Cognac and arrival in La Rochefoucauld

Thursday, June 24 – La Rochefoucauld: We set off especially early this morning, in part because our breakfast included no fresh bread. (We learned later that we set off a little too quickly, forgetting to put the cooler in the car because it had not been in our room but in the breakfast area to take advantage of the available electrical outlet.)

We headed straight for Cognac to be the first in line to tour the Remy Martin production facility just outside of town. We were too early, so we went into town to the tourist office where we made the necessary reservation. Our English tour consisted of three people, guided by a young Belgian woman with a strong accent. We got the full program of PR hype but the explanations about how cognac is made were particularly well-done and we learned a lot. At the end of the tour, of course we sat down to the “tasting” which included RM’s XO product at the high end. I had not expected to be impressed with any perceptible difference in taste but, sure enough, it was there and it was in fact impressive. Too bad the really good stuff is so expensive! (RM doesn’t permit any photos on their property, so you’ll have to use your imagination!)

We had one of those “stupidity” crises after returning to the parking lot to change into nicer clothes for our lunch. I put the keys to the car down on a nice flat place in the trunk and then closed the trunk, locking us out! Luckily we had left the front windows a bit ajar and, with the help of the RM staff and an umbrella they provided, I was able to pry the inner door handle out to open the doors! Disaster averted, but just barely: a great lesson — the keys are either in the ignition or in my pocket but nowhere else!

We had made a reservation at a wonderful country restaurant in Bourg Charente east of Cognac where we had had a stupendous meal eight years ago. When we arrived, wondering whether the place had gone up or down in the interim, we discovered that it had gone waaaay up. It was completely remodeled in a very unattractive modern style and was clearly the destination restaurant for a very large area. Nonetheless we had a nice table on the terrace overlooking the quiet Charente river.

It was a lovely menu:

The amuse bouche was a wonderful melon gazpacho:

followed by the coquillage in a cold sauce:

and the smoked merlan:

The plats principals were a pink trout:

and the most marvelous pork chop I’d tasted in decades:

When it came time for the cheese, the trolley was over-the-top:

I merely asked for “une belle selection de chevres” and got this:

Eight years ago when we were in Charente, we wanted to stay at the Chateau de La Rochefoucauld:

but when we called, madame (the Duchess) was not in and we couldn’t make the connection. So we were particularly thrilled when we reached her this time and were able to stay. (“Do you know my home?” she asked when we inquired about staying.) It’s a fairly impressive place:

And our room was very much what you’d expect:

Immediately on arriving, we joined a French group which had arranged for a tour of the chateau given by the Duchess. She pointed out all the remarkable aspects of the chateau including four libraries with 20,000 volumes. Of the 84 family portraits she merely said, “They were born, they died, and that covers the portraits.” We were invited to have an aperitif (pineau, of course) and got a quick introduction to the Duchess’s forceful and lively personality. She explained some of the efforts she’s been making to promote the chateau, including having persuaded I.M. Pei to design a new donjon tower to replace the one which collapsed in 1960. This latest addition to the chateau awaits the patronage which will provide the funds to build it.

It occurred to me that we might be able to help by improving the website of the chateau which was done some five years ago by a Parisian web shop in a style very common and, to my mind, very mistaken. (http://www.chateau-la-rochefoucauld.com/). I decided not to say anything until I’d had a chance to review the site in detail and talk to Deb about her enthusiasm for the project.

After dinner in town (at the foot of the chateau), we returned to “our chateau” in the fading light:

Wait until you hear about tomorrow!

3 Responses to Cognac and arrival in La Rochefoucauld

  1. George T. says:

    I do remember most of the chateaux both from the names as well as the pictures. It is fascinating that many of them were not habitable (had no rooms to let). However, they were actively looking for funds to remodel them.
    Most of the ones we stayed in at that time were “Relais and Chateaux”.
    So, they find the money and remodeled them!
    Was also looking at the prices of the diners; mixed feelings! Certainly high prices, but then, one can have terrible food here for at least as much.
    George T.

  2. Wheeler Ruml says:

    OMG – the cheese!!!

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