Monday – May 14, 2012 — Catching up with friends…and something new

Morning spilled shards of sunlight into our troglodyte room at  Riboto, waking us from a sound and restful sleep.

Riboto has two troglodyte rooms, each fashioned from an ancient cave dating back to Roman times. The cave forms the back half of the room – the back wall and ceiling, if you will. A shed roof on the front shelters the rest of the room. We stayed in “Mirielle”, one of the two rooms, on our first visit to Riboto, and it became “our room” over the years with return visits. It was nice to stay there again.

We packed our few things and headed down to the dining room for coffee and conversation, a chance to catch up with all the news of our friends, Christine & Philippe and Jean-Pierre. But first, breakfast! (What would our blog be without descriptions of each and every bite and swallow we take in France?) With the coming of Spring, fresh fruit and produce flood the markets and tables of Provence. This morning, a plate of fresh fruit contained wonderful cherries, pears, apples, pineapple, and melons. Unlike the year-round but almost tasteless specimens we have gotten used to, these are crammed with flavor – reminders of “the old days,” when you ate things when they were in season. Fresh-squeezed orange juice was wonderful – obviously not “made from concentrate.” Ah, enough disparaging of how we live at home. Better just to enjoy the moment here.

While we seldom drink coffee at home, the aroma of fresh coffee here leaves little choice but to have a cup…or two.

If all this weren’t enough, Jean-Pierre had spent his morning baking, filling the basket with everything from croissants to mini-baguettes and earthy brown breads. And to top it off, this morning he decided to make some crepes, light and airy and perfect with some melted butter.

While breakfast was wonderful, better still was the chance to relax with Christine & Philippe and Jean-Pierre to catch up on everything in their lives. Fred, the recent canine addition to the family, apparently has adopted David as a best friend and ran right to him when we arrived, rubbing him like a big, disheveled ball of fur with high-speed tail attached. As we both miss Lucy, it was wonderful to get some doggie love.

We spent more than an hour talking about everything from French and U.S. politics to art, to local news. We made plans to get together several times while we are here, then, we hopped in the car to make our way home.

We made a stop in Maussane at Moulin Jean-Cornille to get a half-liter of their olive oil, one of the best in the world, then decided to take the “mountain” route home so I could take photography. The winds of the last two days had swept the skies crystal clear, so it seemed a perfect choice.

From  Maussane to Eygalieres you wind your way up into and through les Alpilles (mini-alps). These are what David calls “foothills,” too small to qualify as mountains. They are ancient granite structures thrust upwards centuries ago, now worn and rounded by centuries of wind and water. The grey rock is spotted with patches of foliage, and the small valleys are now carpeted with vineyards and olive groves. At the peak, the sparse brush and occasional tree gives way to shady pines. Then, it’s back to more vineyards as you reach Eygalieres.

As it was now one o’clock, it was time for another meal, and we decided to try a new place that Patrick had recommended, Cafe de la Gare. This tiny bar/restaurant is located about five minutes from the mas at Gare Molleges, the roundabout near the old train station. A pizzeria, a boulangerie, a wine cooperative, and a couple of businesses also surround this small intersection. We made our way through the bar (being careful to greet everyone – not doing so is considered rude) and sat at one of the tables in the tiny dining room, which was crowded with people enjoying the midday meal. Two chalkboards gave the a la carte choices and today’s menu – salade nicoise to start followed by mignon of porc. The friendly waitress dropped some bread and water on the table, and reviewed the choices. We ordered a half carafe of local rose, salade nicoise for me and (what else) pave de saumon for David. There was a cute little puppy at one of the tables – all feet and folds of fur waiting to be grown into. It came up to me and nuzzled my hand, so I obliged with some rubs and under-the chin chucks. Then “dad” left, and the pup scurried to catch up.

The food was good. The salad was meant as an appetizer so omitted the traditional tuna and added more fresh vegetables – haricot vert, fennel, etc. Being still full from breakfast, it was perfect. David’s salmon came with ratatouille, which looked and tasted wonderful. We polished the meal off at a leisurely pace, then made our way to the bar to pay the “comptoir” (cashier.) The tab was  only 32 euro. David spoke to him in his best French, and the gentleman responded in English, again crushing David’s dream of being multi-lingual. He asked where we were from, and let us know that he had family in Tampa. We told him that Patrick had recommended them, and he seemed pleased at the referral. Another place to return to for a good, informal meal.

We then meandered home and put some time into prepping salad ingredients. David made some hard-boiled eggs and croutons from stale baguettes and olive oil. Together with some shrimp, and slices of ham and cheese, this will make a great evening meal.

As it was now six o’clock, it was time for the Cafe du Centre, so we motored into the village and grabbed a table in the shade. Being Monday, most things are closed, and people stroll up and down the main street with their dogs, so we enjoyed people watching and greeting a few people we have come to know. Chrystelle appeared with a carafe of white wine, and Patrick drove in on his motorcycle for a cup of coffee. He discussed his work for the upcoming week, and seemed delighted we had gone to Cafe de la Gare. After a bit, we drifted home.

A light meal, an episode of Poirot on the tube, and it was off to bed.

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