Day One in France - Lunch

Having begun at the border of France, my first action was to step across the border and avoid bankruptcy by getting myself a local SIM. Ninety minutes later, I was locally simmed and the proud owner also of the ethylotest - breath analysers. French law insists every car has one. Obviously they take their drinking seriously, even when driving.

My target for the day was a tour through Alsace ending at tomorrow's target - Burgundy. Three of France's officially prettiest villages were on the list, but I greatly underestimated travel times in my quest to avoid highways. The drives were unquestionably more scenic, but also took forever. What with delays at St. Avold and the non-cancel reservation in Burgundy, I ended up with less time than I thought. It was going to have to be only one village; I chose Eguisheim, the centre of the Alsace wine trail.

But first, of course, was the serious business of lunch. I stopped at a village that happened to pass by around noon, with the somewhat improbable name of Puttelange-aux-Lacs. Between munches on an amazing baba au rum I asked the local patissiere what my lunch options were, and thus found my way to Chez Pierette.

It turned out to be just what the doctor ordered - a bright, cheerful cafe filled with locals (in any case, this is not tourist season so few people other than locals are around). The people were cheerfully tolerant of my inability to speak anything resembling French; the waitress gave me plenty of advice that I failed completely to understand. I went with seafood salad (how can that go wrong in the corner of France furthest from the sea) and the lapin (which I knew to be rabbit) in what turned out to be a roulade.

Two perfect mini gooey chocolate cakes followed, whipped cream on one end, vanilla ice cream on the other.

Pierette was a lively, friendly cafe bustling with locals who all knew the bartender and flirted with the sole waitress. Few people looked at the menu. The food, as I had been told to expect, was very nice - fresh enough to be alive, filling, tasty and comfortable stuff I could eat every day. Some simple touches - a kind of grated marinated carrot in the seafood salad, for instance - were unexpectedly lovely. Also, I love rabbit, and hardly ever see it on menus in India.

Wines and beers were everywhere but scared by all that ethylotesting, I stuck to that other French drinks - sparkling water.


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