After a long and pleasant period of warm, sunny days, today is wet and cool. The forecast is for temperatures to drop sharply, accompanied by rain, hail and a possible storm. The garden will welcome this change, as despite all the rain earlier in the year, the ground is already hard and dry.
We took full advantage of the good weather yesterday, following a hospital appointment. TOH is having a minor eye operation at the beginning of April in the lovely town of Montmorillon, a fair drive from home. We had an early meeting with the anaesthetist to go through a health check and complete a mountain of forms. The hospital is modern, shiny and sparkling, the staff friendly and helpful, and by the time we were finished there at 10.30 the temperature was already in the mid-20s. It was too good an opportunity to miss, and as it was TOH’s birthday we decided to treat ourselves and play tourists for the day.
One of Montmorillon’s claims to fame is its macarons. Unlike the flat, colourful discs commonly seen in the windows of patisseries, Montmorillionais macarons in appearance are more substantial and rustic, similar to the coconut macaroons found in English bakers. Rannou Métivier has been producing these luscious temptations in Montmorillon since 1920
As we were going to lunch later, we avoided the lure of the macarons, and wandered over the bridge across the river Gartempe, up to the mediaeval part of town that is home to the Cité de l’Ecrit – the City of Writing. There are many shops, galleries and exhibitions to see in this part of town, but we wanted to get the most from the sunshine. During the summer Montmorillon teems with visitors, but on this spring day there were very few people around.
Following a narrow path up the hill, past quaint little Dickensian shops , we installed ourselves at a table outside a small bar/café. Out came the patronne, not to take our order, but to ask if Tally would like a bowl of water, which he accepted graciously before tipping it all over my bag. 🙂
Our coffees arrived a few minutes later, and after a few hectic and tiring weeks it was delicious to just sit in the sun, listening to the lively conversation of a group of hippy-like French neighbours discussing, of course, food. Their conversation was primarily about sweet versus savoury, their favourite couscous recipes, and whether too much salt really was bad for health. From the nearby top-floor window of an ancient house an African Grey parrot sang and whistled, and occasionally shouted out. Across the road a coachload of little people arrived at nursery school, tiny cartoon-like characters, who ran and shrieked and chased each other around the playground.
After a lazy hour, I went to pay for our coffees, and on impulse bought a scratch card for TOH as a small birthday present. Imagine our surprise when he won not one prize, but two! Although the winnings only totalled €8, it paid for the coffees and the card, and left us €2 in profit.
Back down the narrow streets we meandered to a restaurant we particularly like, Le Roman des Saveurs overlooking the river Gartempe.
On our way we passed a composed grey and white cat, wearing a blue collar with a little bell, and soaking up the sun. Tally went over to investigate, and the cat walked up to him and bumped noses. While the two exchanged courtesies, a young woman walking past stopped in amazement.
“But I have never seen anything like it,” she said. “Look how gentle your dog is with that cat! That’s so unusual.” She walked on, shaking her head and laughing at the dog who kissed the cat.
In the restaurant, at our table overlooking the river, once again Tally took priority over us, as the waitress brought a bowl of water for him before taking our order. One of the pleasures of eating out in France is that dogs are generally welcome in restaurants. Tally settles down while we eat, and is no trouble at all. As usual the food was excellent, the service professional and friendly and the view beautiful and very French. TOH started with a small casserole of langoustines in a creamy sauce, while I had a parcel of goat’s cheese and chives wrapped in smoked salmon, garnished with a well-dressed salad. We each ordered the cod (also in a delicate creamy sauce), and a glass of the excellent Haut Poitou Sauvignon blanc. Coffee came two large chocolate truffles. The bill was €35, excellent value for a quality meal for two.
By the time we came out of the restaurant, the temperature had hit 28º C – 82ºF. A pair of pigeons were canoodling in a small alcove in the wall. On the bank of the river a group of kids sprawled in the sun, tossing food to the mallards.
What a blissful day. 🙂