Tag Archives: Moules et Frites

National Potato Chips Day in the U.S.A.

March 14th is National Potato Chips Day in the U.S.A. and although mine is not a food blog I am happy to recycle my post about potato chips…

Read The Full Story Here…

Some of you will have read it before of course.

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

It’s Nice To Feel Useful – Top Picks

Before Google got nervous about web search findings and tightened up on sharing search results there was a lot of fun to be had looking at the questions that brought web-surfers to my blog.

Here are ten of my favourites…

The first one is “Why did Shakespeare bring starlings to Australia?

I think I am obliged to point out here straight away that William Shakespeare died in 1616 and Australia wasn’t settled by Europeans for another couple of hundred years or so after that and although there is much literary speculation concerning possible visits by the Bard to Italy I think it is probably safe to say that he never went as far as Australia!

I imagine that what the question referred to was really about starlings in the USA because here there is a connection.

The introduction of the starling to USA is said to be the responsibility of a man called Eugene Schiefflein who belonged to a group dedicated to introducing into America all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s works on the basis that they thought it would be rather nice to hear the sound of Shakespeare’s birds warbling their old world songs on the tree branches of new world America. Obviously they didn’t realise that this had the potential be an ecological disaster on the same scale as introducing the rabbit into Australia!

Next is another historical howler…

“Napoleon Monument in Moscow”

What? In his periods of sanity Napoleon did some rather good things but most of the time he was a tyrant and a dictator and a warmonger and in 1812 he invaded Russia and did unspeakable things to the Russian people who were unfortunate enough to be in his way as he marched his army to Moscow. When he got there the Russian people burnt the city down and so with nowhere to stay for the winter he was obliged to march all the way back again during which his army did more unpleasant things to the Russian people.

I imagine that the chances of there being a memorial to Napoleon Bonaparte in Moscow are about just as likely as there will be a statue of Adolf Hitler.

There is however a monument to the French Emperor in France at Boulogne-Sur-Mer so perhaps that is where the search engine went looking?

Next, I like this one – “Lawrence and Gerald Durrell – how tall were they?

Honestly, what sort of question is that and unless you were their tailor or their undertaker why would you want to know. I did write a post about the Durrells when I visited Corfu where they both lived so perhaps this is where the enquirer ended up – “Corfu, In the Footsteps of Lawrence and Gerald Durrell” and as it is one of my favourite Greek Islands I will be surely returning so hopefully I can provide more missing detail!

“Did Vikings have large penises?”

Well, I am not an archaeologist or an anthropologist but what sort of odd question is that to put into a web search engine?

I find myself being completely unable to help with this subject, it is outside the limits of my expertise but on a visit to Iceland I did get to visit the rather odd Penis Museum but I don’t think that will have the answer to that one either.

One of my most successful posts is about the day I attended a Buckingham Palace Garden Party and I get lots of odd Google referrals about this one. My favourite just has to be – “Do I get expenses to attend royal garden party?”

Let me take a moment here to explain.

Just to be invited to a Buckingham Palace Garden party is a bit special in itself and believe me there is going to be a lot of expense involved – new suit, new outfit, overnight stay in London, taxi fares etc. and most people would gladly deal with this just to be part of the occasion so I have to say that expecting the Queen to pick up the bill sounds rather republican to me and whoever asked this should quite clearly not have had an invite in the first place.

Next up, I really like this one – “What did the captain wear on the Titanic?”

I visited Belfast in 2015 and went to see the Titanic Exhibition and Museum. It was a super place and I recommend anyone to go there and I think what I learned on that visit may just well help here.

Around the exhibition there are lots of pictures of Captain Smith in his White Star Line uniform so I am forced to conclude that except when he went to bed and most likely put on a pair of pyjamas that this was his favourite form of dress. Another thing that I can be certain of is that Captain Smith didn’t wear a lifebelt because after the Titanic struck the iceberg he went down with his ship and drowned!

Mine is not a food blog but I am always happy to help out with culinary questions whenever I can and I like this one… Should I put vinegar on the chips or not?”

I include this one even though I do not find this to be not such a stupid question. What you should put on your chips is a matter of personal choice and a subject that I debated when I considered the origin of frites.

Staying with the food theme…

“What was General Franco’s favourite food?”

I am reasonably certain that this is a question that only his personal chef could realistically be expected to answer with any authority but my suggestions are…

• Roasted Republicans
• Skewered Socialists
• Char-grilled Communists

Some time ago I tried to visit General Franco’s tomb but the Spanish don’t like Franco anymore and it was closed at the time on account of the fact that it was being demolished.

When General Franco met Führer Adolf Hitler in possibly the most awkward ever meeting in history I can only assume that either they couldn’t agree on the menu or they were both on a diet…

“What does a postcard of the Grand Canyon look like?”

I am certain that I have put some dumb questions into Google myself but surely none as daft as this. I am tempted simply to say that a postcard of the Grand Canyon will look very much like a postcard and will most likely have a picture of the Canyon on it.

Anyway, I visited the Grand Canyon in 1995 and as always I am keen to help so here we go, it looks like a postcard and has a picture of the canyon on it…

For this selection of search terms I have saved my favourite until last and this is it – “Things to do in Tossa de Marr Spain for clairvoyants”.

Now, call me a sceptic if you like but if you can see into the future what on earth does a clairvoyant need with a website of advertised events – why don’t they just look in their crystal ball?

… Have you spotted any bizarre search questions bringing unexpected visitors to your blog posts? – Do Tell!

National Potato Chips Day (USA)

Boulogne-Sur Mer Moules et Frites

“Everything (in the UK) comes with chips, which are French fries. You put vinegar on them.  Cookies are biscuits and potato chips are crisps” – Scott Walters

March 14th in the USA is Potato Chips Day which I confess makes me smirk because in the USA they don’t even know what a potato chip is so I am going to take a look at how people prefer to eat their chips and watch out because I although I don’t want to offend anyone I am going to be awarding points.

I posted previously on eating fried potatoes in a Friterie in Northern France so it is only really polite to start with our nearest continental neighbours.

Friteries are a feature of this part of northern Europe and are a simple place, usually outside on wooden benches, to buy and eat French fries accompanied by a selection of traditional sauces and accompaniments.  The thin strips of potato are fried twice, first to drive out the moisture and second to achieve the essential golden crispness of the French Fry.

The French and the Belgians eat more chips per head than any other nation, USA third, UK fourth, Eygpt is fifth (they grow a lot of potatoes in Eygpt) so you might expect the French, along with close neighbours the Belgians and the Dutch to know a thing or two about chips and they do make a good job of cooking them it has to be grudgingly said but as soon as they are served up they demonstrate a dreadful lack of culinary style and taste.

French Fries with Mayonnaise

They immediately apply a dollop of horribly sloppy mayonnaise!

Now mayonnaise is fine on lettuce leaves or as an ingredient in a McDonalds burger, it gives them a bit of taste after all, but it really shouldn’t be smeared all over a helping of lovingly prepared  potato chips and I am reminded here about a scene from the film Pulp Fiction and a conversation between Jules and Vincent…

… “Do you know what they put on their French Fries in Holland instead of Ketchup?”  – “What? “ – “Mayonnaise” – “No Way.” – “Yes, I’ve seen them do it man they f*****g drown them in that s**t.”

Marks out of 10 for the French and the Belgians and the Dutch – 6 and that includes a bonus point because (as you can see in the first picture) at least they call them chips!

However, if you think that is bad then let’s cross the River Rhine into Germany where they serve up a variation called pommes rot-weis (potatoes red and white) named rather unimaginatively it is said after the colour scheme on level-crossing barriers and this toxic combination is achieved by smothering the poor chips in not just the evil mayonnaise but a good slug of tomato ketchup for good measure which has the effect of turning the classic dish into a sort of Salvador Dali gastro-interpretation.

I don’t know about the colour of level crossing barriers more like the rags and blood of a barbers pole if you ask me.

Marks out of 10 for the Germans – 4.

pommesrotweissgal

As I mentioned in my previous post Spain makes a creditable claim to be origin of chips so let’s head south now across the Pyrenees into Iberia.

Spain has patatas aioli which is a mayonnaise with garlic and having already dismissed mayonnaise as inappropriate then the addition of the foul tasting noxious onion bulb is not going to improve it one taste bud notch in my opinion; and then there is patatas bravas with a spicy sauce whose ingredients vary from region to region.

Generally I am a big fan of Spanish Tapas but my recommendation would have to be to avoid the patatas bravas at all costs.

patatas-bravas

I have two issues with them. First of all they don’t even look like chips and instead of being long and slender they are served in solid lumps of fried potato and secondly the bravas sauce is often so fierce that it completely spoils the dish all together and you can add to that the fact that it frequently (depending on region) includes a whole host of odd ingredients such as chorizo, baked chicken or fried fish, none of which in my opinion should be anywhere near a sauce for simple chips –  if you want to muck about with vegetables then stick to pumpkins.

The Spanish like these things so much that they are even served in McDonalds…

Marks out of 10 for the Spanish – 3.

Nearby Italy shouldn’t really be featuring because they don’t really do chips or fries. There is an awful lot of street food in Italy but this is mostly pizza and deep fried rice balls. I did come across this food stall in Naples which sold all sorts of fried food served in a brown paper cone and one of the options was fried potatoes which looked more like English chips than French Fries.

I am not going to score the Italians because that wouldn’t really be very fair

Hastily retreating to the United Kingdom I am first going to head north to Scotland despite the fact that Scots deep fry chocolate so cannot really be taken seriously in a culinary sense.  In Glasgow and Edinburgh they have a fondness for gravy with chips and I find that odd because in my copinion gravy should only really be served up with the weekly Sunday roast.

smiffy-s

Having said that it is really rather tasty so marks out of 10 for the Scots – 7.

In The UK we have a liking for Chinese food, I like Chinese food but I cannot understand why anyone orders chips with a Chinese. To begin with chips don’t really go with Chinese food, rice is a much better option and secondly they almost always taste dreadful. Chips from Chinese restaurants  I have generally  found to be too greasy and cooked in oil that is just not hot enough, hence they just soak up oil and are under cooked, limp and soggy.

This is so wrong at every level – chips with rice and gravy!

So, marks out of ten for Chinese chips – 0

Which brings me back rather neatly to England and especially my home town, the fishing port of Grimsby.  They know a thing or two about chips in Grimsby let me tell you and there is a chip shop in every street – sometimes two and people here know best how to cook them and to eat them.

grimsby-fish-and-chips

Never mind the fancy restaurant trend for twice or even thrice fried potatoes they just cut them up and sling them in a vat of boiling fat or preferably beef dripping and then serve them piping hot and crispy on the outside with delicate fluffy middles with the only two accompaniments that chips really need – a generous sprinkle of salt and lashings of good vinegar.  No mayonnaise, no gravy, no tomato sauce and definitely no curry!

chips

Marks out of 10 for the English – 10 – of course.

So what about the USA you might ask.  Well to be honest I have dismissed the New World completely.  Is that fair?  Well, yes I think it is and I will explain exactly why.

Whilst I am prepared to concede that they know how to prepare French Fries in McDonalds and other similar places the bottom line is simply this – they don’t even know what chips are, they think they come in a foil packet.   Please take note – these are not potato chips they are potato crisps!

To be fair to the U.S.A. I should point out that they do have a National French Fry Day every 13th July.

Potato Chips (Crisps)

My research informs me that in Australia they cannot make their minds up whether they are potato crisps or potato chips.  Let me help my antipodean pals on this point – these are potato crisps!

Anyway marks out of 10 for the USA – 0.  This might seem a little harsh but the rules are that you have got to compare apples with apples!

So let’s finally go north to Canada

“in Eastern Canada there is poutine with curds of cheese and gravy. None for me thanks but there people are gaga for the stuff”.  My blogging pal Sue from “Travel Tales of Life”

Graphic content warning – do not proceed beyond this point if you have a weak stomach or are of a nervous disposition…

…because this is Poutine from Canada…

Poutine

When I first heard of this I was convinced that it was some sort of wind-up, but apparently not, you can even get it in McDonalds, but thankfully only in Canada…

McDonalds Poutine

Try eating that in your car without making a mess of your shirt and trousers while you are driving down the motorway.

Marks out of 10 for Canada – minus 10

Anyway, enough of all this, let me tell you my favourite.  In this picture taken in France my mum has gone for the tomato ketchup option and is wagging her fry around to prove it.  Alan has kept things simple and luckily is not wagging his fry at anyone, my brother Richard has gone for the classic salt and vinegar combo and although I am not in the picture (obviously I was taking it) you can clearly see my preferred accompaniment is a bottle of cold beer – just don’t mistake it for the vinegar and pour it over the chips!

Wissant Friterie France

Festival Days – National Potato Chip Day (USA)

Potato Chips (Crisps)

My thanks to Beth from ‘I didn’t have my glasses on’ to alerting me to the fact that in the USA 14th March is National Potato Chip Day.

Are they kidding!

Whilst I am prepared to concede that they know how to prepare French Fries in McDonalds and other similar places the bottom line is simply this – in North America they don’t even know what chips are, they think they come in a foil packet.   Americans and Canadians please take note – these are not potato chips they are potato crisps!

Walkers Potato Crisps

These are chips…

chips

I did some research on this recently…

Read the Full Story…

Chips, Crisps or Fries – How Do You Eat Yours?

Boulogne-Sur Mer Moules et Frites

“Everything comes with chips, which are French fries. You put vinegar on them.  Cookies are biscuits and potato chips are crisps” – Scott Walters

Just a short time ago I wrote a post where I speculated on the origin of the humble dish of potato chips or, depending upon dining or geographical preference, French fries.  There were an unusually high number of comments  and responses (more than two) so blatantly exploiting unexpected success I thought I would follow it up and carry out some more research and punctuate the results with some personal reflections.

This time I am going to take a look at how people prefer to eat their chips and watch out because I am going to award points for style.

The post was my report on eating fried potatoes in a Friterie in Northern France so it is only really polite to start with our nearest continental neighbours.

Friteries are a feature of this part of northern Europe and are a simple place, usually outside on wooden benches, to buy and eat French fries accompanied by a selection of traditional sauces and accompaniments.  The thin strips of potato are fried twice, first to drive out the moisture and second to achieve the essential golden crispness of the French Fry.

You might expect the French, along with close neighbours the Belgians and the Dutch to know a thing or two about chips and they do make a good job of cooking them it has to be grudgingly said but as soon as they are served up they demonstrate a total lack of culinary style and taste.

French Fries with Mayonnaise

They immediately apply a dollop of horribly sloppy mayonnaise!

Now mayonnaise is fine on lettuce leaves or as an ingredient in a McDonalds burger, it gives them a bit of taste after all, but it really shouldn’t be smeared all over a helping of lovingly prepared  potato chips and I am reminded here about a scene from the film Pulp Fiction and a conversation between Jules and Vincent…

… “Do you know what they put on their French Fries in Holland instead of Ketchup?”  – “What? “ – “Mayonnaise” – “No Way.” – “Yes, I’ve seen them do it man they f*****g drown them in that s**t.”

In Holland they do unspeakable things to the chip – They serve patatje oorlog which translates as “war chips” and is a toxic combination of French fries, mayo, raw onions and Indonesian satay sauce! What?

Marks out of 10 for the French and the Belgians  – 6 and for the Dutch only 4.

However, if you think that is bad then let’s cross the River Rhine into Germany where they serve up a variation called pommes rot-weis (potatoes red and white) named rather unimaginatively it is said after the colour scheme on level-crossing barriers and this toxic combination is achieved by smothering the poor chips in not just the evil mayonnaise but a good slug of tomato ketchup for good measure which has the effect of turning the classic dish into a sort of Salvador Dali gastro-interpretation.  I don’t know about the colour of level crossing barriers more like the rags and blood of a barbers pole if you ask me.

Marks out of 10 for the Germans – 4.

pommesrotweissgal

As I mentioned in my previous post Spain makes a creditable claim to be origin of chips so let’s head south now across the Pyrenees into Iberia.

Spain has patatas aioli which is a mayonnaise with garlic and having already dismissed mayonnaise as inappropriate then the addition of the foul tasting noxious onion bulb is not going to improve it one taste bud notch in my opinion; and then there is patatas bravas with a spicy sauce whose ingredients vary from region to region. Generally I am a big fan of Spanish Tapas but my recommendation would have to be to avoid the patatas bravas at all costs.

patatas-bravas

I have two issues with them. First of all they don’t even look like chips and instead of being long and slender they are served in solid lumps of fried potato and secondly the bravas sauce is often so fierce that it completely spoils the dish all together and you can add to that the fact that it frequently (depending on region) includes a whole host of odd ingredients such as chorizo, baked chicken or fried fish, none of which in my opinion should be anywhere near a sauce for simple chips –  if you want to muck about with vegetables then stick to pumpkins at Halloween.

The Spanish like these things so much that they are even served in McDonalds…

Patatas Bravas McDonalds

And in other weird combinations in street food shops…

Marks out of 10 for the Spanish – 3.

Nearby Italy shouldn’t really be featuring because they don’t really do chips or fries.  There is an awful lot of street food in Italy but this is mostly pizza and deep fried rice balls.  I did come across this food stall in Naples which sold all sorts of fried food served in a brown paper cone and one of the options was fried potatoes which looked more like English chips than French Fries.

Italy Chip Shop

I am not going to score the Italians because that wouldn’t really be very fair.

Hastily retreating to the United Kingdom I am first going to head north to Scotland despite the fact that Scots deep fry chocolate so cannot really be taken seriously in matters culinary.  In Glasgow and Edinburgh they have a fondness for gravy with chips and I find that odd because in my culinary opinion gravy should only really be served up with the weekly Sunday roast.

smiffy-s

Having said that it is really rather tasty and my grandchildren like it served that way so marks out of 10 for the Scots – 7.

Which brings me back rather neatly to England and especially my home town, the fishing port of Grimsby.  They know a thing or two about chips in Grimsby let me tell you and there is a chip shop in every street – sometimes two and people there know best how to cook them and to eat them.

Grimsby Fish & Chips

Never mind the fancy restaurant trend for twice or even thrice fried potatoes they just cut them up and sling them in a vat of boiling fat or preferably beef dripping and then serve them piping hot and crispy on the outside with delicate fluffy middles with the only two accompaniments that chips really need – a generous sprinkle of salt and lashings of good vinegar.  No mayonnaise, no gravy, no tomato sauce and definitely no curry!

chips

Marks out of 10 for the English – 10 – of course.

So what about the USA and Canada you might ask.  Well to be honest I have dismissed the New World completely.  Is that fair?  I think so.

Whilst I am prepared to concede that they know how to prepare French Fries in McDonalds and other similar places the bottom line is simply this – they don’t even know what chips are, they think they come in a foil packet.   Americans and Canadians please take note – these are not potato chips they are potato crisps!

My research informs me that in Australia they cannot make their minds up whether they are potato crisps or potato chips.  Let me help my antipodean pals on this point – they are potato crisps!

Potato Chips (Crisps)

Anyway marks out of 10 for the North Americans – 0.

This might seem a little harsh but the rules are that you have got to compare chips with chips.

Anyway, enough of all this, let me tell you my favourite.  In this picture taken in France my mum has gone for the tomato ketchup option and is wagging her fry around to prove it.  Alan has kept things simple and luckily is not wagging his fry at anyone, my brother Richard, who has a bit of a reputation for wagging his fry, has gone for the classic salt and vinegar combo and although I am not in the picture (obviously I was taking it) you can clearly see my preferred accompaniment is a bottle of cold beer – just don’t mistake it for the vinegar and pour it over the chips!

So, over to you, How Do You Eat Yours, what is your favourite accompaniment?

Wissant Friterie France

Brittany, Beach Sports and Moules et Frites

Dinard Beach Olympics

Whilst I sat in the sun with a second beer the girls went to find a restaurant for evening meal and after a while came back and declared that they had found the perfect place so we agreed meal plans and walked back to the hotel as the sky blackened and rain clouds raced in.

It rained for an hour or so but had cleared by the time we had agreed to walk out so we sauntered along the sea front to the Le Citrus only to be turned away because it was fully booked all evening.  We returned to the restaurant that we had enjoyed the previous evening but the result was the same so worrying that we might have to share the last bag of crisps in our room we went directly back to the hotel where the staff helpfully found us a table regardless of the fact that we hadn’t reserved.  Saturday nights in Dinard are busy it seems.

The rain cleared overnight and in the morning there was a clear sky and a dazzling sun rise which shimmered off the surface of the sea and reflected off the chrome decorations on the boats as they swayed lazily on placid water so we planned a day of seaside and promenade walks and shortly after breakfast set off on the first of these.

Strolling along the promenade we came across a lifeguard tournament rather like musical chairs as a series of sand races resulted in an elimination after each round.  We got rather excited about the whole thing especially when our favourite competitor from Biarritz, wearing Basque colours of green and red, fought off all challengers to claim first prize

Racing over we continued our walk under a rock promenade with the sea to our right with views across to St Malo and under the shadow of granite cliffs to our left topped by a succession of magnificent houses and villas.

Northern France Wimereaux

In the late nineteenth century during the show off period of the French  Belle Époque, Dinard was discovered and developed by Saint-Malo’s wealthy shipping merchants who built some of the town’s magnificent houses and after them American and British aristocrats made Dinard popular as a fashionable summer resort and they too built stunning villas on the cliff tops and exclusive hotels such as the ‘Le Grand Hotel’ on the seafront.

The walk took us some way west as we walked away from the town and then when the footpath ran out we climbed a set of steep steps to the road above and made our way back to the beach promenade and our thoughts turned to lunch.

After two days I was ready for moules et frites.  Looking around I could see that almost every table in every restaurant was host to an empty pot of black shells and I wondered if there might be enough to go around.  After Belgium and the Netherlands the French eat more mussels than anyone else and this adds up to a staggering three hundred and fifty tonnes a day which is roughly 25% of all mussels produced in Europe .  This is so much that France itself cannot produce enough to satisfy demand and has to import them from nearby Spain who happen to be the biggest producers in Europe*.

Dinard Moules et Frites

Moules however are nothing without frites and I was interested to discover that there is controversy about the humble French fry, frite or chip, or whatever you may want to call it and there are conflicting claims to how it came to enter the culinary traditions of so many countries.

It is served everywhere in northern France but it is the Belgians who claim that they invented it.  There is a rather unlikely story that in the late seventeenth century the people of the region had the custom of fishing for small fish for deep frying but when the rivers were frozen and fishing became hazardous they cut potatoes in the form of small fish and put them in a fryer instead.

In Spain they say that this is nonsense and the potato wasn’t even grown in Belgium at that time  and claim that dish was invented there, which might make sense because this was the first European country in which the potato appeared via the New World colonies.  It goes on to back up this claim with the assertion that ‘patatas fritas’ were an original accompaniment to fish dishes in Galicia from which it spread to the rest of the country and further to the Spanish Netherlands, which didn’t become in fact become Belgium for more than a century later.

France actually took some time to accept the potato and it wasn’t until a famine of 1795 that they beagn to eat them.  They proved so popular that by 1795, potatoes were being grown on a very large scale in France, including at the royal gardens at Tuileries and within that short time, the French either invented or learned to make fries.  Once discovered they became extremely popular in revolutionary France, particularly in Paris, where they were sold by push-cart vendors on the streets and called ‘frites’.

heap of French fries

Belgium however still stubbornly hangs on to its story and dismiss the claim of the French themselves by arguing that the description ‘French Fries’ originated due to a linguistic misunderstanding.  In old English ‘to French’ meant ‘cut into sticks’ and apparantly US soldiers in the Second-World-War called them French Fries on account of the fact that the official language of Belgium at the time was French.  As though to back this up the Belgians consume the most French fries per capita of any country in Europe.

Of course we don’t care what the Belgians, the French or the Spanish think because we are convinced that they are an English invention and that we make a far better job of cooking them anyway. Traditionally, chips in the United Kingdom are cut much thicker and since the surface-to-volume ratio is lower, they have a lower fat content. According to legend, the first chips fried in the UK were on the site of Oldham’s Tommyfield Market in 1860.

Anyway, we didn’t concern ourselves with the history of the frite today but we all cleared our bowls and plates and declared the simple meal a resounding success.

In the afternoon we did some more coastal walking and by the time we had finished we were satisfied that we had covered every single kilometre of beach and marina side walks in Dinard.  During the day I took the precaution of booking a table at Le Citrus for this evening and after we had spent a late afternoon in the sun we made our way to the restaurant.

We had a very splendid meal, I forget what we ate but I know that Kim had steak with chips and she declared them to be the finest that she had ever eaten.  I cannot confirm this judgement because she didn’t offer any of us a single one but based on that I have to say that she may well have been right.  They did look good I have to say.

Dinard Brittany Boat Detail

*Three countries are responsible for two thirds of all European mussel production. Spain is very clearly the largest producer with over 200 000 tonnes per year, followed by France with a stable production of around 80 000 tonnes. Italy is the third main producing country with 65 000 tonnes. Most of the supplies from all three countries come from aquaculture.

Northern France, Boulogne-Sur-Mer

Boulogne-Sur-Mer France

After we left the British Military Cemetery at Terlincthun we drove directly to the old town of Boulogne and were fortunate to find the last remaining vacant parking space inside the old stone walls.  I have been to Boulogne several times before and I am happy to declare it one of my favourite cities in all of France.

The old town is built within the original Roman walls and has recently been well restored and it was in complete contrast to the concrete and glass of the sea front and the shopping streets.  Here is the beating heart of a medieval city with history oozing from every corner with a castle, a cathedral and narrow streets lined with charming properties, little shops, cafés and bars.

From the car park we walked along the main street full of interesting shops and busy restaurants and under the walls of the huge cathedral which was rebuilt in the nineteenth century as a symbol of the revival of the French Catholic Church after the 1789 Revolution in which the old cathedral was closed and worship forbidden before it was declared the property of the State and then dismantled and sold, stone by stone.

The medieval cathedral was the site of a shrine to ‘Our Lady of Boulogne’ a representation of a vision that appeared in Boulogne in or around the year 646 and which arrived in a boat without sails, oars, or sailors, on which stood a wooden statue of the Virgin holding the Child Jesus in her arms.  The French Revolutionaries didn’t have a lot of regard for this sort thing and so at the same time as they destroyed the cathedral they burned the priceless wooden statue as well.

Anyway, the church was rebuilt in the nineteenth century complete with a massive dome, one of the largest in Europe, and inside there is a modern replica of ‘Our Lady of Boulogne’ which is one of four that were sculptured in 1943 and toured France until 1948 when it was known as ‘The Lady of the Great Return’ and is today symbolic of the reconciliation between nations.

From the cathedral we walked along the Rue de Lille and negotiated the pavement table barricades scattered almost randomly across the pedestrianised street and then to the Hotel de Ville with its immaculate gardens like an oasis in the centre of the cramped city where we stopped for a while and enjoyed the hot sunshine and the contrast of a cool beer under the shadow of the city’s twelfth century UNESCO World Heritage Site medieval Belfry.

For the record France has thirty-eight sites, the same as Germany, but is six behind Spain (44) and eleven behind Italy (49) which incidentally tops the World table for the number of sites.

Inside the town hall there was free entry to the Belfry Tower that included a guided tour and history of the building which was helpfully given in English as well as French.  There was a long climb with a couple of stops for informative narrative and there were good views from the top of the tower and we were lucky to be part of quite a small group of visitors because we had time and space to enjoy the rooftop vista.

After the break we walked half of the walls and then returned to the car to go to the fishing port to find some lunch and after we had some difficulty finding a parking spot we strolled casually down the hill into the town past the Nausicaa Aquarium, one of the largest aquarium museums in France.  We walked along the busy docks that smelled of fish and this was a surprise because Boulogne, it turns out, is the biggest fishing port in France and there is a large fishing fleet including deep-sea trawlers and factory ships, as well as smaller sea-going and inshore fishing boats.  A third of France’s fresh fish catch is landed here, and a huge quay-side fish processing factory makes 20% of the nation’s tinned fish, and half of the frozen fish, fish fingers and other fish based ready meals.

We found a seafront restaurant and asked for menus but things went spectacularly wrong when an unexpected strong gust of wind blew my glass of beer over straight into my mum’s lap which put her off her lunch.  It was getting quite windy now so we tried two or three different tables and then abandoned the seafront lunch idea and returned instead to the shelter of the old town where perhaps we should have stayed in the first place.

Here we selected a restaurant on Rue de Lille and ordered what we thought was going to be a snack but turned out to be quite enormous meals which, although we didn’t know it at the time was going to spoil our evening meal.  Mum didn’t enjoy her Welsh Rarebit, Alan had an oversize omelette, Richard had a pizza that would have been sufficient for all four of us but I did get the pot of moules marinière that I had been promising myself.

Lunch over we tried to walk some of it off by visiting the other half the old town walls and alongside the Castle Museum and the gardens on the other side and then we called it a day and returned to the hotel where we made matters worse by opening the bar and drinking more beer in the couple of hours before our evening meal.

Boulogne-Sur Mer Moules et Frites