April 1998


Paris, France and Exmoor, Devon April 27, 1998 Where has April gone? The start of the month saw us preparing for Paris and Kim's epic completion of her first marathon on Sunday the 4th. We had arrived in the French capital a few days before the race, having driven to Folkestone, crossed the Channel by way of the tunnel, and so on to Paris where we holed up in a lovely small hotel called the Villa des Artistes in Montparnasse. A nervous few days, but we still enjoyed mooching around, eating typical cuisine bourgeois foods in small Left Bank bistros, picnicking in the Jardin du Luxembourg and the Tuileries, and even finding a half decent Italian restaurant for a carbo-feast the evening before the run. Kim's report will follow soon, but suffice in the meantime to say that it was a magnificent day and a magnificent achievement: 22,000 runners lined up on the Champs d'Elysee below the Arc de Triomphe, the wheelchair athletes speeding down the stone-paved avenue first, followed by the élite runners, and finally the massed start, Kim, amidst the crowd, passing us joyously, waving and almost dancing as she was carried along by the emotion and massed energy. We -- myself, Guy and Bella, Kim's folks Tiny and Jean who had flown in the previous night, Richard Tucker, a friend from Topsham whose wife Janet was also running -- then, jumped on the métro to end of the line at Château de Vincennes where we met up with our Parisian friends the Storeys who took us to the nearby Bois de Vincennes some 13 km from the start. Here we saw Kim again (surprisingly soon, it seemed), running comfortably within herself, still clearly enjoying it though working hard. For us, no time even for coffee, but quickly back on the métro again to the Bastille and km 24, more than half way now. Friends John, Jane and Catherine Spree, having been the the Bridge Inn 101st celebrations, had then driven through the night to Heathrow to catch an early morning flight to Paris (what great, loyal friends!), jumped in a cab at Charles DeGaulle airport (at extortionate expense), and so raced across town in time to cheer Kim on as she passed that historic monument to the French Revolution. Still a long way to go -- along the Seine, through, sadly, the Diana tunnel, past the Eiffel Tower, on and into the broad and expansive Bois de Boulogne. We meanwhile made our way back to the Arc de Triomphe and positioned ourselves near the finish in time to see Kim triumphantly and gloriously complete her great adventure in some considerable style. (The photo below demonstrates graphically how well she looked and felt at the end of the race!). Time then for a hot bath and a rest before joining all of us for a victory feast at the famous La Coupole brasserie where, for the record, Kim enjoyed a hearty and authentic cassoulet washed down with copious quantities of an excellent Minervois followed by a large slice of tarte au citron.



After proudly limping around Paris for a few days, and after a lovely and relaxed stay with the Storeys, we made our way back home via the Picardie coast (couldn't resist stopping for a night to enjoy fish soup and shellfish at St. Valery sur Somme).

Where has the rest of the month gone? Beaten with rain and storms that have driven up from the South West, we've battened down the hatches (literally), holed up in home and office, back to work and school. But yesterday was an exception, a glorious, if brisk end of April day, perfect for our now annual century ride that we have dubbed the North Devon Horseshoe, a glorious and classic hundred-mile cycle up the Exe Valley to Dulverton, then a sharp climb up on to the roof of Exmoor -- windy, bleak, majestic, with views all across the county even across to Dartmoor some 50 miles to the west -- before circling back down by way of South Molton and so back to Topsham on the old Exeter-Barnstaple road that traverses mid-Devon. Four of us -- myself, Ben, Barrie and Martin -- completed the whole ride, while Nello, my partner in the Ride for Life cycle from Topsham to Venice last year, joined us for the toughest stretch across the moor. Afterwards, all repaired back chez nous for a hearty meal that I had prepared the day before, pollo alla cacciatora -- chicken and mushrooms stewed in wine, herbs and tomatoes -- served over pasta and a sensational tarte tatin prepared by Kim (recipe to follow).

Marc's Pollo alla Cacciatora

This is not a classic pollo alla cacciatora (chicken hunter's style) but it is a delicious variation nonetheless. I like to make it the day before, and in this case, I boned the chicken in order to serve it over wide pennoni fat, unribbed maccaroni-like noodles. This amount serves an army -- or five hungry cyclists and partners.

2 chickens, cut into pieces and skinned (or use skinned thighs or legs)

3-4 large sprigs of fresh rosemary, preferably picked from the garden

Handful of fresh sage or thyme

4-5 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped

Olive oil for frying

Half a bottle of full-bodied Italian red wine

2 tins of chopped tomatoes

1 teaspoon hot chilli flakes

Salt and freshly ground pepper

500 g/ 1 lb pennoni or other large maccaroni

In a large cast-iron casserole, heat the olive oil and fry the garlic and herbs. Add the chicken and fry until browned. Season with salt, pepper and chilli flakes, add the wine and reduce briskly. Add the tomatoes, turn down the heat and allow to simmer for 40 minutes to an hour, until the chicken is tender and falling off the bones. (Add a little water if necessary to keep the sauce moist). Prepare to this point the day before. Allow to cool. Bone the chicken, reheat and serve over the cooked pennoni or maccaroni.

Wine suggestion: Try a robust southern Italian red such as Dr. Cosimo Taurino's Salice Salentino, Falerno from Salvatore Avallone, or a punchy, dense Montepulciano d'Abruzzo.


Copyright © Marc Millon 2000


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