Last Wednesday we rode the bus for 15 minutes to one of the zones commerciales on the outskirts of Carcassonne. These are the shopping areas with lots of big box stores and parking lots that just won’t fit on the narrow streets in town laid out almost 900 years ago. But what we were in search of would fit (sort of, as you see in the photo) inside our backpacks: bread.
In Atlanta Bill used to bake bread every few days. He had fun experimenting with different yeasts, doughs, and methods and I was always guaranteed great tasting toast and delicious sandwiches for lunch. Here we only have a small convection/microwave oven that doesn’t lend itself well to the crusty creations he used to make. Besides, it doesn’t seem worth the effort when the telephone directory gives you the category choices of bakeries, bakeries & patisseries, or artisanal bakeries & patisseries with 20 or so listings in each one. We had counted at least 6 shops within walking distance of the place where we normally get off the bus, so it was time to visit a few of those.
In the US there’s a donut chain that flashes a red “Hot Now” sign each time they pull a fresh batch out of the fryer. Here there’s a supermarket chain with a large sign out front of every store reminding you that they bake bread in the store all day long. Since we needed chocolate we stopped into one of these and got mesmerized by the look and smell of all the different baguettes, loaves, croissants, and mini-breads that had indeed just been baked. We never made it to any of the bakeries we were supposed to visit.
Without those extra places to see we now had over an hour before our return bus (most of the day they run every 30 minutes but even bus drivers get a break) so we decided to have lunch at a restaurant right beside the bus stop. Called “Good Times” they capitalize on the price-fixed concept that is really popular in Europe. For a set charge, in our case 7.99 euro each, you can choose unlimited starters or desserts, plus the hot main course of the day accompanied by unlimited vegetable side dishes. It’s essentially all self-serve where you pay upon entering and then fill your plate(s) as desired.
Once we were seated it struck me that although we had paid only for starters and the main course, the ample desserts buffet was in clear view with a stack of plates beside it. While that surprised me, I was not at all shocked to see that the starters table, which was mostly salads, surrounded by diners yet I only counted two people choosing desserts the whole time we were there. Seems the French are very good at dealing with temptation. We, on the other hand, not so much. A bottle of wine was 7.95 so since we had already saved so much on lunch it just made sense to accompany it with wine made just a few kilometers/miles from here.