Thursday, May 5, 2011

The wine, the cheese, the dress?

As Laura's eloquent post described, the south west of France is a place known for its earthy wines, its very strong cheeses, and its local armagnac (thanks for the tasting, uncle Peter!). But what did we spend a long morning doing last week in this land of culinary delights? Searching out a place where we could finally find out the answer to that age old question - what was Kate's dress going to look like? Enter Bassoues, a tiny (tiny) town about 30 mins away with a very nice cable package. Mission accomplished.

After a few discussions with the locals about 1) how much weight Kate lost, 2) how William needs to sit up straight, 3) how pretty Kate's dress was, we decided to stick around for lunch. In many small towns in this area, there will be one or two places that cater to the local lunch crowd. And the French do not mess about with their lunch. There are many courses, there is always wine, and in fact, most businesses shut down between noon and two or three to make sure no one is deprived of this particularly civilized repast.

We ordered the traditional menu du jour, which comes with a potage (soup with veggies and whatever else gets thrown in), a little salad with some type of meat on the side, a steak and fries, and ice cream for dessert. Oh, and the wine is included.

The restaraunt. 
The wine.

 After the wine.

This is the face of a man very pleased with his prune Armangac vanilla ice cream. (can't fix the orientation on this photo for some reason...)

All in all, we probably spent 3 hours over lunch, chatting with the woman and her two sons who own and run the restaraunt and watching life in this small town go by. Being in the countryside, spending time in our local town, Tillac, and Bassoues has reminded me of the summer than Sarah and I spent living on Hornby Island, which is about 5 hours, three ferries, and a world away from life in Vancouver. There are some universally wonderful things about living in small towns and it has rekindled the off again/on again thought that living on Bowen Island (just outside of Vancouver) sounds like a pretty wonderful thing. Here is the list that Sarah and I came up with about our favorite things about small towns. Please feel free to add your own favorites in the comments.

1) Becoming a local on your second visit. We enjoyed our lunch so much that we ended up going back five days later to do it all again. We got a royal welcome (pardon the pun) from the mother and sons who run the restaurant, and spent another three hours visiting and watching the locals pour in and out of the little town square for lunch. A similar thing happened this morning when we stopped in to get eggs in the tiny shop in town only to discover we'd forgotten money. "Pas un probleme" the shopkeeper said, letting us know we could come back the next day to pay when we got our bread and croissants.

2) The sounds. Here's what I can hear right now - Sarah winding a ball of yarn, a frog croaking in the patch of woods, the murmor of the pipes above my head. The lack of cars, horns, and general busyness makes all of these sounds that are usually in the background of city life come popping out like the pages of a 3D picture book. 

3) Having the choice made for you. We need to go to the Post Office - well there's only one in town so I guess we'll be stopping there. Shopping? Well it's Thursday and the only market on today is in Mielan. For dinner? There's only two places open in town, so that should be easy. Entertainment? On Hornby we used to wait all week for Saturday pizza night at the bakery and the movie being shown in the town hall. Having limited options sometimes has the opposite effect of what you would expect. It doesn't feel limiting, it makes you appreciate and revel in the options available to you.

Don't get me wrong, there are wonderful, exciting things about living in a big city and as the calendar flips to May we've found ourselves yearning more and more for home. But here's hoping a long visit to Bassoues, Tillac, or Hornby Island is never too far around the corner.


  1. Oh, you take me back to my small town roots! Love your insightful comment about "the opposite effect of what you'd expect".

    Also, you guys sound happy, which is absolutely wonderful to hear. Soak up as much sun as possible before you have to come home! Hah - yup, it's raining over here. :)

  2. Visiting you guys in Hornby was one of my favorite vacations. I've been thinking about it recently. A shady Brooklyn block in spring can have a touch of small town feeling. Popping by the local produce store to get inspiration for dinner, listening to the neighborhood kids play ball out your window while you are curled up on the couch with a cat reading an awesome blog....