It was almost a ghost town. In France shops tend to be closed on Mondays. The banks, the butcher, the beauty shop, the Post Office, the bakery, the pizza place, and all the restaurants…closed. Flurries of traffic sped through the narrow streets of Lere and were gone.
Then there were the mystery stop lights that stopped cars 100 meters from the corner. They stopped them again at the intersection. Everyone dutifully stopped at both. I don’t know why.
There is no such thing as taking the scenic route in Lere. It’s all scenic. There is nothing but stone houses and well maintained gardens. No one is home though. Lere is a suburban bedroom community. Its rural heritage evident in the scattering of rustic barns and crowing roosters.
A menu was posted outside of the town’s notable restaurant. La Gaiete Lerienne’s menu was reasonable and impressive. In France they still cook with butter, but everything is closed on Monday. I let the menu slip my mind.
The schools were loudly open. Kids were going home for lunch. I remember doing that in the 50’s. During our afternoon walk we heard kids again. As we walked by the school we saw mixed age and gender groupings chattering and joking around. Not a bright orange vest, or an adult in sight.
At the end of a dusty main arterial there was a mini-mart that appeared to be, if not promising, open. We made our way past closed sidewalks and road construction to a sad little storefront. There was a wall of magazines, and a wall of tobacco products. There were a couple of shelves reserved for hard liquor, a row of wine, and a half wall dedicated to canned goods. There were pre-made salads and sandwiches in a small refrigerated case. A tray of baguettes and croissants sat next to the cash register. Tired collections of fruits and vegetables were displayed in boxes on the floor and out on the sidewalk. We bought a petite baguette, two croissants, a mini watermelon, some sausage, and some pre-packaged tabouli that came with a lime green fork. The fork came in two pieces. We bought Dijon mustard too.
This would be the stuff of our lunch and dinner. The sausage, tomato, goat cheese, green olive, and mustard sandwich on a baguette was tasty. The baguette was good! For dinner we added cucumber, tomato, a few olives, the last of the cheese, and a glug of olive oil to the tabouli. It was passable when served with a bottle of red wine. We ate the croissants for dessert. They were the best croissants we’d had so far. Good enough to have us walking into town on Tuesday morning for breakfast at the local bakery.
I walked into town early on Tuesday. Surely a rural baker would be up at the crack of dawn baking. 6:30 AM came and went. There wasn’t a stick of bread in the place. It looked as closed as it did on Monday. It looked closed enough to be shuttered forever. I took another walk through town trying to capture the morning light.
7 AM came and went. Still no bakers. I walked down to the mini-mart. It was closed too. I took another circuit through town. At 7:30 a white delivery van sped past and parked on the sidewalk. A sleepy eyed driver and two women got out. They started hauling in bread and pastries. I bought a baguette out of a box. Out of another box I bought two plain and two chocolate croissants.
Back on the boat we ate the chocolate croissants and had coffee. On Monday Lere is closed. On Tuesday it sleeps in.