On our ninth day in France Ashley and I loaded Henrik onto the tram for - yet again - another trip downtown. This had become a part of daily routine. On this day we stopped at Meriadek to get some lunch, and chose to go to Paul's for some quiche. We stepped up to the counter and ordered our quiche and a paine au chocolat for Henrik. We observed other people at the same counter getting quiche as well. For some reason, ours came to us in a brown bag, unheated. This was baffling because everyone else getting quiche had the option of getting it warmed up, and on a plate, too. We didn't know enough French to inquire, so we just took our bag and went to the nearest table. We got there and suddenly noticed that we were the only people with a brown bag. Everyone else had their meal on plates, with silverware and napkins, too. It hit us that we somehow didn't belong, but we didn't know what to do. If we could not eat there, then where? At this moment, I noticed some staff conferring close by. They seemed embarrassed, and finally a girl stepped over. In broken English, she told us that we could not eat in the room with the other patrons because we had ordered "for take away". We inquired what the difference was since this was rather new to us. The closest restaurant I can think of to liken this place to you would be La Madeleine, because there you can order and eat inside, or take your food with you. In any case, you are welcome to sit down, whether you have a paper bag or tray. But this was Paul's, and the girl politely explained that we had ordered from the "take-away" counter and that there was a price difference, even though the food was the same. I guess you pay more for the privilege to eat at a table! To the staff's credit, we weren't treated rudely. I think that they actually understood that we were completely unfamiliar with this sort of system, and the girl smiled a lot while she gently explained it to it to us. It was still embarrassing, but we gathered our things and left. It made us laugh to think that people would pay more for the same food just to eat at a table! Thank goodness for American equality; if you are willing to pay, you're welcome to stay, and one price for all. :-)
We went back outside and crossed over to the other side of the street. Behind some office buildings was a large park. A fountain and small courtyards, play area and many trees and benches comprised this area in the middle of the business district. We ate, let Henrik run around a bit, then continued downtown for the remainder of the afternoon.
On our way home, we stopped again at Meriadek to do some grocery shopping. The grocery store would be closed the next day, so this was our last chance to get some food. We hurried through the 2-story grocery store, pushing around the crowds of shoppers. It was amazing how organized the grocery stores were; even though we did not know French, it was easy to find what we needed. Check-out was a breeze, as you just check yourself out before leaving. There are aisles of self-checkout lanes with staff close by in case of need. You just bag your groceries in the shopping bag that you take with you, but plastic bags are provided just in case you don't bring one. You have to walk through turnstiles to leave and those are after the check-out, so theft must be minimal there. It was quite an experience. We bought organic eggs, croissants, fruit (it is weighed and priced in the produce section, even if you just have one pear!), more Coke and I don't remember what else. I enjoyed every minute of my last foray into a European grocery store.
The day went well, but we were still tired when we made it back to Merignac at the end of our day. The crowds, the walking, the sights and sounds that often overwhelmed me all contributed to a day that, when over, made me feel quite tired. Everything was quite lovely at the end of the day, however, for that was true relaxation time. After Henrik was fed, bathed, read to in French and English, and finally put to bed at 7, the rest of the evening was for our disposal. We would eat dinner out on the patio as the cool evening breezes began to sweep over us, gathering strength and coolness as the night wore on. After dinner and the minimal clean-up in the kitchen, I would settle down in the deck chair, reading by the light of the waning sun. The church bells chimed the hours and half-hours, the neighbors behind often had lively chatter going on at the end of the day, and the lizards scampering, the birds singing and the mosquitoes biting were all a part of the evening, day after day. Knitting or reading had to end when the sun went down around nine o'clock, or when the mosquitoes got a little too blood thirsty. Then I could go indoors, read email, visit favorite websites, or, as I did this particular evening, start the fist half of The Lord of The Rings: The Return Of The King. I had not been able to see the extended edition before now, even though we have it, so I was glad that my cousin had brought hers along when she moved to France as it was the perfect time for me to watch it. It was fun to curl up on the leather sofa and get lost, completely lost, in Middle Earth. With no telephone, no duties, and no people to talk to, this was not hard to do.
Playing with obliging children downtown