~And on to Toulouse
I am stopped at a cafe with an awning that says Concorde, but looks as if it has been there since the turn of the century. This is a residential street interspersed with shops. I stopped because the cafe wicker chairs snuggled to tables in the sun but out of the wind looked inviting and the terrace clientele tranquil. Besides, I am hungry and thirsty. The sign printed in black cursive paint on the window next to the open door tells me I have stopped at Le Bottin. The green painted entry is flanked by tall blackboards, one announcing a choice of salads, and one of sandwich, about 10 of each. Across the street the printing store and cosmetiques naturels are fermé. It is between the French sacred lunch hour of 12-2 pm when everything that you might want to do or accomplish is closed: banks, real estate agents, business offices and most of the stores. You may as well stop and have lunch yourself.
The lovely day is jostled by the gusting winds that have been our companion for the past three days. I watch as a car stops in front of an ornate double gate across the street that leads into a lovely courtyard, backed by a nice looking town home. The gate opens automatically and a chic older lady gets out of the car and wrestles both gates closed, one by one, accompanied by large scraping noises. I wonder if she does this every time she comes in and out as the gates seem too much for her.
I watch a woman walk towards me along the sidewalk …her very short short grey tiered skirt jaunty with her purposeful stride. Her grey sweater chicly matches in color, but as she passes me, I see the face of an older woman and the shoulder stoop of collapsing bone. Her stick thin bare legs look more pronounced in their incongruous men’s short boots and her look is of determined existence, a stark contrast to what her clothing is saying.
I order a salad nicoise, which in my school days included fresh fat anchovies, hunks of fresh tuna, and egg. My salad arrives quickly…fresh garden lettuce with canned tuna, a fresh tomato, canned corn and an egg on top. It is refreshing and simple but I struggle to keep my hair out of my mouth with every bite, as the wind is a determined tease.
After a lunch of soft people watching, I continue to follow the street signs towards the canal, hoping to see some of the barges. Instead of barges, I find an impromptu vegetable market. One fish cart is obvious as I come close and the vegetables look healthy but the pears I buy have stickers on them just as in the United States. My pear salesman swirls his longish greasy black hair out of his eyes and tries shyly to talk with me. I cannot quite understand his accent, nor he mine, but he wishes me a pleasant day as I collect my change. ~