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Some hotel and restaurant feedback from recent France trip

Some hotel and restaurant feedback from recent France trip

Jul 7th, 2003, 04:20 AM
  #1  
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Some hotel and restaurant feedback from recent France trip


21 June 03
Accommodation:
Château de Bois-Renault,
Ballan-Miré, near Tours.
http://boisrenault.free.fr/home.html

Selected from Bienvenue au chateau book.

Booked by phone the previous night. 95 € per night including breakfast.

A beautiful chateau and very well sign-posted and quick to reach from A10 (motorway) exit 24.

?Marie? room well proportioned, attractive and comfortable with wonderfully spacious and well designed bathroom ? separate tub and shower stalls.

Gracious and friendly hosts, interested in their guests, helpful with advice and very pleasant.

Breakfast is good, breads, croissants, cereals, yoghurt etc and juice/ hot drinks.

In confirmation email sent on their request after reservation phone call, I mentioned a desire for their recommendation on a restaurant for the evening meal, which they could perhaps give make on our arrival. Instead they kindly went ahead and made a booking for us at a wonderful local restaurant, see below. Just as well as 21 June is ?Fete de la musique? in France and restaurants were all packed out even more than they are on a regular Saturday evening. Their recommendation was excellent and very reasonably priced.


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Jul 7th, 2003, 04:21 AM
  #2  
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21 June 03
Restaurant:
L?Etape Gourmande
Domaine de la Giraudière
Villandry
http://www.letapegourmande.com/

Also a working chevre (goat?s cheese) farm (with goat?s bleating just nearby) so chevre features often in the menu.

We sat outside and were surprised by the unusual menu. We both opted for the 3 course set menu at 20.26 € each.

I started with Crème brulée de legumes au foie gras which was an unusual dish ? a savoury and gelatinous crème with a few small lumps of foie gras but also with foie gras pulverised into the crème mix and a few bits of veg, I think leek.

Pete started with Notre fameux oeuf cocotte au fromage de chevre, à la crème parfumée au safran. This was a poached egg in a hot yellow liquid with wonderful flavours.

We both went on to have the Mignon de veau à la moutarde violette, purée aux deux pommes. The veal fillets were good, the mustard mild and pleasant, the puree was incorrectly translated to be both apple and potatoe, but was infact just two different types of potatoe, and was not too finely mashed, which was good.

For dessert we both had the Bonbon croustillant chocolat, pommes normandes et sauce cacao, glace pommes. This doesn?t begin to describe this wonderful dish, one of the best desserts I?ve ever had. The bonbon was a cigar of chocolate praline filling inside a sweet crunchy chocolate filo pastry shell. This was on a bed of hot cubed and cooked apples ? not cooked to a stew as in UK but still with some firmness. The apple ice-cream obviously contained more than a dash of calvados. The hot dark chocolate sauce was just right. There was also a home made brandy snap type biscuit studded with pistachios which was stuck in the ice-cream. Mmm!

We also had tap water, 1 fresh apple juice and 1 fresh pear juice (from an orchard/ press down the road) and 1 coffee and our bill came to 47.10 € plus tip.

When we eat here a second time on the 26 June we have the same menu. For my starter I have the hot goats cheese salad, the 3 little cheeses are on toasts with bacon on top. Pete has same starter as before.

For my main I have the roast suckling pig with new potatoes and black pudding ? absolutely wonderful: succulent, tender and well flavoured. Pete has the medallion of kid with a cassis sauce and polenta. I have the same dessert as above (how could I not?) and Pete has the excellent chevre parfait with a raspberry coulis ? it also has frozen raspberry coulis inside and a white chocolate base, plus one of those pistachio brandy snaps too. This time we have more of the wonderful juice plus a small pichet of red wine for Pete.
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Jul 7th, 2003, 04:21 AM
  #3  
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23 June
Accommodation:
Logis de Boussac
Cherves-Richemont, just North of Cognac (5 mins drive max to centre)
http://www.bienvenue-au-chateau.com/...d_propriete=95

Selected from Bienvenue au chateau book.

Booked at around 4 pm for a 4.45 pm arrival that day!

62 € per night for 2 nights plus 8 € each for breakfast (which we took on first morning only)

On arrival, the propriétaire offered us the opportunity to see all the rooms and select the one we wanted, it was an easy choice.

The family suite which we chose was the only one with both bath and separate shower, it was immense, attractive and peaceful and it was offered at the same price as the regular doubles.

The other 2 rooms had slightly more traditional/ grande décor though small bathrooms, the one with shower only being particularly tiny.

Our room was decorated in a fresher white and blue gingham colour scheme with a natural sisal/ coir matting floor. The room was an L-shape with the bathroom in the remaining quadrant. It had 1 double bed, 2 singles, 2 sofas and various tables and still plenty of space between everything. We also enjoyed the 4 large windows along the longest wall, with another in the bathroom (on the opposite side) and another in the bedroom on that short side. Because the room was in a separate barn building wing of the chateau (was actually the only thing in that barn building) we left all our curtains open at night and it was lovely.

The proprietaire was a little lost without his wife on hand, she usually looks after guests and rooms but was away on a brief family visit, but was helpful with sightseeing and restaurant suggestions, and very friendly.
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Jul 7th, 2003, 04:22 AM
  #4  
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23 June
Restaurant:
Le Cellier
Cognac

Particularly good value for good food, positioned right in the heart of Cognac near both the difficult to find free parking and also more straightforward paid parking (free after 7pm). Not a posh restaurant, more of a casual local eatery.

We had the 13.90 € set menus.

As we hadn?t had lunch and were starving we both went for the help-yourself buffet starter, so we could get something to eat immediately. The buffet was superb. It included (amongst many other items) salads, beetroot, coleslaw, pasta and vegetable salads, cold meats, pates, salamis and (exceptional) rillettes, sweetcorn, potatoes, cous-cous etc. With the superb fresh bread it was an excellent and very very generous starter. In UK starter buffets tend not to have so much expensive meaty items and bulk out on cheap vegetables.

For our main we both had the faux filet steaks and added supplementary sauces ? I went for a wonderful roquefort sauce and Pete for the green pepper. The chips were really great home made ones, particularly nice.

We both opted to skip the included cheese course and went on to desserts of mousse au chocolat ? again very good.

We just had water to drink as it had been so hot all day and we were just so thirsty.

Total bill only 27.80 €. We didn?t realise till a couple of days later that they didn?t bother to charge us for the sauces on our steaks. I don?t think it was accidental but more likely a sign of a restaurant which doesn?t penny pinch.

This seems to work well for them since, even on this Monday night, they were very busy.

We ate here again a second night, as it just seemed to outclass all the other options, went for same menu and also for buffet starter. For mains I had the Escalope de dinde à la Normande (turkey escalope in the traditional Normandy crème and mushroom sauce) which was excellent and Pete had the meat plat du jour (they had a fish one too) of roti de boeuf which was very thick slices of what I think Americans call rib eye, rather than UK style thin slices of roast beef dinner. We missed cheese out again and had crème caramel and mousse au chocolat desserts.
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Jul 7th, 2003, 04:23 AM
  #5  
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25 June
Accommodation:
Hotel de la Monnaie
At edge of the Vieux Port area of La Rochelle
http://www.chateauxhotels.com/public..._hotel_chf=201

Selected from chateaux et hotels guide.

2 nights here (our choice) were booked for us by a lady at Saintes tourist office a couple of days in advance at a rate of105 € a night plus 10 € per person for breakfast (which we declined at time of booking). We also phoned before arrival to book into their secure underground parking for an additional 10 € a night.

The hotel itself is extremely well situated and the building itself is very attractive ? it was once the city/ regional Mint. Rooms are well proportioned, though not as large as out-of-town chateau rooms and bathrooms are a little tight, though not tiny. A/C is excellent, especially if you override the automatic settings and put the unit into continuous mode. Main disappointment is in décor ? the carpet, bedspreads, curtains and furniture are of the anonymous international hotel style ? they?d be at home in any Holiday Inn, Ramada, Travelodge, Comfort Inn in the world. Simply by changing fabrics and carpets chosen one could play more effectively to the historical nature of the building and traditional furniture surely couldn?t cost so much more than the semi-modern look chosen.

Manageress was rather abrupt verging on rude, though other staff were better. The hotel was incredibly busy ? we heard several calls come in whilst we sat waiting to be shown to our room (she wouldn?t just give us the key and let us go). To every call she had to explain that they were full at the moment.

Because we both felt exactly the same about La Rochelle ? we didn?t feel we wanted to stay for 2 nights ? we cancelled the second night before we?d slept there the first night ? they were fine about the cancellation (no charge) as they were getting people looking for rooms all through the day.
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Jul 7th, 2003, 04:23 AM
  #6  
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25 June
Dinner:
Le Corail
Place de la Chaîne, Vieux Port, La Rochelle

Pete opts for 9.50 € menu and chooses the salade lardons, the poulet basquaise (without knowing what to expect, so he?s very happy with the tender piece of chicken covered in sweet roasted peppers and a tomato based sauce). We swap desserts so I have his tarte au chocolat.

I opt for the 5 course 14.50 € menu, starting with same salade lardons, then a feuilletine de poisson (fish pastry) with a fish/ mushroom sauce. Then fried whitebait served with a small dish of rice and ratatouille. Next is a small cold chevre salade, the lovely waiter gives Pete one too, and it?s a wonderful mild and unctuous chevre. Pete has the mousse au chocolat from my dessert choices ? it comes with dried coconut sprinkled on top, which Pete hates, waiter changes it immediately. He?s also really responsive when we want ice for the tap water and extra drinks etc.

Given how busy they are the service is unusually good, they also have an English waitress there, she?s actually half Indian and half English she tells me, and has been there 12 years, she translates the seafood words I don?t know.

The English couple sitting next to us have another of the many set menus which includes a vast and wonderful looking seafood paella which they say is very good.

With a couple of apricot juices and a half bottle of Bordeaux red wine the bill is about 45 € plus tip.
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Jul 7th, 2003, 04:23 AM
  #7  
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26-29 June
Accommodation:
Château du Vau
Ballan-Miré, near Tours.
http://www.chez.com/chateauduvau/
http://www.bienvenue-au-chateau.com/..._propriete=119

Selected from Bienvenue au chateau book.

Booked by phone the previous night. 96 € per night including breakfast.

A beautiful chateau, well sign-posted and quick to reach from A10 (motorway) exit 24. This chateau is very close to the Bois-Renault that we stayed at on the 21st, and almost returned to, but with the decision to book for 3 nights, we opted for the choice with a pool.

The proprietaire, Bruno, is very friendly and eager to chat with guests, in my case this is mostly in French, unless he?s switching to English to include Pete or other English-speaking guests.

Our room is up on the 2nd floor (American 3rd) and is very lovely. It?s large and beautifully decorated with two large windows out over the back of the chateau. The bathroom is huge with a bath which has a hand held shower attachment. Only disappointment is how soft the bed is and the way it sags slightly at one side.

The pool is lovely in the current weather and the gravelled terrace area with a little shade from the chateau itself or from a large tree during other times in the day is also very pleasant.

Bruno and shy wife, Nancy, will serve tea and coffee on the terrace (or indoors in the lovely living room) during the day if you ask. Although their menu states a price of 5 € per tea (I?m not sure whether that?s per person or per pot for two), we have tea together about 4 times and are charged only for 2 in our final bill.

Adorable kids and cat (with new kittens) ? I like kids and pets well enough but desire neither so it?s unusual for me to think either worthy of mention. The kids share the pool one day, the first day out of school for summer; normally I?d find lots of children running around off putting when trying to relax, but the Clemont kids are friendly and well-behaved.

Bruno gave us superb advice on vineyards to visit ? his top recommendation of james Paget was particularly good ? we were with Mme Paget for almost an hour and Pete really liked the two reds he tried. We bought 6 of each. She also gave us an explanation of their wines and that they continue to use hand picking and hand working throughout, unusual in this day and age.

Instead of a table d?hote menu a buffet dinner is offered during summer months. This is 20 € per person plus wine (though we weren?t charged for my fruit juice) and includes the most wonderful home made tartes as well as cold roasted vegetables, cold meats, rillettes and pates (made at the Ferme Chateau de Vau adjacent to the chateau and run by Bruno?s uncle), salad, bread, cheeses and fruit tarts.
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Jul 7th, 2003, 04:24 AM
  #8  
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26-29 June
Accommodation:
Château du Vau
Ballan-Miré, near Tours.
http://www.chez.com/chateauduvau/
http://www.bienvenue-au-chateau.com/..._propriete=119

Selected from Bienvenue au chateau book.

Booked by phone the previous night. 96 € per night including breakfast.

A beautiful chateau, well sign-posted and quick to reach from A10 (motorway) exit 24. This chateau is very close to the Bois-Renault that we stayed at on the 21st, and almost returned to, but with the decision to book for 3 nights, we opted for the choice with a pool.

The proprietaire, Bruno, is very friendly and eager to chat with guests, in my case this is mostly in French, unless he?s switching to English to include Pete or other English-speaking guests.

Our room is up on the 2nd floor (American 3rd) and is very lovely. It?s large and beautifully decorated with two large windows out over the back of the chateau. The bathroom is huge with a bath which has a hand held shower attachment. Only disappointment is how soft the bed is and the way it sags slightly at one side.

The pool is lovely in the current weather and the gravelled terrace area with a little shade from the chateau itself or from a large tree during other times in the day is also very pleasant.

Bruno and shy wife, Nancy, will serve tea and coffee on the terrace (or indoors in the lovely living room) during the day if you ask. Although their menu states a price of 5 € per tea (I?m not sure whether that?s per person or per pot for two), we have tea together about 4 times and are charged only for 2 in our final bill.
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Jul 7th, 2003, 04:24 AM
  #9  
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Adorable kids and cat (with new kittens) ? I like kids and pets well enough but desire neither so it?s unusual for me to think either worthy of mention. The kids share the pool one day, the first day out of school for summer; normally I?d find lots of children running around off putting when trying to relax, but the Clemont kids are friendly and well-behaved.

Bruno gave us superb advice on vineyards to visit ? his top recommendation of james Paget was particularly good ? we were with Mme Paget for almost an hour and Pete really liked the two reds he tried. We bought 6 of each. She also gave us an explanation of their wines and that they continue to use hand picking and hand working throughout, unusual in this day and age.

Instead of a table d?hote menu a buffet dinner is offered during summer months. This is 20 € per person plus wine (though we weren?t charged for my fruit juice) and includes the most wonderful home made tartes as well as cold roasted vegetables, cold meats, rillettes and pates (made at the Ferme Chateau de Vau adjacent to the chateau and run by Bruno?s uncle), salad, bread, cheeses and fruit tarts.
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Jul 7th, 2003, 04:25 AM
  #10  
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26 June
Restaurants:
Les Pecheurs
Route de Montsoreau, Dampierre-Sur-Loire, near Saumur

We ate here on our way up from La Rochelle to Ballan-Miré on the 26 June, because we?d so enjoyed it during out 1999 Loire stay. We arrived late for lunch in France, at 1.50 and it was good of the manager/ server to take us in, but she did stipulate that because of the time they would only be able to offer us a single course, not a full menu. In the event she did offer us dessert after our main meal but we declined as we were so full!

The restaurant is under new ownership now anyway but the cooking and value are just as good. The presentation of the dishes is a little more gourmet than it was previously.

We both opted for the bavette (steak) with roquefort sauce. It was exceptionally good beef (even for France) and the sauce too. It was served with the most wonderful pots of potato dauphinoise, a slice each of oven roasted tomato and a wonderful fan of pear poached in red wine. Truly superb.

We finished with two coffees. With a shared green salad and tap water the bill was 26.50 €.
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Jul 7th, 2003, 04:25 AM
  #11  
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Les Caves du Gosier sec
On the D7 road, a little past Villandry (direction Saumur)

Recommended by both Mme Paget (at James Paget vineyard) and Bruno (at Chateau du Vau) we ask Bruno to book for us for the 28 evening.

We both have the 17 € menu which offers a good range of choices for each course, more so if one eats fish.

As a starter we both opt for the terrine cooked in a wood fire. What arrives is an immense bowl, a good 4-5 inches across and rather deep, full of the stuff, plus a similar bowl of cornichons, a pot of warm onion compote which has a most wonderful sweet red wine flavour and a basket of very fresh, hot (not just warm) home made bread. (For a restaurant to make their own bread in a land of a billion boulangeries is sufficiently unusual for it to be mentioned in the menu and the bread is superb).

We?re almost completely filled up by out starter but struggle gamely on. We both have the onglet (steak) with a shallots-based gravy. It comes with icky overcooked green beans plus wonderful baked potatoes ? a generous dish of sour cream (or crème fraiche perhaps) with chives and spring onions is provided for the spuds.

For dessert I have the peach melba and Pete has a great Ile Flottante. We have just an apple juice and water, I try and try to persuade Pete to have wine but I think he fears my driving too much or is just too tired!

Coffee is on the house so the bill comes to 30.60 € plus tip.

This place is packed so, if intending to visit on a Saturday evening, reservations are essential. They were turning away anyone without a booking even early on in the evening.
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Jul 7th, 2003, 04:26 AM
  #12  
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29 June
Accommodation
La Grand? Maison
Hautes Escalles near Calais

We find this in a copy of Rivage?s guide to chambres d?hotes, which Bruno Clement has. He really likes it because it?s one of the few guides where one cannot pay to be included, it?s a true selection of author recommendations. His chateau is in it, of course. He makes the booking for us too.

51 € a night including breakfast.

The farm is beautiful and the gardens in the courtyard are breathtaking. The lady that runs both the chambre d?hote rooms and the two gites also onsite is a keen gardener and adores flowers, particularly roses.

The room is small but beautifully decorated in a rather catholic country style ? blue gingham, dark wooden bed and armoire, and large string of wooden rosemary beads hung on the wall!

It actually has a second bed, a single, tucked into a side area off the main room, (also the way to the bathroom), with a clever curtain to seclude it just a touch from the main area - but the room is so small that privacy wouldn?t be excellent ? it would work for 3 girls sharing or parents with a young child. In that case though there would be little space for luggage ? we laid ours out on the single bed.

Small but adequate bathroom with bath tub and hand held shower.

Only problem was that there was an attic room above and the floarboards creaked for almost an hour at 11pm (when they were presumably getting ready for bed) and again at 1.15 and 5.35 and 7.00 a.m.! Not bad enough to be a problem for all but light sleepers (like me) and even I got a reasonable nights sleep because the mattress was superb. Might be worth requesting either an upstairs room or one which has no rooms above.

Breakfast is served in a conservatory backed by thousands of roses in the owners little back garden. It consisted of fresh bread and the most wonderful home made jams. The orange marmalade with huge chunks of fruit was my favourite though the rhubard was also popular.

This place gets a lot of repeat customers, some of whom we met and chatted to during our stay.
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Jul 7th, 2003, 04:28 AM
  #13  
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Apologies for the ? symbols throughout the text - seems that many of my hyphens and apostrophes have been converted to ? by the Fodors gremlin.
Hope some of this may prove useful to someone looking for accommodation or restaurant recommendations in the Loire or Cognac areas.
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Jul 7th, 2003, 07:01 AM
  #14  
jmv
 
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Kavey, great way to do a trip report. Thanks for all the useful info. You seem to have a knack for finding great places.
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Jul 7th, 2003, 07:28 AM
  #15  
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Thanks!
Because this trip was meant to be a 2 week stay in Bordeaux, (which we will know do sometime in winter instead), we didn't do any pre-planning or research and I didn't have any of my guidebooks with me.
Fortunately we were able to pick up a 2003 copy of the Bienvenue au chateau book of properties on our first night at Bois-Renault (I have a 1999 one at home) and then picked up copies of the Relais du Silence and Chateaux et Hotels guides in a tourist office in Saintes, near Cognac.
These are, I believe, all guides in which entries pay to be included, but I think they must also reach a certain standard to be accepted. Certainly I've stayed in a number of properties from each guide over the years and not been disappointed. I believe you can get the guides by writing to a French Tourist Office.
We did do some sightseeing in Loire and near Cognac which I can comment on if anyone is interested.
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Jul 7th, 2003, 07:31 AM
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Kavey, I must say this: you do meal descriptions justice. I'm sitting here at 7:30 AM drooling and wondering what wonderful thing I can fix for breakfast (not porridge, for sure). Maybe I'll open up that little can of foie gras (just kidding). Sounds like a marvelous trip!
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Jul 7th, 2003, 07:32 AM
  #17  
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Sue, I adore eating out on holiday - it's a really important part of the trip for me.
Last night for dinner I had some of my husband's freshly made bread with some of a pot of rillettes I'd bought from a supermarket near Boulogne before coming home. Am going to have some more now for a late lunch!
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Jul 7th, 2003, 10:27 AM
  #18  
 
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I'm so jealous! I just finished a scrambled egg (better than porridge, at least). I know what you mean. My spouse and I never identified places by what we saw, but by what or where we ate! ("Oh, you remember, that place where we had the great eels!")
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Jul 7th, 2003, 10:40 AM
  #19  
 
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LVSue -

Is there such a thing as "great eels"?? (I do like the sushi variety, but can't imagine the jellied sort....)

Kavey -

Thanks so much for the detailed info! Sounds as if you had great success with both meals and accomodations, and I have printed it out for future reference.
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Jul 7th, 2003, 10:49 AM
  #20  
 
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I actually went to an Eel Festival somewhere near Angers. They had eels cooked every whichaway, including tiny ones fried up and served in little French fry envelopes. They weren't bad. (but not really great ;-) )
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