Sunday, June 10, 2012

Limoges

June. Hah! Crap weather. Raining. Too wet to mow the lawn. Lazy Sunday. Might as well waste a bit of time doing a bloggeau posting. So here goes...

As mentioned in my recent post 'You Okay?', I cancelled a bike service appointment at BMW Limoges due to awful weather and getting up late. Re-arranged the service for 8th June - that's last Friday, a couple of days ago.

Woke up at 5.30 which, I thought, allowed plenty of time to prepare for a getaway at 7. Eventually left at 8. Things always take longer than I imagine. Then the bike wouldn't start. Flattery battery. Luckily I live at the top of a hill. Bump-started the blighter going downhill, took it easy 'til the engine was warmed up then let rip. Appointment was for 9am. Gave me an hour to do a 75 mile trip that normally takes two hours by car ('B' roads littered with speed limits). Arrived at 9.20. Not bad considering there was an 8 mile detour through country lanes due to a road closure. Summonses for speeding haven't arrived yet but are half expected.

Dropped the bike off. Told to return at 3 for collection. Asked if they had a 'courtesy' bike spare. Apparently not. The two customers who'd arrived on time had nabbed 'em. Dammit, was now marooned in the suburb of Nowheresville on the edge of town with six hours to kill. Left my crash helmet and waterproofs behind the reception desk and waddled off in the general direction of Limoges, not really knowing how to get there. Maybe a taxi, if such things exist in Nowheresville. Ambling along in the dandelions and discarded fag packets of a dusty roadside edge in the shadows of lorries thundering outa town while breathing diesel fumes and wearing full leathers and bike boots in sunshine ain't funny. Soon gets sweaty. And mind-numbingly boring.

Half a mile up the road I spotted a distant tram turning left at a roundabout. Right, follow its route and there should be bus stop. Somewhere. Maybe. Found one and then tried to make sense of the timetable and map. Seemed a number 4 went to the city centre. Could be a long wait up here in Nowheresville. Wrong. A number 4 turned up almost immediately. 1.30 euros to Limoges. Brill. About twenty minutes later I sat outside a city centre caff swigging a grand crème and smoking a rollie, idly watching the world go by.

Killed a bit of time just drifting around unknown alleys and lanes. Then ones I'd walked before with Georgie. The same cat sat in the same scruffy gallery window. Remembered I had my camera in the rucksack. Snapped a snap as the cat napped. Then drifted on, wobbling up cobbled streets without a plan or aim, other than to kill a bit more time. Ended up in the covered market at the centre of town. Little old ladies nattered and eyed up wares while their little old men gathered at the bar chewing the fat and chattering while swigging morning vinos and espressos with liquorice Ricard chasers. Veg stalls, cheese stalls, meat stalls, fish stalls, all busy doing business. Loads of colours, smells and noises. Took a few more snaps then back into the outdoor sunshine. Took a snap of the impressive trompe-l'oeil artwork on the side of the building opposite, overlooking the popular outdoor café terrace. A great way to make a uninteresting wall interesting.


The cool of a church provided welcome relief from the heat of the street and the busy comings and goings of people doing this and that. It's a favourite church of mine simply because it's so different to the hustle and bustle of the streets outside. And it has a remarkable architectural feature: its supporting columns have been forced outwards under the weight of the roof over the centuries. Verticals ain't vertical no more. Bit worrying. The roof could come crashing down anytime. Or maybe sometime. Or maybe never. Ignoring the possibility of bringing the house down, a small but enthusiastic congregation of oldies belted out a hymn as I quietly headed for the exit not wishing to interrupt their adoration of the Lady Mary with the attention-diverting presence of a biker dressed in sweaty old leathers brandishing a camera.

Outside, an old boy lazily played an accordian under a street lamp on a corner. An upturned cap at his feet. A couple of coins showed it wasn't his day. I chucked in a few more and asked if I could take his photo. He smiled and nodded. I took three. Deleted 'em later 'cos the light was wrong. Still, such things happen when you're killing time.

By now it was around 11.30ish. Half an hour before the workers burst onto the scene for lunch. Half an hour of peace and quiet and another coffee at a café where there was the certainty that I'd have an outside table to myself. Chose one underneath the trompe-l'oeil painting. Sat in the shade of the entrance while others chose to sit in the blazing sun. Fine if you're not balding or wearing clothing designed for warmth while doing the ton on a greasy old bike. Not so fine if you are.

The church bells clanged twelve. Offices emptied. Streets filled. Seats and tables grabbed at a thousand restaurants and bistros across town. Menus scanned. Friends met. Drinks ordered. Lovers re-united. Lunchtime in France. Everything stops for a couple of hours. But not for the cooks and waiters. Now they get busy.

Time to eat. Time for that lunchtime snack. But where? Being attired in clothing that featured an interesting selection of squashed bugs, and reeking of an odour that definitely wouldn't remind anyone of Chanel Pour Hommes or the perfume houses of Givenchy, Christian Dior or Paco Rabanne, meant that I was unlikely to be welcomed with open arms at the best restaurants in town. Or even those considered average by comparison. So, cheap and cheerful pour moi. And definitely at an outside table with an ashtray and a bit of shade.

Set off in search of a grubshop that met my low standards. Twenty minutes later I arrived at the conclusion that this search was destined to failure. Eventually remembered a little square I'd walked through a few years back. Seem to recall it having a couple of touristy-type nosh-houses with outside tables under Coca Cola parasols. Think it was down this alley on the left. Bingeau! Found it! At the main restaurant the outside tables were already full so that was a no-no. Then spotted an African place in the corner. No outside tables so that was a no-no too. Shame, 'cos I'm sure their menu would have been fun. That left one, the restaurant down the end. Looked perfect. Had outside tables, ashtrays and parasols, but no sign of any customers. Maybe it was shut. Nah, can't be. Peered through the serving hatch, spotted a bloke and asked if he was open. Looked a bit miffed at the stupidity of my question, though it could have been the realisation that my presence at one of his tables might make his business less attractive to passing trade. Either way, I was allowed a choice of tables and given a menu with a smile. Great. Chose a 12 euro 'plat de jour' menu from the blackboard instead. Plus a glass of cool vin rosé. And added a Moroccan side salad to my order. Moroccan? Hey, maybe this ain't a French caff. Maybe I'm the only customer 'cos the Frogs don't like Moroccans. Or their grub. Nah, can't be. Mind you, I've never had Moroccan grub before. Maybe it's a bit, er..., challenging. No worries. Bring it on.




The Moroccan side salad bore no resemblance to any salad I've ever seen. The olives were about the only things I recognised. The rest of it looked like a dark grey squidgy mess. Tasted fine though. Forgot to take a photo. Then the main course. Chicken with prunes and pears apparently, according to my rubbish translation of the menu. Didn't taste any pears but it had quite a few peach slices, plus prunes, egg, carrots, spud slices and greasy chicken all swimming in a scorching hot soup of various herbs and spices. Yummy. Just like being abroad. Then pud. Looked like a dwarf banana with a block of damp cake but was actually a crisp pastry thing with a tasty cake cube dripping in honey that, again, tasted deliciously herby and spicy. This was served with a glass of some liquid that smelt of herby peppermint which accompanied the pud perfectly. Then coffee. Having been first to arrive, I was last to leave. It was a thoroughly enjoyable nosh-up and I'm glad to say that I didn't eat alone - there were quite a few other customers too who, I think, all enjoyed the novelty of an extraordinary menu.

With time killed, I headed back to the bus stop opposite the big town hall and joined the line for the number four. A digital screen on the wall informed that the number four would be along in five minutes. Very hi-tech. Turned up in three. Hopped on, paid 1.30 and then had to try and remember where to get off. Luckily I recognised a few landmarks and alighted at the right stop. Arrived back at the BMW dealership at around 3. Left there at 4. Took it easy on the way home and arrived at around 6. Dogs pleased to see me back. Gave 'em a walk in sweaty leathers. Then washed and changed. Phone rang. Supper with the neighbours.

A good day. I rather like Limoges. Especially the old sector.