Sunday, October 26, 2014

Le Chateau pour Monsieur Benedictine(not his real name)

This was the day we travelled to Caudebec-en-Caux, arriving there sometime around 3 am. Whatever the time, we do not know for we are firmly tucked up in our beds fast asleep and there is no indication we have arrived at port until we awaken.
There was a tour to be done this day but some have opted to stay on board instead of hopping on a bus yet again after two previous day's lengthy bus tours.
I thought...."Well, when in Rome....or Caudebec-en-Caux as it may be", I would jump on the bus and do the tour on offer sans husband and so I did just that.

Forgive me my profound lack of historical knowledge and I will take poetic license with this story, but the story goes that once upon a time, in a country town known as Fécamp, there was an order of Benedictine monks, going right back to the Middle Ages.
Now, they were a pretty poor order and it was cold, wet and miserable a lot of the time. One of the monks hit upon an idea to create something to warm the cockles of their collective hearts and thus began the secret herbs and spices recipe for a drink known as Bénédictine.
They used all sorts of flavours....anything they could lay their hands on it seems that grew from the ground and wasn't poisonous. There was thyme, lavender, mint, chamomile, pepper, you name it, it was added to this liquid that was then placed in barrels and allowed to ferment over time. This was created in their monastery and I dare say they shared it from time to time with the locals and eventually word got out that there was something pretty special in this place.
This boivré gave them some comfort for a long time and made them all happy until a wealthy baron came along in the 18th. Century and patented their liqueur whilst still encouraging them to continue creating the base.
I shall call him Monsieur Le Bénédictine and he was ever so wealthy that he built an enormous mansion (chateau) across the road from the new premises he built once he extracted the recipe from the now defunct order of monks.
To this day, Bénédictine is still created across the road from his chateau on a much larger scale and its shipped around to all countries of the world.
As it is so exclusive and there was lots of money floating around thanks to this now even wealthier man, he decided to tack on a museum to the factory.
This gentleman you see had a bit of an O.C.D. Disorder and wherever he went he collected stuff.
He amassed hundreds of pieces of religious art and statues.
He collected keys by the hundreds and locks for those keys by the hundreds also. He collected wooden figurines, he collected rare china pieces, you name it, he collected it. Added to all this 'stuff', he decided he would flamboyantly decorate this factory come museum internally with stained glass windows, marble staircases, parquetry floors, decorous architraves with buttresses soaring high to the ceilings added to which there were numerous chandeliers in every room also.
So, this is the Bénédictine Tour. We learnt about this enormously wealthy man who became even wealthier. We saw his collection of everything and last but not least we see where the liqueur, Bénédictine is nowadays created. Of course, at the end of our tour we are given a sample of the real, raw thing and it still has the power to warm the cockles of your heart, even with a little tipple.
It is then into the gift shop we go (yet another captured audience) and of course I purchase a bit of this and a bit of that to take home...
Personally, I am not sure I like the bite and flavour of Monsieur Le Bénédictine's liqueur, but then I am me and I am a little fussy when it comes to all things spiritual!
We return to our boat and off we sail again, this time to Vernon. Whilst floating back towards Paris though....for we did a U-Turn when leaving Le Havre.....we are given a cooking exposay on how to make proper Crêpe Suzette using just a touch of that secret herbs and spices liqueur which is magnifique I must say.
This is a kind of sad part of the tour as we are starting to talk about how we will be saying farewell in just a few short days.
Tonight though is the Captain's dinner and we have to dress up. For me, the quandary is what the hell I will wear that:
a) I haven't worn before,
b) Is clean
c) Is fancy schmantzy for the Captains Cocktail Hour and Captains dinner.

I hit upon a dress I have worn previously, but IS clean (hopefully) and is nowhere near and fancy as some of the other costumed and bejewelled womens' clothing but, hey, what the heck, I am me and what you see is certainly what you get.
It was yet another fun time as it turns out with a lot of fancy food (yet again).... Bloody raw minced meat for starters and no, I did not eat the Steak Tartare unlike others....sorbet between courses etc (which incidentally I did eat) and other foods and then it was 'Let Down Your Hair Time' with the crew we have come to know and love providing us with a funny floor show and then disco afterwards where they get everyone up to dance.
All too soon though it is time for bed yet again for we old farts and so ends yet another day on this amazing brilliant water way.

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