A ladder to heaven

If you drive to southern France from Brussels the most common and shortest route leads you through Luxembourg. If you have the time and want to explore northern France or the Champagne region there are many more options.

Which places spring to mind if you think of Champagne? Reims, Épernay, perhaps Aÿ, maybe if you are a keen champagne drinker some smaller villages such as Verzenay. But how many of you would immediately think of Rouvres-les-Vignes? Or Colombey-les-Deux-Églises? Wait a minute, didn’t I get that wrong? Isn’t that village known just because Charles de Gaulle was born there (and is buried there)? No, I can assure you that you can find interesting champagne indeed in both these villages, and others, in the area, the Côte des Bar, to the east of Troyes in the south-east corner of the Champagne region.

Take small roads to get there and you may find a ladder to heaven your way.

This particular one is to be found in Châtillon-sur-Broué, in the Église Notre-Dame, built in the early 1500s.

There are more quaint villages to visit, more picturesque wooden churches to admire, but maybe you would like to move on, now that you have less than an hour to drive to Rouvres-les-Vignes or Colombey-les-Deux-Églises. If you choose to go to Rouvres, I recommend a stop at Champagne Claude Perrard to discover their produce. Jean-Pierre Perrard explains the philosophy of the small family business with enthusiasm and conviction. And a glass of champagne after a long drive on a warm day tastes just soooo good.

The man with the basil

It was hot and sunny when I arrived in Antibes (typical summer weather in fact, nothing to be surprised about or even mention really), so I thought that an insalata caprese would be the ideal dinner. This is the well-known salad you have all had with tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella and basil.

I got good mozzarella from a supermarket but wanted to go to the local fruit & veggies lady, who is Italian by the way, for the tomatoes and the basil. Usually one can find excellent basil plants in her shop.

Not so this time. While the tomatoes were stunningly red, smelt lovely and felt just right to the touch, the two or three basil plants that were left looked more than sad. They wouldn’t make any insalata caprese.

I tried another fruit & veggies nearby, but the basil there was even worse, just some dried stems that were offered to me for free. I politely declined though. I wasn’t that desperate. Those few dry leaves definitely wouldn’t make any insalata caprese.

Should I have to change dinner plans? No!! I decided to try a third fruit & veggies, a very small shop. “Can you come back tomorrow?”, the man asked. He hadn’t brought the plants in from his garden yet, but tomorrow they would be ready for sale. I explained my dinner problem. “I will help you out”, he said and left the shop. He returned with a huge bunch of the most beautiful fragrant basil which he had just cut in his garden. He asked 90 cents for it.

The little shop now has a new faithful customer.