I made my selection from the box labelled ‘tomate ancienne 5,90 le kg.’ Three only, but chosen with care and weighing in heavily at just over a kilo. Plus une aubergine. « Merci beaucoup. Bonne journée. » I turned to go. « Attendez. » And a huge handful of sweet smelling basil was plucked from a basket behind the market stall and tucked in beside my tomatoes.
It was early but I had already swum in the lake. The water was languorous with the Chateau de Duingt and a brightly coloured hot air balloon visible through the low-lying cloud as I trawled in one direction with the grassy plains of the mountains from our side of the lake soaring up from my water bubble as I turned.
We had a few jobs to do in Albertville, 40 km away – but, whoops. How could we have forgotten that French particularity? Mince alors, the shops were closing for a two-hour pause. But we, too, had a trick up our sleeves. It would be no hardship to abandon shopping for Coaxial cables at the hardware store in favour of lunch on the terrace of a little out-of-the-way chalet restaurant that we had spied from our backroads mountain passage on the way there.
I had to work a little harder than usual on arrival, as the role of the lady standing on the terrace of the restaurant vaguely near an opening that could have been an entrance was not clear.
Me: Bonjour, Madame.
Lady waiting: Bonjour, Madame.
OK. Where to now? That didn’t help me work out who she was and if I should be asking her what I was about to ask her.
Me: A table for two, please.
Lady waiting: You haven’t booked? (Yes, let’s put a negative into the sentence wherever possible…very French)
Me: No. I wasn’t sure if you were the owner or a guest … (my voice trailed off)
Lady waiting: I addressed you with a « bonjour » didn’t I?
Ouh là (expression of my surprise – thought, but not uttered)
Lady waiting: En terrasse?
Me: Yes, thank you, that would be lovely.
And, we followed her to a partly shaded table with views up and down the mountain range, Savoyard flags fluttering, the chatter of French voices and the spectre of cheeses roaming amongst the diners. Some could say – and I did – to the best spot.
A beautifully tattooed, smiling lady approached with menus.
« Here are your menus. Oh. Pardon. Firstly, Bonjour Madame, Monsieur. » (Ah yes, let us not forget that nothing but nothing should precede that most important of salutations.)
« My husband will have les pieds de cochon (3 half pig’s trotters 😨) and I will have the very non-adventurous croûte au fromage.
« Excuse me for disturbing you, but would you mind if I took a photo of your raclette machine? I asked the oh-so-French and oh-so-gorgeous couple sitting along from us.
« Not at all. Come this side so you can get the food into the shot, » the monsieur answered with a wide smile through his carefully trimmed beard.
Delightful. All of it.
And home, to close the shutters against the heat of the day and indulge in an afternoon siesta.
Links below to my books. They should take you to where you need to go, wherever you are in the world, to make a purchase.