Sunday Pascale and Jacky picked us up and took us to see le Marais Poitevin, which is classified as un grand site de France.
But before we got in a barque we had a bit of time to wander around the town:
And then had a traditional grand dejeuner here:
We ordered way too much food. The set menu included entrée, plat, fromage (optional extra), and dessert. First course for me, fois gras:
Then le plat or main course, where I misunderstood the menu and managed to order veal kidneys for both David and me. Jacky asked if I understood what I was ordering, but I assured him yes. David was, of course, at my mercy, since it was all written and discussed in French. Jacky also chose this, so here’s what three of us ate:
Pascale had an assortment of things, including eel, which we tasted and actually liked. Definitely a new experience. Then, the cheese course. I wasn’t able to finish any course but the first, not even the two small slices of chevre, and explained to the waiter, “J’avais les yeux plus gros que le ventre.” This is a well-known French expression just like the English expression, “My eyes were bigger than my stomach.” But because it was part of the set menu, here came dessert after the cheese course. When the waiter set mine down, he said quietly to me, “Désolé.” (“Sorry.”) Too cute. Here’s dessert for me:
Fortunately, the top part of an Ile Flottante is a very light meringue, mostly air, and the creamy custard part was fabulous. Still, I could only manage to eat a few bites. After this feast, Pascale and Jacky rented une barque, like one of these, for une petite balade in the marais.
Marais can be translated “bog, marsh, swamp,” none of which seem to evoke how beautiful and tranquil it all was. Pascale and Jacky were smart enough to rent the boat WITH the guy on the back, le pilote, to do all the paddling.
At one point we caught up to a barque sans pilote, stuck sideways, blocking the entire canal, and the guys paddling managed to get it unstuck only to get stuck again, which was–let’s be honest–hilarious. Other than that, though, it was remarkably serene considering how mobbed the town was.
We glided along, completely relaxed, taking pictures and settling into the peace of the place. I kept feeling the urge to recite from The Wind in the Willows, especially after catching a quick glimpse of Ratty (or one of his French cousins) right before he dived under the bow.
“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” *
I agree, especially if you can do it on a perfect Sunday afternoon with delightful friends.
*Rat to Mole in The Wind and the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. See the quotes page for newly added quotes from Kenneth Grahame.