Whether you are in Paris or a small village, Sundays in France seem to have a similar pace. Our life in St. Jean de Losne the last couple of Sundays has been no different. A very important start is Neil’s trip to the boulangerie for a baguette and croissants or some other baked goods he is inspired to purchase. I usually have the rest of our “petit dejeuner” prepared by the time he arrives back at the boat: coffee, yogurt (“yogourt” the most difficult word in the French language for an English speaker to pronounce) and fruit. We have a relaxed breakfast, watching the ducks and grey herons on the pontoon.
In April, a Sunday seasonal market started up again in St. Jean de Losne. It’s pretty basic right now, but fun to discover what might be new each week. Usually there are several food vendors selling fruit and vegetables, roasted chicken, special savory tarts only available on Sunday, and fresh cheeses. In the last couple of weeks there have been an increasing number of other vendors: clothing, embroidered kitchen towels, soaps, flowers and vegetable starts, scallions and surprisingly hot peppers, have been for sale. We often pick up a roasted chicken, either a simple “poulet” or a “fermier,” free range chicken, for our dinner. I find that, compared to our farmers’ market back in Oregon, the produce at French markets is incredibly cheap. Two huge heads of lettuce, with several varieties from which to choose, are only 1 euro, about $1.35 US.
Most stores are closed on Sundays, even the large grocery chains. However, each community has it’s own tradition. Here, the grocery store that is near the street market is open in the morning. Of course, bakeries, “boulangeries,” are open in the morning as well. At the port, there is a new addition on Sunday mornings: a stand for wine-tasting and/or purchasing. After all, we are in Burgundy!
Sunday dinner at midday is a long-standing French tradition, usually with family members gathered together. Though I haven’t eaten dinner at this time on Sunday since childhood, we have decided to adopt this tradition while in France and in port. Little else happens in France on Sundays between about 12 and 3, and restaurants are often crowded. For me, a leisurely dinner in the middle of the day seems somehow decadent.
After dinner, a nap is the choice of some. We usually take a walk or bike ride, weather permitting. It’s fun just wandering about, seeing how others are spending their day: kids about twelve, sporting their baseball caps, fishing in the river; or a retiree selling hand-worked key chains to people walking through the marina. And typically there is an exchanged greeting, “bonjour,” as you pass others.
A couple of weeks ago, there was a huge Sunday flea market that extended for several blocks around the port. Some antiques, but mostly kitchenware, clothing, etc. were being sold. I managed to find a lovely little French press coffee pot for 1 euro, and some old-fashioned glass canning jars for storing staples such as pasta, for only 80 centimes each. Literally hundreds of people walked through the market. Given the size of St Jean de Losne, we couldn’t figure out where they came from!
The day ends with a light evening meal on board; we often opt for omelettes or a salad. Few restaurants are open in the evening. And the day has just sort of slid away: another typical Sunday in France.
For over eight years, Neil and Joan have been spending their summers cruising the canals and rivers of Western Europe aboard their now thirty-year-old Dutch motor-cruiser, the “Estate.” This year they are sharing their experiences.