businesses had a painted sign like a pub sign. It was very attractive. I took lots of photographs of them.
Then back to the cooking school to prepare and eat dinner. Dinner was:
- salmon with goats cheese and peppers
- rabbit with mustard sauce
- chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream
Top dishes of the day, the soup, ravioli, and rabbit.
Location: Kerrouet, France
Day 2 of the cooking school, and I am still full from yesterday. I just had a yoghurt and a mouthful of juice for breakfast before heading over to the cooking school to start on lunch prep. For lunch today we prepared:
Foie gras terrine (this is actually in advance preparation for later in the week)
- pan-fried halloumi with coriander and wholegrain mustard sauce
- charentelle risotto
We also prepared the salted caramel ice cream and chestnut cake for this evening's dessert.
After lunch about half of us went over to a local town called Josselyn. It had a large castle and a pleasant river. We walked along the river and stopped to hear a narrative about the legend of the Barking washerwomen. We had a quick drink then headed back to the Cookery School to start preparing the evening meal.
On tonight's menu was:
- pan-fried scallops with cider apple & curry sauce, with wilted spinach
- duck breast with grape and black pepper sauce, pomme de terre Anna and roasted pear
- chestnut cake and salted caramel ice cream
Top dishes today from my perspective were the charentelle risotto, the apple/curry scallops, and top of the pile the duck breast (yum!)
Location: Kerrouet, France
Day one of the cooking course and by the end of it we already felt like we had been here for a week. We started by completely deconstructing a chicken, taking off the wings and and back for stock whilst retaining the leg and breast for use during the rest of the week. We then used the bones from the 10 students (plus some vegetables) to make a giant vat of chicken stock which we will use today and for the rest of the week in various dishes.
We then learnt how to debone the chicken legs in a way that retained the general shape of the chicken but just removed the thigh bone, knee and shin bone from the leg. It left a hole through the middle of the leg that we would later use to stuff with a chicken mince and mushroom mixture for dinner.
We spent the rest of the morning preparing lunch which was:
- Butternut squash soup with home made croutons
- Provençal salmon fish cake with home made tartar sauce and celeriac remoulade
We then had a three hour gap in the afternoon. The weather was not very nice and I think all of us went home for a bit of a nap.
Back to the cooking school for 6pm, we immediately started in on the three courses we were making for dinner which were:
- artichoke in a citrus soup
- charentelle stuffed chicken leg with tarragon sauce and creme fraiche potatoes
- apple gratin with homemade buttermilk ice cream.
The Provençal salmon, stuffed chicken leg, and apple gratin were my favourites of the day.
Location: Dinan, UK
I had arranged a lift from Dinan to the cooking school at 1.45, so after breakfast at my B&B I went out exploring again. There was a nice little cobbled street that I had gone partway down yesterday but I carried on down it today. It went a lot further than I thought and it was absolutely full of half timbered houses. Really pretty. There were lots of art shops as well. It took me down to Dinan port and I then went for a nice walk along the river.
I made my way back up the hill to my hotel to await pick up by my lift. My lift was being offered by 3 American ladies who are also attending the cookery school. They seem very pleasant. We made our way to Kerrouet which took about one hour. They are in one gite and I am in a different gite. The owners of the cookery school showed me to where I was staying and I met the owners who are English. I then settled in before heading back to the cookery school for our evening meal. We are not cooking tonight.
Everybody met up at 18.00 and we all introduced ourselves and where we had come from. There are some other people attending on their own as well. Then we settled down at the table and were served four courses of evening meal. They were delicious and we did not have to do anything towards them. The hard work starts tomorrow.
Location: Dinan, France
Day 1 of Ali's trip to France without Jase.
Jason has managed to end up with 1 week's less leave than me, so I have come to France on a cooking holiday. Jase kindly dropped me off at Stansted airport this morning. Despite his complete hatred of budget airlines the flight was easy, half empty and I had a group of three seats all to myself.
I arrived at Dinard airport to find it is absolutely tiny and there is no real transport. My choice was to hire a car or or take a taxi to Dinan so I took a taxi. My first language challenge a little earlier than expected.
After checking in to my hotel I went for a walk around Dinan. It is a pretty fortified town with lots of half-timbered overhanging buildings. Tudor style, but French. I realised I was not doing things in an organised way, so I took a little train around the town for 8 euro and the commentary. It was great!
That gave me a few ideas for things I should go back and see in more detail, such as churches. So I did that, then sat in the English garden with a book and some greengages for a while, and then went and had crepes for dinner.
Location: Canterbury , UK
An early start for us today, on the road by 10, for the long drive to Canterbury. After taking an age to find a parking building, we headed off to see the large Cathedral there.
Grabbed a quick bite for lunch at a street food seller, then to the cathedral. Its really big.
Ali got a guided tour handset, and off we went for a wander. Found the spot where Thomas Beckett was slain on the alleged orders of his ex BFF, Henry II. Apparently the phrase Who will rid me of this turbulent priest can be misinterpreted to mean stab him multiple times, cut him to pieces and cut off the top of his head. Who would have thought it. There is a series of large medieval stained glass windows showing the miracles that Beckett's body performed in healing the sick (hence his sainthood). Notably during the dissolution of the monestries Henry VIII had Beckett's jewel-encrusted sarcophagus (in which "the cheapest thing was the gold") broken up and added to the royal treasury, whilst Thomas Beckett's body was supposedly burned and scattered to the winds.
This week we've gone from seeing Magna Carta at Lincoln (negotiation was assisted by Archbishop Stephen Langton), and seeing Shakespeare's Henry IV at the Globe, to seeing the tombs of both Stephen Langton and Henry IV at Canterbury Cathedral. There was also the tomb of the Black Prince (Edward Plantagenet) as well as his armour on display. His epitaph is as follows:
Such as thou art, sometime was I.
Such as I am, such shalt thou be.
I thought little on th'our of Death
So long as I enjoyed breath.
On earth I had great riches
Land, houses, great treasure, horses, money and gold.
But now a wretched captive am I,
Deep in the ground, lo here I lie.
My beauty great, is all quite gone,
My flesh is wasted to the bone.
The cathedral was very impressive and took us much longer than anticipated to go through, but as it was the main event, no real problem.
We then visited the Roman museum, an excavation under the streets of Canterbury. Interesting, but not worth the price, IMHO. It costed £3 in our 12 year old Lonely Planet, £9 today. Inflation hasnt been that bad. Could be why we were the only people visiting.
Then to see an old monastery that Henry VIII had dissolved following the split from the Catholic Church. The site was Benedictine and quite large. I imagine the Kings coffers would have been nicely replenished with the value of that estate.
Drive home ended up having an unscheduled stop off at Fay and Robins house due to two accidents on the M25 causing over 1.5 hours delay. Thanks to them for putting on a short notice dinner for two unexpected guests.
Home to an annoyed kitten who hadnt been outside all day.