Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Lock ‘Number 16’

On Sunday morning, the first part of our weekend in the Alsace was drawing to an end. We left the Moutonneraie at about 10 a.m. after another delicious breakfast and an interesting chat with the landlord and his wife.

But we yet had another lovely day ahead as we would be stopping overnight in the hamlet of Bérig-Vintrage in the French Lorraine before returning to Brussels on Monday. Although it was still rather chilly when we left Hipsheim, Sunday promised to be a lovely day, with blue skies and temperatures up to 22°C; not exactly a heat wave but pleasant enough for walks in the country or taking an aperitif outdoors.

On Saturday we had phoned the restaurant ‘Chez Michèle’ in the village of Languimberg, to book a table for Sunday lunch. We absolutely wanted to try this restaurant as it has recently obtained a Michelin star. In spite of this prestigious award, it still serves a lunch menu at 19 euro, which is very good value for a gastronomic restaurant. Unfortunately, the restaurant was closed for ‘congés annuels’. Luckily I had prepared a plan B: a restaurant called ‘Ecluse 16’ (Lock number 16) near the village of Altwiller, south of the town of St. Avold.

Finding Altwiller was no problem, thanks to the help of ‘Mauricette’. Finding the restaurant, however, turned out to be a different matter. The name ‘Lock 16’ implicated that the restaurant was situated close to a canal. Some time before arriving at Altwiller, we had crossed a small canal, but we had lost track of it since. We were quite lost and had stopped in the centre of the village, when we saw a man walking towards the car. After glancing at the license plate, he bent over to the window on the drivers’ side of the car. ‘Puis-je vous aider?’ (May I help you?’) he kindly inquired. When my friend explained that we were looking for ‘Ecluse 16’, the man gave us the necessary and very clear instructions.

They implied a 3 km drive through woods and fields, taking a left turn and immediately turning right and then straight on … All this in the middle of what appeared to be ‘no-man’s-land’. At last we saw a small bridge and the canal with on the other side a long two story high semi-industrial building with unattractive red brick walls. The sign over the front door read: ‘Ecluse 16’. To our surprise the parking lot was packed with cars. This somewhat reassured us.

The major part of the carpark was furthur to the left

The interior of the building turned out to be a surprise. The large dining room was in complete contrast with the gloomy outside of the building. It was bright with colourful decorations and pristine white tablecloths. Almost all the tables were taken, and we were lucky to get a small one near the entrance. The patrons were mostly families: father, mother and children, often accompanied by one or two grandparents. The success of the restaurant was probably due to the Sunday lunch formula, proposing a five course menu (wine included) for a democratic price of 30 euro per person …

Being not very hungry after our gourmet breakfast at the Moutonneraie, we chose the ‘Main course + cheese’ formula at 22 euro + a bottle of our favourite Saumur Champigny. My friend had the filet of deer and I took the Charolais steak with ‘rattes’ potatoes (small potatoes steamed in their skin). Both came with a delicate pea mousse and steamed baby carrots and courgettes. My steak was served with a tasty pinot noir wine sauce. The cheese plate turned out to be a bit of a disappointment as it hardly contained three itsy bitsy transparent slices of cheese. There was a Crottin Chavignol (goat’s cheese), a Trappe (Abbey cheese) and a Comté. In spite of the meagre cheese portions, we really enjoyed our meal, which was delicious and beautifully presented. I didn’t take any photos because the place was very crowded and I didn’t want to attract people’s attention by flashing a camera around.

The cute lockkeeper's house, now privately owned.
Makes a perfect little holiday home, doesn't it?

We had our coffee on the terrace by the waterside, after which we took a walk along the canal. We had a look at the lock and the lock keepers house. Afterwards we would learn that the cute little house is now privately owned and that the lock is operated from a distance by a lock keeper some 10 km further down the canal.

The quite road along the canal... perfect for walking and cycling ...

After our walk we programmed ‘Mauricette’ to take us to Bérig-Vintrage where we would spend the night. But first we would make some more interesting discoveries. More about those tomorrow…



chm said...

Hi Martine,
Before starting blogging did you know about your writing skills in general, and in a third language in particular?
Your posts are always interesting, well balanced and well written. Félicitations. Keep up the good work!

ladybird said...

chm, Thank you for your kind comment. I was 10 when I discovered that writing was fun. I never liked maths anyway! When I was 18 and I had to chose a career, I wanted to become a lawyer. But then, I saw this brochure about a school training translators and interpreters. And that was it! The English 'twist' is too long to explain here ... But maybe I'll do a post about it, one day when I run out of stories abour France. Thanks again! Martine

Jean said...

The cooler temperatures you had were probably better for your sightseeing and appetite. Once it gets past 30 degrees I feel I can't be bothered to walk around or eat.
Thanks for the tour of Alsace !

ladybird said...

Jean, The walk along the canal was great and it did wonders for our digestion :). I'm glad you like the Alsace tour. There is a little more to come ... We're almost there. Martine