The train ride along the very edge of the River Severn.
The nine thirty train to Cheltenham
for probably the last time this year, I think four times is a bit much to be visiting a small town in Gloucestershire
. I couldn't let the Cheltenham food festival go by without visiting. The train took me out of Wales and along the picturesq and rather disturbingly close ride along the waters edge of the River Severn which is actually sea water where the tide of the Bristol Channel meets the flow of the river. As with each Saturday that I'd been along this stretch of track the tide was in though the sky was grey and the train quieter than usual.
Si and Dave, the Hairy Biker TV Chefs
I slipped into the town centre to get some new clothes before heading back up to Montpellier and into Montpellier Gardens to hand over my five pounds for entry into the festival. The fenced off zone was littered with small marquee stalls selling everything from odd fruity local wines to expensive imported Champaigns, well mostly everything was expensive but the quality was second to none with the exception of the one exhibitor dishing out chicken curry, which tasted nice but it was tepid to say the least and the rice stone cold; a bit of a let down. What I know I should have done is poured over a bottle of chillie sauce that I'd just bought from a stand in one of the two large marquee tents. I'd wandered to the chillie specialist, picked up a cracker from the weaved basket and dipped an ever so very tiny miniscule droplet of chillie sauce from the "try it" dish.
A horse and carriage arrives with some ale barrels.
Oh... my... fxxking god! I'm no stranger to hot sauces, in fact my cupboard in the kitchen has a sporadic selection of hot things, worcester sauce, tobasco even Delish, a bottle of very hot red mulch mix of chillie imported from Barbados by my best friend; I thought that was the hottest thing I'd ever tried. Oh so certainly not. I walked from the stand and tried to decide whether to buy a bottle of aptly named "Dragon's Blood" and then the second wave of attack of heat kicked in. I serious thought I was about to throw-up! Thankfully I didn't and I purchased a bottle. The side of the ingredients reads flavour additions such as pineapple and vinegar but you can't really taste this over the double-double concentrate of Naga chillies, the main ingredient.
I was quite surprised at the little amount of serious wine available, especially as the one tent had various talks from wine experts.
A very large pastry from the festival for Sunday breakfast. (It was nice!)
With this in mind I headed to the Ale tent. I'm not a big ale fan but specialist ale's like this can be pleasent on days like this, the rain had held off so why not. The tent whafted down wind the smell of fermented alcohols and the noise of jolly fat people and thin yar-yars from the country side. I ordered up a half of Sunny Daze to help wash away the cold curry lunch. Sunny Daze was as nice as it sounds. A slightly misty amber looking ale with a fruity flavour and not over baringly strong.
The high of the day had to be watching the Fat Hairy Biker Chefs; two famous television chefs here in the UK that travel the world on their bikes as part of their food programmes. Unusually they actually did look exactly like they do on TV, they were as large as life and even funnier in person. The show attracted hundreds and the tent walls all had to be opened up so everyone could see.
A large Georgian house, one of many that over-look Montpellier Gardens.
The organiser came out before the start and apologised as there would be a ten minutes delay, all his fault he reassured. A large rosey cheeked woman standing next to me turned to her husband behind and in her most bossy-boots mood driven voice exclaimed, "Do you know what, I can't be bothered" and promptly marched off for the sake of ten minutes. Never mind, I'm sure the stars of the show would have gladly not bothered if they knew her attitude had come to stay.
I ended up chatting to a couple from Dudley
, avid fans who'd come to see Si and Dave the comedy-chef double act and both of the couple had shouted their questions loudly at the end. I had video'd the show on my new mobile phone. I had only been capturing the show for a few minutes before some comments from people behind me who couldn't see the show for the crowds had been impressed, "the picture on that phone is great, what is it?" and "are you recording it?!".
The music stand.
I realised I had about four people actually watching the show through my phone. Eventually I had to stop when my arm gave way thirty minutes later. I started again ten minutes later only to attract another set of viewers. Technology really is life.
I took home a selection of some things other than my bottle of Dragon's Blood. I left the show with a black X stamped on my hand incase I wanted to return. I would have gone for a coffee in town while waiting for the next the train but by that point I was exhausted and I don't think a coffee would have helped much. Both Si and Dave the Chefs wandered around the show and happy to stop and chat to people. I even bumped into one of them in the street again later on. The show was certainly worth the fiver entry fee and Raymond Blanc who'd put his name to it. Thanks Cheltenham!