It’s hard to get a decent baguette outside of France. Hard is the key word here. Baguettes are designed to be eaten fresh. A day old baguette can be used to play baseball. The flavor is still there, but the crunch goes all the way through. You need quality breadcrumbs? The baguette you didn’t finish yesterday will give you all you need. American style baguettes have the right shape and more staying power. They just don’t have the right texture or flavor. Buying a fresh baguette every morning is absolutely deliciously necessary.
A day old croissant on the other hand is still edible. It isn’t as good. It’s drier and denser, but you won’t break a molar on it. Dunked in coffee, or eaten with liberal doses of jam and then dunked, it makes a passable breakfast. Only to be eaten on Mondays when bakeries are closed though.
At 12:30 the restaurants in Sancerre started serving. We were seated and the long wait began. Tables around us received water and baskets of bread. We waited. Tables had their orders taken and delivered. We waited. Trying to make eye contact was impossible. The head waitress scooted by with her nose in the air. The other waitresses followed suit. Eventually I snagged a young waitress. It turned out to be her first day on the job. After consulting with the head waitress the newbie brought our water and took our orders.
When the bread and food arrived the head waitress set them down without looking at us The storied French service had finally arrived. I watched as it was duplicated for the two African women seated in front of us.
This legendary French service is almost a relic of the past. The tourist industry collected poll data and determined France was losing out on tourist dollars. Rude French service was the number one cause. The basic restaurant survival code was being ignored. “People come for the food, but return for the hospitality.” In this case too many people were checking France off of their list. The French tourist industry worked hard to provide world class customer service training. Friendly welcoming service is what we had found. The Sancerre lunch stood out as a rarity.
We loaded up on fine local wines at a wine shop. They were far better than the samplings we’d had at home. A wine maker told us when French wines are exported additional sulfites are added. Swirl the wine around in the glass. Slurp it while sucking in air. Stick your nose in the glass and give it a lusty sniff. Truthfully, I can’t pinpoint why French wines are better in France. They just are!
We then made our way to the scenic overlook. It revealed a panoramic view of the Loire Valley. We met a couple from Chicago and exchanged travel stories. His dreams held boat adventures. His wife’s did not. I shared that our canal trip was the perfect compromise. I was in a boat. It didn’t heel. I couldn’t crash it through waves at full throttle. In fact on a canal boat full throttle is a stately 6 to 8 knots. He wasn’t sold on the idea that his wife could be sold. We took their picture. They took ours. Then we went our separate ways.
In the heat of the day we took the direct route from Sancerre to Manetreol. Just as the shoulders and walking paths disappeared the couple from Chicago arrived. They gave us a ride down the hill. It wasn’t the scenic route. It was the direct route. It was the one time we were glad to see a car.