Page 22 - Yachter Spring 2024
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                                DU VIN, DU PAIN, DES BASSINS
Great food and wine are synonymous with France, but never better than when a passage is paused to enjoy a well earned ‘bon repas’.
Whilst the culinary delights of Normandy and the seafood of Brittany are well known to British yachters, head inland and from Paris to Bordeaux, St Malo to Sète, cruising the inland waterways of France delights all the senses, not least taste, with gorgeous gastronomy, wonderful wines and beautiful scenery all accessible by boat.
For me it started with Moules Marinière from the coast near majestic Mont St Michel, served in a murky misty St Malo back in ‘80 when the crews of British forces’ Nic 55s, Lords Trenchard and Portal, took pity on a young solo sailor in his Trident 24 moored next door in the Bassin Vauban. Accompanied by frites, crusty baguette and chilled Muscadet sur Lie, this was the perfect welcome to France after a challenging passage from Jersey in
poor vis, although a passing Brittany Ferry and fortuitously finding the fairway buoy had made for a reassuring landfall. Their lordships had spent hours circling a mark waiting for the fog to lift! Onward passage to the Med continued south through the beautiful Canal Ille et Rance via Rennes and Redon to the Bay of Biscay near Arzal on the River Vilaine, a fascinating alternative to the Brittany coast and the Autumnal storms.
On the passage up the Gironde to Bordeaux, a four ship NATO task force
including HMS Antrim passed, so of course the ensign was dipped. Officers waved to the plucky little Brit sailing upstream as a rating hared aft to dip in return, sadly letting go of the halyard leaving Her Majesty’s white ensign trailing in the wake. That night the mooring was in a creek just north of Saint-Estèphe, host to five Grands Crus Classés such as Château Montrose and Château Cos d’Estournel. The irony, on a walk back to the boat past Château le Boscq, carrying a plastic capped litre of Vin de Pays de Communauté Européen costing mere centimes, was not lost on a just graduated boat bum!
Vin de Pays de Communauté Européen
was probably what the laden 100ft barge was carrying along the Canal Latéral de la Garonne from Toulouse to Bordeaux as it emerged from around a bend, throttle to the floor hoping to get through the next lock before it closed for the night. Not normally a problem, but the

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