Friday, 24 February 2012

Booze Cruise

Well here I am safely returned from across, or should I say, under "La Manche".

Luckily the old gits did not succeed in their plan!

Alex picked me up at 6am and we were set fair on the drive to Folkestone. Apart from the usual slowdown around the M25 we made it in good time, in fact we were able to get a train half an hour before the scheduled one.

This was my first time for me through the channel tunnel, and how easy was it? Amazingly so. When I think of the aggravation of the past, getting on and off ferries, not to mention the horror of the airport experience these days, this was a piece of the proverbial. If you haven't been, you literally drive your car straight into a train, park up, sit there and crack open the flask of coffee, sit back and relax, off goes the train and about 40 minutes later drive out the other end, hey presto! You're in France!

Inside the train

Now all had gone well up to this point. Unfortunately we now hit a small snag. Now Alex, has just bought an amazing new car, christened by Jo as "the gay car", but to me it was more like something out of Star Trek considering all the gadgets on board.

Now, without wanting to sound like Bryn from Gavin & Stacey, I found the Sat Nav fairly awesome. Having somehow avoided encountering them up until now, I was somewhat impressed to say the least, despite the slightly gargling and stuttering voice on occasions. At one point it even told us what car park space we were in, the mapping is that detailed. Now Alex had programmed in a number of the days planned locations in, unfortunately on arrival the Sat Nav became confused and couldn't work out we were not in England. Fortunately our first stop was very close to the chunnel exit, but Alex had a moment's panic when he thought that all our other planned destinations we may have to find our way to via traditional means, i.e. guess.

Eventually the Sat Nav did sort its act out, after our first stop which was the Cite Europe centre, and specifically the Carrefour hypermarket which is huge. Probably comparable to the Asda in Bletchley but as far as I could see more or less all food. And what an amazing selection of cheese and salamis to salivate over! But more of that later. This was first and foremost a "booze cruise" and this is what we had come for:

We had calculated we could fit in about 72 bottles (12 boxes) each. 

Now the tax on wine in Britain is primarily on the bottle as opposed to the cost, so you'll save roughly the same amount per bottle. Now as far as I can see this is around £2.50 a bottle, so the value is very much at the lower end of the market.

i.e. a bottle costing £5 in England you can probably get for £2.50 in France. Whereas a bottle costing £15 you could probably get for £12.50. Can you see where I am coming from here? You're saving £2.50 on both bottles, but it's half the price on the cheap ones, and only a sixth on the expensive ones. Like everything in life, it's all about the percentages!

So I focused on the low-medium end of the market, looking for the equivalent of the sort of bottles I buy in England which are in the £5 to £6 range. 72 bottles at £2.50 a bottle that's a cool £180 saving. And this is a "real" saving, not a false one. As I would have bought and drunk the same amount of wine regardless, I am not going to just drink more because I got them cheaper. Hic!, excuse me!

Now I didn't get down to the really low end of the market, the cheapest wine we found was 0.92c. The cheapest I got down to was 2.50 euros, and I have tried that and perfectly drinkable.

Now Alex paid for the fuel and travel through the tunnel which came to around £90 I believe, I paid for our lunch 70 euros and a few xtras along the way (coffee, soft drinks, snacks etc) so we were about square. The point is say our expenses for the day were 90 each and our savings 180. So we've made a profit for the day in theory and had a nice day out to boot.

Anyway, we had a number of wine stops, and a few others visits as well, including a visit to a French version of Homebase.

For lunch we went into Calais and ate in a set menu, 30 euros per head restaurant. Now I was struck by just how good this restaurant was. Gourmet dishes, the sort of thing you'd expect in an Egon Ronay outlet, but at high street prices. Really shows up the shoddy service we put up with elsewhere. The French really do attend to your every need, from taking our coats to the little chocolates and countless extras, I felt like I was dining in a £100 a head restaurant. To my eternal shame I showed myself up by asking if the steak came with pommes frites to some rather snooty disapproval from the waiter. That's what too many holidays in Spain does for you. Still it could have been worse I didn't ask for ketchup or vinegar.

Alex had an amazing mixed food seafood platter for his starter, oysters the lot and we went on with foie gras, steak, veal you name it. This was for 30 euros a head, remember! For dessert we opted for cheese. He offered us mild or strong - well obviously it had to be strong, We were then presented with 3 cheeses and instructions to eat them in a specific order! Well that was first for me. The 3rd of these cheeses was absolutely mouth watering and we made a note to look for it when we got back to Carrefour. And after much searching, I spotted it. And I even found some French Cheese Balls to go with it!

Just like the UK ones but with Unpasteurised Cheese!

They also stock a wide range of cured meats in France and various cured salami sausages. I sliced one up today in the Andrew James meat slicer and it was absolutely gorgeous!

Eventually time came to come home and we headed back to the train though we did get a bit of an interrogation at customs. It must be Alex looks a bit dodgy, as we all know I have an honest face, lol. Bit of a slow journey back on the M25 (how I've missed that since I left Nielsen - not!) Never mind, Alex and I never seem to tire of things to talk about so were able to put the world to rights. And back home in time to sample a bit of vino before bed.

Brilliant day out, can't understand why I have never thought of doing it before. But we will definitely be doing again!

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Jason x x

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