Breton Cidre, canalside, Avricourt, France

I’m on a 22m long sea barge, cruisin’ eastwards on the canal towards Strasbourg, wit my crew.

After last night’s cidre, and some strange dreams, we’ve traversed another 10 locks, and several joggers have passed us by, on the canalside. As darkness looms, we’re obliged to moor somewhere and find a spot near the final canal lock of the day. A friendly Swiss couple refuse our request to moor alongside them as we’ll spoil their view. Cheeky bastards.

So we set up a barbecue on the canalside, upwind from the Swiss, and I find many damp twigs to burn and La Fauconnerie Bretoncreate as much smoke as possible. The fire is getting going. Good fire. Burn stuff. Men drink beer, poke fire with stick. Fun. Woman bring plate and condiment. Also good. Well, we not fucking caveman.

Out in the warm evening, we share the last bottle of cidre. After this 30km trip, my sailing days are over. Tomorrow I return to my landlubber ways, so to celebrate, we have a bottle of Breton Cidre. My beer and gin-loving hosts enjoyed the previous nght’s cidre, so this one has a lot to live up to. This 5.5% cidre by La Fauconnerie is an dark orange colour, lightly sparkling.

Rather than the brut is suggests on the bottle, this is rather a sweet cider. (I will later learn that French ciders are made by keeving, which retains the sweetness) The taste, like the colour, is rich and golden. A honey, nutty, dessert apple taste, my ciderkicks like this one the most, and agree with my honey-nut description, so I know I haven’t been eating too many Crunchy Nut cornflakes®. Very easy drinking. This is still a distinctly French cider, but if this is the dry, the medium must be like drinking a tin of syrup.

How very civilised it seems to sit with our folding boat furniture, discussing the subtleties of cidre tastes, as we soak up the smell of smoke. Tomorrow, smelling like a teenager at a festival,  I face a trip back home on a bicycle with little braking power, two miles across the French countryside, to a derelict train station to hope a train arrives to take me back to Nancy. I weigh up my chances of making it back at all, while we finish off the cider and chew on grilled halloumi. How very civillised. Those Swiss have missed out, here!

Verdict: 5/5


Cave Saint Michel, canalside, Crévic, France

I got picked up in Nancy Ville by a couple of sailors.

De Volendammer

No, it’s not the start of a George Formby song, I’ve a couple of friends living on an old sea barge, who collected me from the train station in Nancy, France. I’m looking forward to see what the French countryside has to offer. Nancy is very fancy, lots of white stone and gilded things, it’s like a big cake! We’re moored on the canal, and spend a night out on the cobbles of Nancy, drinking dark beers, the next day we sail eastwards along the canal at 6mph. I even got to steer the boat, although they call it sailing.

My job, this weekend, is ‘lock elf’, fending off the advances of the slippery lock walls and boatfulls of drunken German teens in sailor caps, with my big rubber fender. Although it sounds like the plot of a top-shelf title, it’s nice to be part of the crew After at least ten locks, very few scratches and no man overboards, we reach a convenient mooring next to the town of Crevîc, or Crevice, as we decide to call it, which sounds much more entertaining.

However, anyone who lives in this town must be hiding in a crevice, as there’s no one around, only one shop open, selling newspapers and a few bits and pieces. Not a pop-up cider bar in sight! Fortunately, my resourceful sea dog friends have stocked up on plonk, including a French cider, from Cave St Michel.Cave St Michel

After robbing some blackberries from some French dude’s back garden, we settle in for the night, on the boat, and crack open le cidre. I can’t find out much about this one, but I’m told Cave St Michel is an island off the north of France. I’m not sure that’s true, or maybe I imagined it.

This cider was recommended to my friends, by a beer buff who runs the Sashuis Astene in Belgium. It’s a 5%, golden orange filtered cider, lightly sparkling. The smell is syrupy-smoky with sweet apples. The taste is strong with a smoky aftertaste, No so much the brut it suggested on the label, but it rather sweet. My seafaring ciderkicks also like it.

A good start to the holiday. I wonder if all the folks of the ghost town of Crevîc are all staying at home with a cidre on this Friday night. Or out wondering where their blackberries are.

Verdict: 4/5

Breton Cidre at The French House

Or should I say ‘Cidre Breton au Maison Francais’?

Ok, let’s stick to English.

Cider doesn’t sound like the usual French drink, not being wine and all, but along with the Brits, and the Norse, the French do make a lovely cider, the clever chaps. Well, the gallic peoples of Brittany, Wales and Cornwall share common roots, and apparently, a  liking of cider-making. In true French style it usually comes in classy green bottles, (like Merrydown, but posh).

Being treated to a free binge (courtesy of Ruark Audio, Cheers!), the hardcore drinkers stumble into The French House. A nice little pub on Soho, which prides itself on its bohemian culture and having numerous artistic patrons over the years, like Dylan Thomas and Francis Bacon.Cidre

I wondered why it’s called the French House, so looking this up on the old Wikipedia, turns out it was opened by a German in 1910, but he was kicked out when the Great War began, and it was then run by Belgians until 1989 and was named the French House in 1984 from the nickname it had received. Considering this, it’s possibly ton a par with Americans calling a pub run by some Scots, ‘The English House’. Thankfully those jolly Belgians didn’t glass the customers for their faux pas.

Doubting the presence of a cider in this continentally influenced bar, I’m very happy to see a Breton Cider bottles in the fridge, they even have litre bottles! I stick to the small one. Several of them.

This Breton cider by Ets Guillet Frères, from Guenrouet, France, has a bit of a cloudy look to it, 5%, and with a merry peasant sitting on a barrel, getting lashed, printed on the front, this is warming up to be a good one

It has a dry, warm, woody taste. Just a little bubbly and lots of tannin, like the trees of the sun-drenched French apple orchards, it came from. In fact, there’s so much wood, I think there’s bits of the barrel, still in it. Now, I’m cycling through the fields of Brittany with my string of onions and a basket full of cidre (1 litre bottles) on my way to meet my inebriated peasant friend before he falls off the barrel.

However, as there’s a no technology rule in this pub, I do feel a bit rude typing in notes on my phone, beneath the ‘No Mobiles’ sign behind the bar (it’s detrimental to conversation), we’ll, I’ll shut up now.