Thursday, June 08, 2006

from Pierrerue: drifting

You would think that I am supernaturally drawn to people who worry about food for a living. I seem to cross paths with them a lot, sometimes quite unintentionally.

Take, for instance, my (absent) landlord at Pierrerue. Would you have guessed that she, along with her Kenyan husband, runs one of the more successful restaurants down here, along the Canal du Midi? Indeed.

I stayed clear of the place the first week. I admit, I could not get myself excited about a place run by a pair of expats, basically from Britain. We all have our biases and mine run deep about the eating culture across the Channel.

But my neighbors here, at Pierrerue egged me on to try it. Phrases like “you have to” “it’s really wonderful” “it’s tiny, so book way in advance” kept coming up in idle conversation about the weather and so I finally broke down.

Booking a table for the evening around here means you show up well after eight or you are going to look like the biggest fool on the planet and you most certainly will be eating alone. Still, I was ready for a break at three in the afternoon and so I headed toward the Canal then, thinking I’d kill time biking around a bit.

The Office of Tourism at Capestang, the Canal-side town closest to Pourquoi Pas (the restaurant of my landlady), opened its doors again in the late afternoon, after a multi-hour lunch break. Perfect. I show up close to four and rent a bike.

You can return it tonight, by six – we close at six – or keep it until tomorrow.
I’ll be back in two hours. I cannot take the bike back to Pierrerue with me.

The path along the Canal is lovely. It strikes me as fun to follow it and get as far as the restaurant I am about to dine in. Can’t be too distant.

After an hour, I reflect on my progress. I’ve bounced around rocky and rooted terrain and still, I see nothing. But it could be just around the bend. ...lying 'round the bend, my Huckleberry friend... Let me keep going. I'll hustle like the winds on the return trip. Worst case scenario, I miss the return time, leave the bike at the restaurant and return it tomorrow.

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bucolic, fragrant, but slow going

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encountered: 2 women, 1 French poodle

Finally. I see it. I climb up on the bridge along with my Mr.B substitute and study it. There used to be stables here a long time ago, along this lonely stretch of the Canal. Now food is served to weary travelers like me.

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Mercifully there is a country road that winds back to Capestang so that I can put a little zip into the return trip to town and make it to the Office of Tourism just seconds before closing.

Madame is back!
What’s the big deal? A welcome that is disproportionate to the event. Did she think I’d fall into the Canal?
Madame walked away with the keys to my car! I would not be able to get home tonight if Madame did not return.

The Pourquois Pas is indeed lovely, inside and out. Choose between a meat dish or a fish, but the rest is up to the chef. I am given an asparagus mousse and a guinea fowl, followed by cheeses and a flourless chocolate cake.

I talk to Kirsty throughout the evening and it is evident to me that the Purquois Pas will not be around forever. Steve, her husband, is a drifter, like I am. Raised in one culture, transported to another, finding a home in a third. …two drifters, off to see the world… She worked the barges for tourists … barges, I would like to go with you, I would like to sail the ocean blue… he trained as a chef. They met here, but are not ready to call this their final adventure.

There are people like that – who are always considering other possibilities, always rearranging their lives because something comes up that is worth stepping out of one’s routines for. There are people like that, I just don’t know too many.

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night drive back