Wilson Bridge, France

France Day 2

July 13, 2022

“Before Sunrise: The reality show”

french tomato
Attack of the succulent French tomato

   The theme behind this trip was that we’d find a small city or town in France, and then go there to live like the locals for two weeks or so. That meant an apartment instead of a hotel, and shopping for meals to cook at home, joining café society and, generally, leaving sightseeing to the tourists. We are locals right up to the point when we’re ready to order something, and the waiter, waitress or retail clerk immediately switches to English the moment we try to speak French. Actually, we think it’s the clothes rather than the mangling of the language. After all, how does an inability to speak French tag us as Americans? Aren’t there Germans,  Italians and Spanish who don’t speak French? There’s got to be more to it, and my lingering shame in being from the country elected Trump weighs heavily in my Ugly American guilt.

bar on the Loire
Be it ever so humble: a bar along the Loire

   Carol and I started our first day as locals stumbling onto a fresh produce market right around the corner from our apartment. We managed to get some fresh mozzarella, parmesan and pasta before the market closed. The best find was some of the reddest, ripest tomatoes this side of last summer. According to Rick Steves, you’re supposed to point to the tomatoes you want and not touch them yourself. We watch a lot of Rick Steves, but missed the memo on this cultural refinement. As I reached for the scarlet beauty I wanted, I leaned into a tray of heirlooms, and sent them tumbling to the ground, adding a decidedly American touch to the phrase “don’t bruise the fruit.” I would have learned some indigenous new curse words, but the vegetable man was only whispering them.

I would have learned some indigenous new curse words, but the vegetable man was only whispering them.

Loire happy hour
Our first Happy Hour: along the Loire

   We enjoyed our first lunch of ham/turkey and swiss at home, followed by a sweet nap. Living life with the locals also means living out our normal day as if back at home.

   In the afternoon, we strolled the banks of the Loire River that splits Tours in half, and then found a riverside café at the foot of the Wilson Bridge for Happy Hour. We passed a young couple sitting on a bench. The French girl was speaking English to the American boy and the conversation seemed very much like a brain dump between two people getting to know each other. My mind flashed to the Jack Linklater trilogy that begins with an American boy and a French girl meeting on a train to Vienna. The movie was called Before Sunrise.

Place Le Plumereau
Place Le Plumereau: the beating heart of Tours

   After a mixed charcuterie in the main dining and drinking square of Le Plumereau (the meats were too strongly textured for our tastes) we returned home for what I thought was the evening. It was Carol who surprisingly said she was up for a Bailey’s for a nightcap. A place called Duke’s was, again, right around the corner, and we plopped ourselves there for an hour. Soon a young couple arrived and sat at a table near enough that we knew they were the same Franco-American couple we’d come across at the river that afternoon. It was the same conversational tone as at the river with the French girl still doing most of the talking. If the American dude was hoping the evening would end like the movie, he wasn’t even at Act II yet, as far as we could tell.

Nightcap at Duke’s

   We left them to their own script problems, and went back to the apartment and watched how it was really done so well by Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke.

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