La Barbe owner Serge Tassi on his perfect Surrey weekend
Following in the footsteps of the Comic Relief celebs, Serge Tassi, owner of Reigate's La Barbe restaurant, will be tackling Africa's highest peak, Kilimanjaro, later this year. Come the weekend, his time is split between running his busy French e...
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine June 2009Following in the footsteps of the Comic Relief celebs, Serge Tassi, owner of Reigate's La Barbe restaurant, will be tackling Africa's highest peak, Kilimanjaro, later this year. Come the weekend, his time is split between running his busy French eaterie, enjoying a stroll on Box Hill and preparing for the biggest challenge of his lifeThere are many words that describe my weekend, but "relaxing" is not one of them. My restaurant, La Barbe in Reigate, is at its most vibrant then, so you could say my main weekend activity is making sure others have a great time. I've lived and worked in Reigate for 27 years. It's a very friendly place with a good feel and I hope it doesn't lose its individuality as the multiples move in. So far, it's faring pretty well and the re-developed Priory Park is a great asset. As it's just opposite the restaurant, it's perfect for a stroll between the busy lunchtime and evening sessions on a Friday and sometimes I stop for a cup of tea at the pavilion. Although I regard myself as a "paid up" resident of Reigate, I have one foot in my native France and still visit regularly. One of my twin sons is studying business there, while the other is on a similar course at Loughborough University. I'm sure this would provide a fascinating case study for someone - the two systems are completely different and it's very interesting to compare them. The summits of Surrey If one of my sons is visiting for the weekend, we try to escape to the Surrey countryside for a while. As well as giving the boys a break from books - and bars - it gives me a chance to get in some training for my trek to the summit of Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak, in September. I'm doing this to raise money for The Royal Marsden Cancer Campaign in memory of my friend Roger Palmer. I've done charity treks before - my last was to Everest Base Camp in 2008 - so I've got a good idea what's in store, but Kilimanjaro is a particularly daunting challenge because we'll ascend so quickly, climbing 5,750 metres in five days. There's a real risk of altitude sickness which can be very dangerous. With both steep and flat areas, Farthing Downs at Coulsdon is one of my favourite training grounds. I love the beautiful little church at Chaldon, which nestles on the Downs, whose history can be traced back over a thousand years. On a Sunday morning, I sometimes visit Dorking car boot sale so my wife, Annette, can seek out pottery for her collection. Then we walk to Leith Hill, the highest point in the South East at 293 metres. It doesn't compare with Kilimanjaro but has an exhilarating view and I'm told you can see 13 counties on a clear day. The tower at the top was built in 1765 by Richard Hull of Leith Hill Place to take the hill over the 1,000 ft (305 metres) mark. When Hull died in 1772, it's said he was buried upside down beneath the tower, as he believed the world would spin round on Judgement Day, putting him on his feet to meet his maker. Today, you can climb the tower, which houses a handy kiosk selling refreshments at very reasonable prices. A piece of Provence Another favourite spot of mine is Box Hill, and sometimes when I look across the vista to Denbies vineyard I think for a moment that I could be back in Provence. As I train for the trek, augmenting early morning visits to my local gym, The Fitness Zone, with plenty of hill walking, I shall enjoy the changing seasons of Surrey and remember how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful part of the world.
Serge's Kilimanjaro Trek for The Royal Marsden takes place from September 18-27. To sponsor him, visit www.justgiving.com/sergetassi or send a cheque, made payable to The Royal Marsden Cancer Campaign, to La Barbe, 71 Bell Street, Reigate, Surrey RH2 7AN (tel: 01737 241966). Serge is paying his own expenses for the trip.
My Surrey Weekend is a monthly guest column in Surrey Life magazine, where we discover how some of the county's high profile characters spend their weekend.