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Allô, allô, Bonjour!

For the latest adventures of my TV show Wine according to Gort (the show will get a new name, but more on that later), we were forced to travel to a far-flung and desolate corner of the French countryside. However, to our great surprise, the trip to this godforsaken land gave us some valuable insights. Mostly in regards to picking restaurants and avoiding certain hotels...

Allez, fasten your seatbelts and on y va.

In this Slurp!
Into mouldy territory
Party time!
Dinner in a tourist trap 1
Dinner in a tourist trap 2
Sleeping in a tourist trap


Into mouldy territory


The crew is in high spirits as they board. Belting out archaic French chansons, we set off for La Côte Normandie.


The ambiance is optimistic. Even camera-beast Joost, fresh off the boat from Hollywood where he was recording The Hobbit III, is trembling with filming-frenzy.


The soaring professional atmosphere is largely due to the fact the winegrower's lover has taken on the task of soigneur. She has transformed the winegrower-vehicle into a dining carriage, and even in the most barren locations, with only a couple of doe-eyed cows for witnesses, manages to delight the crew again and again with a steady supply of fried eggs, smoked salmon sandwiches and fresh cappuccinos.


These pit-stops are crucial for the crew to fortify the confidence of the fragile winegrower.
Over and over they reassure him: 'Really, you can do it'. Their soothing voices chime out from the undergrowth: 'We really don't mind that we have to retake every scene ten times because you can't remember your lines.'


But, to quote Brad Pitt: 'Shooting a film is waiting around'. While the crew is killing time, camera-jihadi Joost is concentrating on capturing the movements of a tiny beetle as it scurries across the pavement.


Tirelessly the ambitious cinematographer absorbs himself in obtaining a perfect focus. Unfortunately it consequently escapes him that the little creature has vacated the scene some time ago. There can be no confusion about the nationality of this French beetle as it has nestled itself on the winegrower's watch, keeping a close eye on the display to see if it's coming up to lunch time yet.


Sigh. Finally. Three pm and much too late we can finally get to our actual task: a torture test of the subject that has brought us here..

Party time!


The next day we make our way down to a hamlet where the cheeses are as white as the cows that produce them.


The epicentre of the village is made up of a slate grey church and a museum that houses a variety of cheese boxes.


Hordes of uproarious visitors jostle their way to the museum entrance.


Local business owners' contribution to the town is this alluring event centre, which seduces passers-by to engage in reckless behaviour.


All in all, a truly inspirational location!

Dinner in a tourist trap 1


When all the filming is done the equipe makes their way back to Les Pays Bas. But the winegrower and his lover decide to stay behind and treat themselves to a day of R&R in the picturesque Norman town of Honfleur.


To add to the quaint authenticity of the village the tourist board has inserted a real-life old fishing boat into the dreamy little harbour.


The charm of this simple fishing village has been amped up to near breaking point. As a result the town is mediated exclusively by telephone screens.


These antique abodes confirm the claim that painted wood lasts a century and that unpainted wood does too.


The harbour is upholstered on both sides with restaurants of assorted quality.


But before we abandon ourselves wholeheartedly to the gratification of carnal pleasures, we need to determine our consumption quota; can we afford to add a little?


'Weigh yourself!' command the scales, while our feet are told to remain 'Immobile'.
Orders. The French are great at giving them and fastidious about following them. Despite their bonhomie the French are the Germans of the Mediterranean.


1. Check whether you are male or female.
2. Remember to weigh yourself regularly.
3. Insert 50 cent into the slot.


After the weighing procedure is concluded the machine spits out a little card containing our kilo-total, accompanied by the stern warning to keep 'surveying' our weight.


Fortunately our weight is well within accepted French parameters. In fact it's on the low side. The police squad lying in ambush in a neighbouring shop widow, does not have to intervene. It can go back in its box.
Reassured in the knowledge of our feather-light anatomy we can safely embark on a walk on water.

Dinner in a tourist trap 2

You can trace good quality wine by smelling it, test the ripeness of a fruit by gently squeezing it and assess the calibre of a human being by looking it in the eye. But when you find yourself in an unfamiliar tourist town, surrounded by virtually identical eateries, how do you select the one where you won't be insulted, ripped off or poisoned?


Voilà, a true wine-tiger spots a quality restaurant by looking at its GLASSES. Here, in La Cabane du Pêcheur for example, you will never find us, in spite of its tantalizing name. A manager who is intent on having his customers drink from Woody Allen's glasses on legs, deserves to be put to bed with the fishes.


Don't fall for it! These are the same jam-jar glasses, just pimped-up by the addition of a FUD (female urination device). Get outta here!


WHAT on earth!? Is this some kind of sick joke!? Milk glasses?! That even in upside down position still contain milk? Call 911, would be my advice.


This glassware bears a remote resemblance to a wine glass. But naturally we are never going to be drinking any wine from this fishbowl with a spastic leg.


This is a little more like it. Although obviously we cannot take seriously a restaurant that adorns itself with the frightening label of 'Salon de The'. Away from here.


We won't even mention Brasserie Le Marin. Its entire dining-table body language expresses nothing but the deepest contempt for the guests. This inn-keeper is interested only in your wallet and couldn't care less about anything else. Indeed a perfect spot to recommend to someone whom you detest.



HERE is where we finally sit ourselves down. These wine glasses are OK. Not ideal, but passable. By having them chaperoned with these dapper water glasses the owner announces: 'I take wine seriously. I understand the fact that you need water too. And in order to accommodate that aspect of fluid management I have invested in some serious glassware.'

However: the selection procedure outlined above does not by any means offer a decent-dinner guarantee. One might still be treated to dishes solely suitable for the feeding trough of a free-range pig. No, even with proper wineglasses the food on offer could be far from palatable. And this place was a case in point.


Are you looking for good and honest food, leave Honfleur behind and head for Trouville.


Apart from a deserted harbour and a candidate for the "Britishest Brit of the year award", there is nothing to see. Wonderful.


But at the 'Marché aux Poissons' on the main street, you will be greeted by oysters, lobsters and crabs that have let themselves be scooped from the ocean that very morning.


The lobster is still recovering from his 200 mile crawl from Brittany and the mackerels are 'Pêche locale' and ready to leap onto your plate by themselves.


Simply point to whatever you're in the mood for, pick the wine to go with it et voila: a meal that you'll never forget.

Sleeping in a tourist trap


In search of shelter of reasonable comfort we returned to Honfleur. That was our first mistake. We took up residence in Les Maisons des Léa, a well-groomed hotel with a pleasant visage.


It's located on an idyllic little square where the locals occupy themselves with nothing much more than the drinking of pink cider and the eating of biscuits. So far so good. But just take note of that dreamy, ostensibly long since abandoned church on the left.


That turned out to be Église Sainte-Catherine. Built in the 15th century to call up the local troops when the British forces were on their way during the Hundred Year's War. The top bell-founders of the country were brought together to cast, from a special amplifying bronze, a church bell the size of a hay-cart, with a volume that leaves man and beast thrashing about in deafness.

  When the war was over, as a tribute to the clock's builders, the town council asked Galileo Galilei to refurbish the clock's mechanism so that it would sound out twelve strikes every five minutes.
Yet again a useful address to recommend to friends you hate. Ask for room number ten.


PS The following morning found the winegrower and his lover dematerialized by severe sleep deprivation. These textile casings were all that remained.


PPS The next few episodes of Wine according to Gort (new title on its way) we will be recording in a region that shall remain anonymous, at least a thousand miles to the south.

  Allez, Wholehearted Santé and Bonne Vacances!



You can find Château la Tulipe de la Garde Bordeaux Superieur exclusively at Sainsbury's supermarkets.
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