Thursday, April 9, 2009

La Belle France

Nancy and I went to Mont St. Michel in 1987. It was our introduction to one of the real beauties of La Belle France. It is a tad touristy, which is to be expected in this day and age. We walked all over the little island. We went back in the evening after dinner on the mainland and climbed to the highest point we could to watch the sun go down. We took a bottle of wine to help us appreciate the sight, and I had a calvados or two in a bar before we rode our bikes back to the mainland. I remember I could hardly stay on my bike. I learned just how powerful calvados is.
These other two photos remind me of what I like about France. Around almost every turn is some gorgeous sight or an architectural oddity. I have no idea where this church is or why it was built. Maybe someone knows.

And, without a doubt, around every corner is a bar with tables and chairs out on the sidewalk. Generally, someone would be sitting there with a coffee or a glass of wine. I don't know how this works. I assume the bar owner doesn't own the sidewalk, and often the traffic patterns are altered by the tables and chairs. But no one bats an eye at the arrangement. Does the bar owner pay the city for the right to put his tables and chairs there? Or is the arrangement grandfathered in? (Marek, Shirley, do you know? ) In any case, it is one of the little differences that make France so interesting. Can you imagine a bar like this in the States, other than in New Orleans maybe? In most of the rest of the U.S., there would be no door standing open and tables and chairs on the city owned sidewalk. And if there were dining on the sidewalk, there would have to be a railing around the area to restrict non-drinkers, and there probably wouldn't be any alchohol on the sidewalk anyway. We're kind of uptight about those things. Meanwhile, on the other side of town, illicit drugs are being sold on the street corner.

And what a beautiful photo. Green umbrellas and the contrasting red of the wall, lights on in the bar, the very colorful tables and chairs. And the menu on a chalkboard. Very inviting, n'est pas? (Remember kids, click on em' to enlarge em'.)


Anonymous said...

Doug; In late summer of 1984 or 85 Ron & I led a tour of Iowa architects to France. We had a coach of about 20 architects and their wives and an old friend of Ron's from his exchange days at Oxford. Mr. Cave was a great historian. I felt like he knew everything! He often would lecture on the bus as we were approaching the town, cathedral, whatever. I can still see him today telling us that Mont St Michelle looked " a bit like licked candy"...old and kinda dripping down! Judy

Harley said...

Come to Annapolis! We have side walk cafes and you often see dogs sitting under the tables waiting for the tasty tidbits that "accidentally" fall from their masters' hands.

Marek and Shirley Woznica said...

Salut Doug et Nancy
Comment allez vous?
On the subject of sidewalk cafés I can tell you our own experience is that our "Terasse" is provided by the Mairie at no cost to us. In fact they also supply the plant pots AND the plants which mark its limits and, more importantly, prevent cars parking on it!
I know also that the café in Alaigne (Aude 11)similarly has its terasse provided by their Maire.
I don't know how common this practice is but suspect it is not unusual; Maires and their staff are very keen to help local businesses and contrary to popular myth do not need to consult Paris for every decision!
P.S. your friends Mike and Cassie came in last night with their daughter. Lovely people!

Anonymous said...

The picture of Mont St. Michel looks so "surreal"...almost a dreamscape. It's totally lovely!

We sit outdoors in front of restaurants all over the Charleston area. If you don't have a problem with the pine pollen, etc. you can have a very enjoyable time!

Happy Easter! Luke