Sunday, April 29, 2007

Two Hour lunchtimes

The BBC site has an article about France's two hour lunchtimes. Once I came to understand them, I loved them. Once I realised that the only place open in French villages between 12 and about 2.30 was a restaurant, I no longer hated the 'morgue like' feel of the village at that time, and I learned to relish the practice. If you missed lunchtime, you remained hungry: I learned to time my cycling to coincide with lunchtimes!

From the article:

"The village she meant seemed dead, its one road silent and eerily empty.

All that was missing at this French high noon was the tumbleweed.

But opposite the Romanesque church - whose bell tolled an ominous half past one - a lone restaurant was indeed open - and absolutely packed.

This was where everyone had gathered from miles around. Farmers in grass-stained overalls clinked hearty glasses of red wine, discussing the calving season as they tucked into bleeding steaks, while a stone-mason earnestly discussed politics with a carpenter, gesticulating dangerously with his fork.

The fear is that banishing what is bad could endanger what everyone likes most - the sense that people in France still matter more than money, and that a good lunch is worth making time for
The restaurant's rather rotund golden labrador bounded up eagerly as we arrived, wagging his tail.

Hot on his heels came the equally round chef, to welcome us almost as warmly and advise on what to eat.

I felt as though we had walked into a family party, as others turned to greet us with a bonjour and a smile.

On offer was a three course meal for just 12 euros (£8) each, clearly created for a clientele with plenty of time for lunch.

Anxiously, we asked the waitress how long the meal would take. She gave a not unfriendly Gallic shrug. "As long as it takes." But that was not very long at all.

With remarkable efficiency, we tucked into pate on crusty warm bread, home-made chicken stew, and a fresh berry and cream pudding - and were out of the door a mere hour later. Everyone else was still there as we left, looking faintly puzzled at our unseemly rush."

The other wonderful thing about French restaurants was that the service was so good. Sometimes on my bike especially, I felt incredibly welcome, and well cared for. Some days I would emerge from a village restaurant, and feel like I had been treated like a princess.


  1. That sounds SO nice.
    I hate the hurried, fast-paced lunches.
    P.S. I took the liberty of e-mailing the CD company. CD is $15, worldwide shipping, even to NZ, is only $9.50.
    Bargain city, girl!
    That's only $5 more than I paid for local shipping...

  2. Yeah.... but unless I am actually using my Visa online (for which I get charged about 2.5% conversion charge)it costs a small fortune to get a bank draft or other alternative. And our dollar is worth quite a lot less than yours... though not as much less as it used to be....

  3. I remember some lovely lunches like this in the French countryside, with the resident cat lounging on the windowsill beside us, soaking up the early afternoon sun!

  4. I didn't know about conversion charges. That's ridiculous.
    Lousy Visa.

  5. Hi,
    I wandered over from Simon's and started reading about your adventures. Had to smile when you wrote about the French lunch ritual, not so different from the Viennese one, only that the Viennese move from a leisurely lunch on to the coffeehouse. I know, they do work too, but haven't quite figured out when. ,-)
    Greetings from Vienna,

  6. merisi.... that is quite remarkable! At first the 'morgue' like feel of French small towns and villages at lunchtime was quite a shock...until I worked out that I had to find out where the restaurants were. But to have to find the coffee shop as well...!!!!!!