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Le petit déjeuner - moment in time no.2

Le petit déjeuner - the French for breakfast actually means 'small lunch' and when we are on holiday that's what it tends to be. In fact we often have more breakfast than lunch and it's not usually eaten very early. As late as possible in fact when we are staying in a hotel or bed and breakfast.

This photograph from the front page of the blog, its taken in a small hotel, I think somewhere in the Luberon area, in France, many years ago now. Last century as my husband likes to say. So long ago that I cannot remember the name of the town or village, although I vaguely remember it began with an M. But not a famous place like Ménerbes, and actually I think the hotel was on its own out in the beautiful southern French countryside. Provence I guess. The little table is just outside our room for the night. It was only a very small hotel so I think everyone was served their breakfast like this, rather than in one central room. And just look at that basket of goodies. Bread, croissants, pastries and coffee. What more could you want?

It was actually, I seem to remember, not that happy a holiday. It was a holiday of just a couple of weeks taken by just David and I, driving around France - southwards from Paris and then back up again. I cannot remember the exact route, although I do remember some of the beautiful B & Bs and small hotels we found along the way. It was not a happy holiday because it was a particularly stressful work period for David who was pursued by his new boss by telephone as we travelled. Indeed I think he had tried to stop David going on the holiday at all. So there were moments of stress from work and the usual holiday stresses of losing the way sometimes and worrying about where to stay.

But back to those beautiful places I do remember. And les petits déjeuners. I should say that we had not rebooked our accommodation for this holiday apart from our first hotel in Paris which was a bit of a disaster, and so we either relied on the wonderful tourist offices in the towns and villages where we stopped to find us somewhere, or we used the little Red Michelin guide. I think that Parisian hotel was the only disappointment. On this holiday too we discovered the beauty of the Aveyron region of France, at the south of the Massif Centrale. Gorges and wild countryside and beautiful little villages. There was one small hotel, an old mill, just outside a small town called Avalon where the rooms were tiny but so beautifully compact, and the breakfast served on the terrace by the bubbling river was divine and included a boiled egg as well as the usual goodies. There was the little hotel - Le Petit Nice - in the seaside town of Les Lècques on the Mediterranean, where they saved your half drunk bottle of wine for your next dinner the next day. Also in the Massif Centrale, miles from anywhere it seemed we stayed in an old manorial farmhouse and dined on duck in the wonderful local restaurants. And David walked across the top of the Pont du Gard - quite rightly not allowed these days as far too dangerous. But I think it might be one of the highlights of his life. Yes he walked across the unfenced top that you can see here. My heart was in my mouth all the way. I thought it was over when he got to the other side - but no, he insisted on walking back as well. I couldn't look.

All of which goes to show that memory filters. As I said, on the whole, it was not a happy holiday, but my brain has mostly filtered out the bad moments, and what I do remember are those beautiful places, and the beautiful people we met along the way, not to mention the yummy food. Gratin Dauphinois in the upper Loire somewhere, a rhubarb tart in Paris, the delicious homely meals served in our Mediterranean hotel ...

And those beautiful breakfasts - which brings me back to le petit déjeuner, specifically holiday ones. Not the luxury hotel buffet breakfasts - I've written about them before, but the home made ones - whether in a small hotel or a bed and breakfast. Yes the bread and croissants are bought in, but it's always beautifully chosen and beautifully presented, and the jam is usually home-made or at least served in small bowls rather than in little plastic pockets, with the whole thing often served in stunning locations - like this one overlooking La Garde Freinet which is near St. Tropez.

I don't think I had ever thought of breakfast being as simple as perfect bread and/or croissant plus, home-made jam, honey and coffee before I went to France. Mind you the French don't generally drink black coffee for breakfast. They prefer a big mug of milky coffee at home. The Italians on the other hand can go somewhat overboard.

Here is just half of what was on offer in one Italian bed and breakfast we stayed at in Piedmont. It was somewhat overwhelming and all home-made. I mean how can you not dive in and eat as much as you can - although how do you do that without looking greedy? And will your hostess be more insulted by you taking a lot or taking a very little? After all she has gone to some trouble to produce this wonderful spread. But you begin to see why it is a petit déjeuner, with the emphasis on the déjeuner rather than the petit. With a breakfast like that behind you who needs an actual déjeuner?

Our more recent holidays have been taken with a revolving set of friends and family. Maybe the stress of that long ago one made us unwilling to try it again for a while. Our more normal European holidays, consist of house stays with a group and every day always begins with a long, and leisurely breakfast over which the plans for the day are discussed and the meal the night before relived.

Someone - usually one of the men is sent to the local bakery for the bread and the croissants and the rest has been carefully selected in our hypermarket shops. Sometimes they have been so leisurely that they have almost morphed into lunch!

So a mixed bag of memories for that particular photo. I just wish I could remember where it was. There are so many villages beginning with M in that part of the world. And I was so young!


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