Wednesday is market day in my neighborhood.
It’s after 11:00am. I run a few errands navigating through the crowd on le Carreau des Halles (the outdoor market). I pick up local apples and Batavia lettuce from the maraîcher.
Inside les Halles, the covered food market, I stop by the stall of a charcutier-traiteur and order a favorite salad (taboulé aux agrumes,) two slices of pork roast, a small serving of brandade de morue and a leek quiche.
“Merci d’avoir cuisiné pour moi!,” I shout out as I step away. “Avec plaisir!” he says with a wink. He knows I don’t like to cook. I started buying that delicious salad when I didn’t live in town yet and visited on day trips from Paris between lockdowns to house-hunt.
I just stepped outside les Halles when I hear my name: “Coucou, Véro!”
I turn around. M.C. a local friend is standing behind me, next to her “caddie” (grocery cart.) She is older than me and much shorter too. In the US most friends of mine looked like amazon women. Times change. Now, I occasionally get to feel like one too.
We start chatting (even if we are scheduled to have dinner together later this week).
After a few minutes, she asks: “Un p’tit café?”
Sure, why not? I don’t need to rush back home. I’ll be back at my keyboard soon enough.
We pick a local café near les Halles.
A popular place for locals. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a tourist there.
Patrons stand at the counter, enjoying a glass of wine. L’apéro is not just for dinner after all. A couple are playing a popular game, “Amigo.” Their eyes constantly move from the TV screen where winning numbers are announced, back to the card where their bets are listed.
M.C. and I catch up as we sip coffee (“une noisette” for me).
Ten minutes later the door next to me opens and a tall guy comes in. He orders: “Patron, une Magali!”
A generous glass of chilled rosé magically appears on the counter.
He turns around. We realize this is Y., one of our hiking friends.
“Une Magali?,” I inquire. Y. is more than happy to enlighten me. Domaine Figuière, located between Toulon and Saint Tropez. Excellent AOC wines, not always easy to find.
M.C. looks at me. Should we…?
Of course, we should. “Patron, deux Magali s’il vous plaît!” Two more.
After the first sip, I decide I really like this nice southern gal named Magali.
We toast. We chat with Y. for a while, ignoring a merry group of men (including a butcher) and their friendly banter at the counter.
Then Y. leaves after gallantly picking up the tab. “C’est pour moi!”
M.C. looks at me again. Are you hungry? Should we…?
Of course we should. This place is a little more than just a café. L’ardoise”(the day’s specials) is enticing and the food, the owner claims, fait maison.
Besides, after meeting sunny “Magali” we are both interested in spending more time in the Mediterranean.
The Marmite Espagnole (Spanish kettle) beckons: Roasted guinea fowl, chorizo, red peppers, steamed potatoes, green peas. How bad can it be?
As it turns out, it’s delicious!
No more rosé. We’ve decided to be good. The day is not over yet, and it is a work day for one of us at least.
“L’addition, s’il vous plaît.”
Meanwhile, the rowdy group at the bar is incensed: le Patron has just turned on the news on the giant screen TV. The French president is about to speak. “Arrête-moi ça. Tu vas nous couper l’appétit!” (“Turn it off. You’ll ruin our appetite!”) Le Patron complies. He winks at his partner. He was just teasing. It worked.
Fact: Not everyone is as popular as Mademoiselle Magali in Tours, Loire Valley, right now.
C’est la vie.
My French life.
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