THIS Morning presenter Alison Hammond went to France a tee-total, fussy eater – and came back a wine-loving gastronomer.
She tells Sun Travel why her trip around Bordeaux with Jean-Christophe Novelli changed her attitude towards food and drink.
“IF there is one person you want to take with you on a trip to France, it’ has to be a French chef. In Bordeaux, Jean-Christophe Novelli did all the talking and all the cooking. It was bliss.
We met on This Morning and hit it off straight away. I heard he was in the studio and I asked if he would do a karaoke segment with me. He refused . . . at first. But I made him do it. He really let himself go and had a great time. We decided to tour Bordeaux for a travel segment on This Morning.
I have been to Disneyland Paris half a dozen times and Paris twice, but never the French countryside, with its chateaux, spas and vineyards.
So that’s what we did — and saw France at its absolute best. We hired bikes for one day but mostly we travelled in a vintage Citroen CV. It was great fun and Jean-Christophe did all the driving. I wouldn’t have had a clue — the gear stick was on the dashboard for a start!
We spent a lot of time eating and preparing food, as you would expect. Normally, if I don’t like the look of something I won’t try it. But this trip made me a bit more adventurous.
At Maille Mustard, a mustard sommelier — yes, that’s a thing! — helped us taste the different types. I’m not much of a mustard fan but I came away with two I adored — a balsamic one and a honey mustard. (I have a sweet tooth.)
Another day, we went to the island of Pitares, which is surrounded by mud. Jean-Christophe made us eclade — mussels thrown into a giant pan, with pine needles on top that burn down to cook the mussels. It has a great smokey taste.
I even developed a penchant for wine over there. I didn’t really drink before and hadn’t realised wine could taste so beautiful.
My favourite place was Chateau Biac, an amazing family-run vineyard where we picked some grapes and saw how their wine is made. I thought they crushed it with their feet . . . but they don’t do that any more. Nowadays it is all done by machine.
For dinner, Jean-Christophe cooked lamb and an apple tart. As we ate, we sat watching the sunset. It was stunning. Another highlight was Les Sources De Caudalie, a spa where they used grape seeds to exfoliate our skin. I don’t know if they eat the grapes first and spit out the seeds. But, either way, it was very nice.
My skin was glowing afterwards. It was a bit messy, mind you, and I was picking out seeds for a while afterwards. Everything was themed around wine — even the Jacuzzi was made out from wine barrels.
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Then we went to Les Halles Bacalan, a large covered market. The people there were lovely, often letting us try before we’d buy. It was all delicious — except for the truffles. They taste like earth to me.
But the experience was brilliant and I would love to make more films with Jean-Christophe. We got on like a house on fire. He said when I find the man of my dreams and get married, he will cook the food. Trust me, I’m taking him up on that offer.
Next, I would love to take Jean-Christophe around my home city of Birmingham. We are doing This Morning Live at the NEC there in May, so maybe we can combine the two. This time, I will cook for him and show him the sights on a canal boat — I reckon he’ll have the time of his life.”
- A Brummie In Bordeaux starts on Wednesday on This Morning, ITV, 10.30am. This Morning Live returns to NEC Birmingham from May 16-19. Tickets at thismorninglive.co.uk.
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