Last weekend marked the 20th anniversary of moving into our house in France. We had arrived in France a few days earlier, but we regard the occupation of the house as the true anniversary. This year I had a long drive home from Charroux in Vienne, where I had been attending a literary festival, while the SF was preparing for a minor medical intervention. So there were no fireworks or bunting, just a symbolic glass (or two). We will make up for it later.
In the meantime, I attended today’s virtual launch party for Pensioners in Paradis by Olga Swan, who appeared in the previous post talking about her vie française. She asked guests to think of amusing incidents or culture clashes that we had experienced in relation to France. After 20 years here, there is no shortage of those.
A couple of incidents stand out, both involving a local restaurant. We had lived here for only a few days when we decided to try this eatery, which was said to be good. It had the advantage of being very close by. We turned up in the evening and no one seemed to be eating, so we wandered into the adjoining bar.
“Is the restaurant open this evening?” the SF asked le patron.
The following evening, we tried again.
“Is the restaurant open this evening?”
The SF thought for a moment and then had a flash of inspiration.
“Is the restaurant ever open in the evening?”
Without this light bulb moment, I wonder how many times we would have had to return before we elicited the truth. This was our first lesson. You must ask precise questions of French people, who often don’t give away what they regard as extraneous information.
Subsequently, we ate at the restaurant – at lunchtime, of course – and the food was indeed good: rustic but satisfying. A litre bottle of red wine was already on the table when we arrived. We drank the lot. We have since learned not to do that. It’s death to doing anything in the afternoon.
Unfortunately, a French customer couldn’t resist the desire to quaff all the wine, plus a hefty digestif. He had parked directly outside the restaurant. We had parked to one side of the car park, which was a good thing, as you’ll see.
The man left the restaurant a bit unsteadily and fumbled with his car keys for a while. We watched as he reversed with great élan across the road and into the only other car occupying the football pitch-sized car park. He got out, removed his beret, scratched his head and stood transfixed for a while. How inconsiderate of someone to park directly in his path.
Alas, the restaurant closed down some time ago. A pity, it was once a favoured stop for truckers, which is always the sign of a good place.
I could write a book about similar experiences we’ve had in France. Perhaps I will.
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