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

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

French Flanders – part 3

Typical aperitif and lunch

The village of Godewaersvelde in French Flanders is situated at less than 5 km from the Belgian border. The red brick stone houses are not unlike those in Belgium. There are some typical ‘estaminets’ or cafés serving the local beers: Blanche de Watou, Hommelbier, Hommelpap and ‘La Bière du Géant’.

Typical street in Godewaersvelde

During our mini-trip last week, we had a pre-luncheon aperitif in an estaminet called ’Het Blauwershof’. ‘Blauw’ means blue and in this case refers to the blue colour of the customs officers’ uniforms. These men, who guarded the border, were on the constant look-out for smugglers who illegally tried to pass tobacco, butter and alcohol from France into Belgium. Judging by the name, this ‘estaminet’ was the place were the customs officers used to hang out when they were off-duty.

What strikes you most when you walk into the Blauwershof are the authentic floor, furniture and bar. Everything looks exactly the same as it did a hundred years ago. My friend and I had been there last February and so we knew what to expect. My colleague B. and her husband J.L., however, could hardly believe their eyes and they walked around for ten minutes looking at the many unusual and forgotten objects that decorated the walls. There was also a more recent sign saying:

Opening time – depending on the mood of the staff
Closing time – depending on the state the landlord is in.

We each had a glass of ‘Hommelbier’, a local specialty, brewed from hop, a twining plant of the Humulus family, of which the female flowers are dried and used to flavour the beer. You’ll find the typical hop fields, with their tall stakes and rope wiring (on which the hop plants climb) on both sides of the border.

The ‘Hommelbier’ was very refreshing and it stimulated our already increasing appetite. We spent an agreeable half an hour in the estaminet, talking, laughing and taking pictures. And then it was time of have our ‘Potjesvleesch’. The restaurant and former butcher shop ‘Le Roi du Potjesvleesch’, is just around the corner from the estaminet. Once again B. an J.L. didn’t know were to look first when they saw the large assortment of local products that was being sold in the gangway leading to the actual restaurant, which is situated in the former slaughter hall behind the butcher shop.

We all had the Potjesvleesch with frites and two 75 cl bottles of the ‘Bière du Géant’, another local beer brewed in the nearby village of Steenvoorde.

For dessert we had a cheese plate with three local cheeses, one of which came from the ‘Mont des Cats’ abbey. By the time we had finished our coffee, it was almost half past two and we reckoned that the ‘Musée de la Vie Frontalière’ (Life on the border museum) would be open by now. So it was time to move on …

(to be continued)



Ken Broadhurst said...

Martine, this is a great account of your trip. Your English is amazing, and your writing is alive.

But tell us: what was the Potjesvleesch like? Was it good?

ladybird said...

Hi Ken, thank you. You are too kind.

The Potjesvleesch was delicious, of course. The meat was tender, juicy and tasty and blended perfectly with the frites. Our friends liked it a lot and bought two jars of it, so that their son, who's a chef, could have a taste of it too.

Btw, they bought 12 x 75 cl bottles of the Bière du Géant as well. I therefore reckon that they liked everything: potjesvleesch and beer. Martine

P.S. Another good reason for you and Walt to visit the North of France ... and Belgium while you're in the area ;^)!