It all started with a clock. Stu bought a magnificent pendulum table clock on French eBay and needed to fetch it, somewhere on the “1000 cow” plateau (Millevaches) in Limousin (200 miles south of Paris), by noon. What’s the street address, he’d asked Madame X. “Il n’y a pas de rue, Marcy est le nom du hameau ou lieu-dit. Il y a 9 maisons. Merçi, cordialement.” No street, she said, it’s just a little hamlet called Marcy made up of 9 homes. Thanks, cordially.
Stu picked me up in Paris at o’dark thirty and I was purring by the time we broke south on local roads, down through the flat and fecund Loire then suddenly up into rocky hills spotted with dark evergreens, patches of snow everywhere. We’d arrived in the Limousin. Cows galore. Sheep and goats too. Bye bye agriculture; hello animal husbandry.
Not easy finding Marcy! You had to be zen about it–use the GPS, follow your intuition, then call Mme. X when you were in shouting distance but had lost confidence.
Suddenly, there it was: a tiny sign on a tiny road that said (in black and in French) MARCY, then (in red) “village burned on 15 July 1944″, then (in black, large print) “by the Nazis”. We were impressed that 9 houses would have the nerve to describe themselves as a village, but when we asked about it, our sellers sniffed that in 1944 Marcy been made up of FIFTEEN homes. And when the Nazis were alerted it was serving as a safe house for the resistance, they torched the place. Six homes were obliterated. We could see on the remaining 9 homes where the new stones started and the old stones left off.
I don’t know why we were so surprised. Vichy is close by. It was a great hiding place. Deeds of derring do were hoped for and dreamed of. Really thrilling to feel that life-and-death drama come up through our shoes from the rough soil. Stu, overcome, insisted on giving Mme. X the bottle of wine he’d bought for us to take the curse off the day. We were a little sad about that later. But we had made the clock purchase by noon, right on schedule, and now were loose in the Limousin, with hours to get to our nighttime destination of Limoges and me ready to read out at length about all the best sites between here and there from the zillions of books I’d brought.
On the agenda: Aubusson (capital of extraordinary handmade French tapestry and rugs since the 12th century); anything that looked remotely interesting or had a historical marker on it; above all, any flea market, brocante, troc, or roadside table that we could paw through. We were so happy with the clock, we were hungry for more deals.
And so all our good resolutions to hit Limoges’ museums and cultural activities and porcelain houses went right out the window. We bonged around the countryside, picked through flea markets, and bought loads of cool stuff, not arriving in Limoges til well after dark. Thus the shot of cathedral square in rosy fingered dawn, as we were about to head back to Paris next morning. Thus the silly picture of our soups at Kim Lin’s “Baguettes of gold”, where we ended up after striking out everywhere else.
So, what do you think about these two soups from completely different cultures on the same table? I am excited to tell you that this illustrates perfectly something I have long wanted to share: viz., the French are so nonspecific about Asian food that Asian restaurants simply cannot make a profit unless they bundle Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese menus under the same roof. Incredible, huh? It’s okay for Japanese restaurants to be pure, but no one else. In Limoges, in Marseilles, in Strasbourg, in Bordeaux, and above all in Paris, you cannot go into an Asian restaurant without being offered a menu that features Chinese, Vietnamese, and Thai dishes. Forgive me, I can’t get over it. I am amazed.
But the proof is in the pudding. I ordered Potage pekinois; Stu ordered potage d’asperge au crabe. A little nutty, but a great way to end an enchanting day. We recommend it, obviously a local favorite:
Restaurant Kim Lin “Baguettes d’or”
9 rue Montmouller