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

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Travelling North

Actually that should read ‘Travelling South’! Let me explain. Today we’re off on a short trip to Northern France … which, for us, means travelling south!

Since discovering this region last February we have taken a liking to it. It feels familiar and strange at the same time. The countryside is not unlike the Belgian Flanders, with some isolated low hills (max. height 175m!) overlooking the large plains. Another particularity is that, although you’re in France, many people speak Flemish. Until the 18th century French and Belgian Flanders were united. Although it’s mainly older people who are still fluent in Flemish, you can feel that even the younger generation has a strong sense of belonging to this region with its own cultural and historical background.

February 2009: If you're into cycling, you may recognize this: 'Les pavés du Nord' (the cobblestones of the North), of the famous cycling race Paris-Roubaix.

What brought us here in the first place? Food, of course! When visiting the Somme Bay in 2008 we had stopped for lunch at a little restaurant near Abbeville. One of the local specialties on the menu was ‘Potjesvleesch’, this is ‘old’ Flemish for ‘potted meat’. Nowadays you would say and write ‘Potjesvlees’ , dropping the ‘sh’ at the end.

‘Potjesvleesch’ is a mixture of lean veal, pork, rabbit and chicken meat, stewed for hours with different spices and some vegetables. When the meat is nice and tender, it is put in a terrine. The cooking liquid, which contains a lot of natural gelatine, is poured over it. The terrine is then stored in a cold place until the gelatine sets. The potted meat is served cold, cut in thick slices on a bed of hot French Fries.

My friend really liked it and wanted to try it again. The restaurant near Abbeville being too far for a one-day trip, I toured the internet looking for a restaurant closer to the Belgian border. And that is how I discovered ‘Le Roi du Potjesvleesch’, (The King of the Potted Meat) a former butcher shop that’s now a restaurant in the tiny village of ‘Godewaersvelde’!! (How’s that for a name?)

The typical interior of 'Le Roi du Potjesvleesch', with an old Flemish coal burner in the corner.

When we told a recently retired colleague of mine and her husband about the Potjesvleesch they were very intrigued. So we invited them to join us on a mini-trip to ‘Potjesvleesch’ country. The drive takes less than two hours, so by leaving Brussels at about 8.30 a.m. we should have ample time to get to our destination by lunchtime. We plan to do some sightseeing on the way. There’s the ‘Mont des Cats’ abbey, which makes excellent cheese and the ‘Mont Noir’, one of the famous hills overlooking the countryside.

We also plan to visit a museum showing the production of the typical Flemish waffles. The guided tour includes a tasting session, so maybe we should visit the museum after lunch and have the waffles for dessert. We can then rinse our meal and dessert down with a beer from the local ‘Beck Brasserie’, (brewery) which also proposes a guided tour.

We’ve booked two rooms at the B&B where we stayed last February in the village of Sainghin-en-Melantois. There’s a little restaurant at walking distance, so we don’t need to take the cars when we go out for a light supper.

I’ll be back on Sunday with more stories and photos of our little getaway. In the meantime, I’ll post some pictures from earlier trips to France. I hope you’ll enjoy them.


Ken Broadhurst said...

I hope you have (or are having) fun, Martine and friends. You are making me increasingly eager to visit Le Nord and La Belgique. Enjoy the Potjesvleesch and the frites.

Carolyn said...

Martine, that dish sounds delicious. So does the beer. I hope you have a good trip.

ladybird said...

Ken, It was great fun. We had a lovely time. You'll read all about in my next posts.

Carolyn, Potjesvleesch is very nice indeed and beer is the recommended beverage with it.