A Year Out in France…and a Perfect Cafe for Lunch

As we drink our coffee, looking out over the red-tile rooftops from our window, my husband Neal and I decide to venture out into our city. We live in Toulouse, known as La Ville Rose (the Pink City), which is a charming city in the southwest of France on the banks of the River Garonne. Neal, an architect, currently spends his days writing his novel, while I am developing my talent as a photographer. We both needed a break from “real life” and decided that southern France was the perfect place to spend a year doing just that.

We hop on the Metro and end up at the Place du Capitole stop. As we wander around, I snap photos of people chatting at the outdoor cafes with tiny cups of espresso, or walking purposefully around the market making their selections of bread, produce, sausages, or fish. When we originally arrived in France, we were fascinated by the markets but a bit intimidated. How exactly does one order cheese from a giant block in the glass case? Or decide which of the hundreds of options to select?

During our stay in Toulouse, we have rented a garage apartment owned by a lovely French family. Our landlord, in his desire to help us adapt to the French culture, once accompanied us to the local market to show us how it was done. Et voila…now the market is not only a place of fascination and photography, but also a place to acquire delicious ingredients for dinner.

We stop to relax at the Place Wilson, where there is an exquisite fountain surrounded by benches for discussing politics or just sitting to take in all the activity. And of course (bien sûr), there is also a carousel loading with children before starting its musical circular path.

After all of that wandering and photography, it is now time for le déjeuner (lunch). There is no shortage of charming French cafés near centre ville (the city center), so we set out to find one. Most restaurants offer le formule, which is a set price for l’entrée (appetizer), le plat (main course), and le dessert (dessert).

We search for the perfect combination of menu and outdoor seating (a must in France) and find a lovely café. We settle in at our little round table under the red awning for a typical French lunch—which means at least a two-hour time commitment.

Two hours, you say? Well there are three courses, fresh bread, a glass of wine, and likely an espresso. Lunch in France is a time to relax, enjoy the food and conversation, and not check your phone for updates.

We certainly don’t eat like this every day—our pants would never forgive us. But we do indulge on occasion, and since it’s so typical of French life, how could we not?

Now it is time to get back to “work.”

Although after such a busy day and full meal, a nap might have to happen first.

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