"The French sure know how to picnic"
Updated: Feb 26, 2019
L'Autre Vie #9 By Rae-Helen Fisenden.
One of our favourite past times when we're in France is to indulge in a leisurely picnic.
We've noticed that designated picnic spots abound in France and it's quite common to see a little shady spot on the side of the road with wooden tables and seats provided.
More common still is to see people taking advantage of them, particularly from about noon to 2 p.m. Out comes the picnic basket, baguette and bottle of wine and Voila! Lunch is served. And, as I've often commented, eating is not a rushed exercise in country France. In fact, it's a time to savour not only the food but also the surrounding landscape.
One of our favourite spots to picnic is found overlooking the Dordogne River in Beaulieu sur Dordogne (seen below.) I take a typical french picnic basket and the first thing I pack is a table cloth. Might sound a bit OTT but the french adopt this custom everywhere I've noticed, so I have a lovely colourful cloth I purchased from a french market. Then, in goes a couple of wine glasses wrapped in a tea towel. ( No plastic for this couple ). Crockery and cutlery, including the all important bread knife, are packed and then we attend to the food.
Usually, this can be as simple as a fresh baguette and cheese with some fresh fruit or a terrine de Compagne- a rustic country terrine from the local charcuterie- ( A delicatessen devoted to selling prepared meat products ranging from cured meats, pâtès, terrines, confit, rillettes etc ) Often the local butcher has rotisserie chickens available each day, but you need to buy one well before midday or you miss out. Oh! So easy to source lovely food, and particularly the all important patisseries, in France! Pictured here is the simple fare we enjoy eating at our local picnic spot.
The town of Beaulieu, like many french towns throughout France, comes alive in the Summer months. To cater for the influx of vacationers, the towns often organise a community picnic or barbecue. These are held once a week throughout July and August and are SO popular it's sometimes hard to get a spot at the long trestle tables set out along the river's edge. As the evenings are light until about 10 p.m. in the Summer, it's a wonderful opportunity to meet people, enjoy good food and wine, and dance to the music provided by local musicians. In the afternoon you can purchase your meat and salads from the markets, then a team of locals happily barbecue your meat for you. As you sit amongst the crowd of people it's not uncommon to hear quite a few different languages being spoken. Below is a picture of a typical Beaulieu Summer BBQ with the Chapelle des Pénitents in the background. It's about 9 p.m. in the evening.
On July 14th Bastille Day is commemorated in France and is a celebration of the unity of the french people. Many major events are held throughout the country including community picnics.
On a hot Bastille Day we were invited to one such occasion in a farmhouse near our Berbiguieres cottage. Everyone shares their food and often a pizza oven is alight to cook pizzas, quiches and bread. Wine is provided by the local Mairie ( Council ).
I felt I needed to show my true allegiance to the flag and wore an apron I have in the cottage. It was a fantastic party on an exceedingly hot day I recall, but, we enjoyed it very much.
It seems that community picnics and events are a normal custom in France which bring people together over two of their most treasured pastimes...eating food and enjoying repartee.
Pictured above right is our three level townhouse in Beaulieu sur Dordogne. It is over 300 years old, beautifully restored and a perfect place to enjoy your french adventure.
Beaulieu sur Dordogne. Heavenly.