When not touring around the local area or taking field trips to Bordeaux, my time in Southwestern France was spent mostly in Monflanquin, a small town in the Lot et Garonne region (#47 to be exact). This is where my friend Vince has a house that I stayed in for the first half of my trip. One evening we picnicked at a table perched on the edge of the hill the town sits on - so much so that there is a bench only one side of the table. The view was incredible and the food simple but perfect. (Now that I think about it, this was a recurring theme in France.)
On other evenings, we went exploring on the trails spiraling down the hill and around the town...
And we ate in the local restaurants. There are three almost literally within a stones throw of the house. One is directly next door, with a terrace you can see from the kitchen window (we call it "the bar") as in "I'm going down to the bar for a coffee." The thing to do here is order the "menu" - a set meal of two courses with a "verre de vin" (glass of wine) and coffee for 12 Euros.
This Lebanese restaurant run by a lovely couple is just across the street from Vince's house. It is brand new and when we told them it was Vince's birthday they pulled out all the stops. Eventually we had to tell them to stop bringing us food. (The fact that it was just across the street was also very handy when I started nodding off after the digestif.)
They had the cutest little dog. Just one more reason to love France - they treat their dogs like people. Now that I think about it, the dogs act like people too.
We had a post dinner love-fest with him in the lounging area of the restaurant - where you take your aperitif, and your digestif or apre dinner coffee. This would never happen in the U.S. (Either the lounging area or the dog.)
One morning we went to the nearby town of Villeneuve sur Lot - about twenty minutes away. This is the place for your big box stores, the hospital, police station... All of those things you need but don't necessarily want to look at. They have a big market on Saturday mornings, making it a good day for an excursion.
A large indoor market building houses the prepared foods, charcuterie, meats, seafood and poultry - including hot rotisserie chickens.
We went to a cafe for coffee, and they didn't have pastries but the server pointed Vince in the direction of a nearby bakery called B. Letainturier. Specifically, I think she said, "There is one there, but the good one is over THERE." The pastries Vince brought back were so good I had to find the bakery and check it out. They had gorgeous desserts and chocolates. (I got a box for the friend I was staying with in Paris.) I didn't get any good photos of the place itself, but I did manage a nice shot of these little "cochons" in the case.
We also snagged a piece of this "crostade" which though simple was fantastic. I was really impressed with this place.
On Sunday, my last morning in Monflanquin before catching the train to Paris, we went to the "Vide Grenier" - a local sale sort of like a flea market - but with individual families selling their wares. It's basically like a massive garage sale, and the prices vary wildly. I was limited in what I could buy because I could only carry so much home (and I still wound up having to mail a box!) but it was really hard to resist some of this stuff.
I wound up picking up a few things: a set of stainless steel footed gelato dishes like these that I had been looking for so long I couldn't believe my luck (3 euros!), a couple of Ricard aperitif glasses, a tablecloth, some vintage postcards, a vintage toy accordion, a beautifully illustrated vintage copy of "Puss in Boots" in French. I think I walked around the whole time saying "I wish I'd brought an extra suitcase." That would have just been a problem though, since Air France coach only allows one 25 kilo piece of checked baggage per person and I was over as it was.
From the "vide" we went straight to the train station at Agen, where I boarded the TGV for the half day journey to Paris Gare Montparnasse - more on that coming soon!