Monday, 2 October 2006

French car-booting again

We had a fun though overcast Sunday going to 'foires à tout' in Septeuil, Limay and Magnancourt.

Septeuil is a lovely sale. The whole centre of this small town is closed off, with stands set up in the streets and squares. Most of the buildings are in the fine local stone, crumbly, creamy coloured, rough-coursed limestone, and the town nestles between hills with a stream running through it.

We stopped at the local bar for moules-frites (mussels and chips), EUR 8 each including a glass of Amstel beer. Food was the order of the day - we bought a whole ham from a stall piled with hams and cheeses, and some gorgeous (and very expensive) walnut bread. One of the stalls was serving seafood - not a few tired prawns and some whelks, but half a lobster, a crab and six oysters on a plate - then there was a huge stall of sausages. Wild boar sausage, sausage with pepper, sausage with cider, sausage with roquefort, and donkey sausage. We stuck with wild boar in the end. As so often in France, no quarter's given to vegetarians...

Limay was quite different. Not a gourmet experience but a 'foire du quartier', in the over-the-river suburb of Mantes la Jolie. I could smell merguez sausages and a huge couscous was being cooked in one courtyard just off the street - many North Africans live in this area.  And it was busy, really busy.

Amazingly, I managed to pick up a little thuya wood box with dice, to go with the box of dominoes I'd bought in Septeuil; they are an exact match. (And that solves the problem of how to play the backgammon we bought in Oman, which doesn't have dice with it.)

One thing I saw yesterday that I'd not seen before is a 'grolle'. It's a strange wooden vessel with four spouts - or more - and little handles, and it reflects a hygienic approach to social drinking - you mix the drink, then pass the grolle round your friends. Each of you has to remember to drink from your own spout - which I imagine becomes difficult after a few gulps, given the extremely alcoholic recipes I've seen for filling the grolle.

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