More Odds & Ends from France

ANSOUIS, France — We’ve settled in the Provence countryside in a B&B, Un Patio en Luberon, set in a house dating back to the 1600s. It’s hot outside, but the thick walls and a fan help.  Only today we had one small setback, nonetheless. This village is home to our favorite restaurant in France, La Closerie, a place the writer Peter Mayle himself recommended to us. That’s why we sought out a B&B here.

Alas, in France restaurants open and close all sorts of odd times, we’re learning. La Closerie, it turns out is closed Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday. And we are in Ansouis on Wednesday and Thursday only. Pity.  But then we forgot the first lesson of all travel: Always check to see whether something will be open. Assuming so is a bad idea.


In every sizable square in any self-respecting French town or village, tables and chairs from cafes, restaurants and bars sprawl onto the cobblestones and patios, inviting passersby to sit for a drink, an ice cream, a meal.  Just whose space you are sitting in often takes a bit of detective work. Each competing cafe carves its boundaries with a unique set of tables or chairs. So after reading the menus, also posted in public spaces, it’s important to match menu to seats and tables or that plat du jour of canard (duck) you’ve pined for may turn out to be lasagna instead.


The French joie de vivre is no myth.  Parents take their children and dogs with them just about everywhere (we saw one couple enter the Sarlat Cathedral with their dog in tow).  This was no more evident than on the Bastille Day weekend in Sarlat, where street performers entertained hordes of happy children and hordes of dogs entertained each other in street corner sniff-offs or “slept” strategically beneath the dinner tables at all the cafes.


In Provence in mid-July, the art of poking around collides, it seems, with the reality of the touring crowds. The Luberon mountains are so booked this coming weekend that almost every hotel was sold out by tonight (Wednesday). As much as we love Provence, we’ve decided to stay just two nights and head Friday to a hiking region called the Chartreuse mountains above Grenoble, where the weather will be cooler, the crowds thinner and the chef, at Les Skieurs, where we stayed two years ago, most definitely on duty, cooking up some excellent meals. (I checked; the restaurant is closed Sundays

About jerrylanson

I teach, write, coach and sing, though you're not required to listen to the latter. I'm a journalism professor at Emerson College in Boston. My third book, "Writing for Others, Writing for Ourselves," was published in November by Rowman & Littlefield Publishing. You can read a sample chapter at My passions are politics (generally liberal in outlook), music, mountains, golden retrievers and my grandchildren, though not in that order. Please stop by and mix it up with me. I always answer those who post.
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