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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tour de France: Food and Drink stages 4-7

The road goes  ever on and on...terrible weather in the Tour so far

So, after it's English interlude (strangely, the sunniest bit of this year's race, so far), the Tour is back on French (and Belgian) soil for some Hell of the North conditions and a classic stage over the pavé which showed Vincenzo Nibali as a real contender this year.  Anyway, that's enough cycling nonsense! More importantly, what has Agent Triple P been eating and drinking to keep him going during his marathon TV sessions?  

Stage 4 saw us in French Flanders so a quick, cheap solution was a ten pack of Sainsbury's French Bière des Flandres, which wasn't offensive if rather lacking in character (like Chris Froome).  These cute little bottles did disappear very quickly, though.  It was rather like Pringles: once you pop you can't stop.  So, none left, unexpectedly.

Stage 5 saw us in Belgium and Ypres, a hundred years after the start of the Great War, as the Tour paid it's respects to the memory of the Western Front.

This Belgian Blonde had a lot more character than the Flanders beer but was still a bit thin on the finish. 6.3%, though.  It is made by Brasserie Du Bocq in Purnode, which is some sixty miles from the Belgian part of the route but we have to be flexible!

The name is quite evocative for Agent Triple P as it reminds us of a girl I met at a conference once.  It was held in a beach front hotel (very out of season) in one of those Dutch seaside towns which always seemed to be featured in sixties and seventies game show Jeux Sans Frontières.  The hallowed feet of the mellifluously named judges, Gennaro Olivieri and Guido Pancaldi, may have trod the very same corridors.

Noordwijk: very popular with nearly dead people

Anyway, after rather a lot of stodgy conference food, I felt I needed some exercise and so went out for a walk along the front, one afternoon.  This was a mistake, as the wind off the beach meant that all the skin on your face was instantly sandblasted off and you couldn't see anyway.  It was like a scene from Dune. After ten minutes of walking in a sandstorm (but at three degrees centigrade and minus five degrees windchill) I returned to the bar only to run into A, a Belgian girl and the very acceptable face of the European Union at the conference. She had been dogging my every step for three days.  She had just been appointed to a role in the EU covering a subject she knew absolutely nothing about (surely not?) but as I had been one of the speakers on it on the first morning she insisted on sitting next to me for the rest of the conference and bombarding me with inane questions.  Given she was a lovely blonde with the most piercing blue eyes I had ever seen I overcame my initial reluctance and rather unwillingly sat down with her (she was one of those women who just cannot stop talking).  Explaining my aborted attempt to get some exercise, she pointed out that the hotel had a very nice indoor pool and would I like to go for a swim with her?  When I pointed out that I hadn't brought my swimming things she pointed out that it was a clothing optional pool, so it didn't matter.

People in Britain tend to be rather rude about Belgium, saying it's boring and the people are dull.  Everyone laughs at the game "name ten Famous Belgians" because if you take out the fictional ones you can't get to ten.  Annoyed by this, Belgians have set up websites featuring famous Belgians, the irony being, of course, that no-one has heard of any of them. Anyway, A was a very fine Belgian blonde (although something of a screamer - not good when you are in a conference situation).  Our favourite Belgian Blonde is former Sports Illustrated model Ingrid Seynhaeve.  I like Belgium and it's also a very good place to fight your battles without wrecking your own country.

Anyway, what food to eat for Belgium?  Well not fancying moules-frites (I can't stand mussels unless they are buried in a paella) or even just patat met mayonaise (man cannot live by chips alone) wIcheated and had Ardennes Pâté even though the Ardennes is more World War 2 rather than World War 1.  Case solved.

Stage 6 was much easier on the drinks front as the stage finished in Reims (our English spelling of Rheims seems to have dropped out of favour of late).  Whatever, the French still pronounce it in such a way that it sounds like they are trying to clear their blocked sinuses.  Anyway, it gave us an excuse to drink something from the town that has been siting around our my collection for too long now: a bottle of Piper-Heidsick Rosé Sauvage.  This was very fruity but also slightly toasty.  Very small bubbles, which obviously is what caused it all to evaporate so quickly.

Our final stage, for this post, started in another of the three key Champagne towns: Épernay.   Agent Triple P has never been that fond of Moët which, due to clever marketing around sports events, the House has managed to make the world's default Champagne.   This really has been sitting in the wine cupboard for far too long but, again, disappeared quite rapidly.

Stage 7 travelled across Lorraine and into Nancy so the food choice was very easy: even though we wouldn't normally be seen dead eating quiche; it no longer still being the nineteen seventies.  Incidentally, decorating both our Quiche Lorraine and Ardennes Pâté plates are those delicious French gherkins: cornichons.  These taste completely different from English gherkins and we will look at them in more detail in our next post, as we pedal into the Alsace.


  1. For another very striking Belgian blonde try Ann Ceurvels.