Heureux hasard. Serendipity.

This morning, I had breakfast at my hotel in Toulouse before heading to the train station, ready to tackle the long trip back to the Loire Valley. “Chocolatine ou croissant, Madame?,” the hotel staff member inquired.

I went with “chocolatine.” Who knows when I will get asked that question again up there, in “le Nord,” right? 😉

A few minutes later, a text message from the SNCF (French railroad company) came in. My first train, an Intercité from Toulouse to Bordeaux, had just been cancelled. The cause? “Indisponibilité d’un matériel.” Hmmm… What were they missing? One of the wheels? The train engine? An entire row of seats? It didn’t matter. I had to find a back-up plan – fast – if I wanted to make my connection to Tours in Bordeaux by 1:00pm.

A TGV to Paris was scheduled before 9:00am but it was sold out. The French, this weekend, are traveling home “en masse” (with bags, kids, cats and even a few rabbits,) after the two-week “Toussaint” vacation.

I did get on the train and managed to find an empty seat after each of the two stops before Bordeaux as more travelers got on.

Outside the window, the French countryside was ever changing and spectacular.

The train arrived in Bordeaux before noon, a perfect opportunity to enjoy lunch in town. Leaving crowds behind, I stepped out in the sun.

Serendipity kicked in.

The outside of Le Cafe du Levant Bordeaux, France

I could have picked any of the nondescript eateries facing Bordeaux Saint-Jean, but I didn’t. A spectacular façade caught my attention, le Café du Levant.

As soon as I stepped in, I knew this was my lucky day. For the cost of an Intercité train ticket, I had just enjoyed the comfort of a TGV and traveled back… to the Belle Epoque.

Zinc bar with croissants in Le Levant

The place was still empty, food (and service) better than expected.

“La cerise sur le gâteau” (the icing on the cake:) A chance to visit a beautifully restored restaurant open since 1896.

Had I traveled with my scheduled train, I would have never found the Café du Levant. It would have been my loss.

3:00pm. Almost in Tours. One more (short) train ride, and I will be walking home in the sun under ancient “platanes” (plane trees) along Boulevard Béranger.

Véronique - France with Véro
Véronique of France with Véro

Véronique of France with Véro

Vero shares her homeland weekly on social media with virtual tours, photo essays, live events and other publications at France with Vero. Learn more.

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