Wednesday, July 18, 2007

a three hour tour

Don't worry, we didn't get shipwrecked on a tiny island with a millionaire and his wife or anything.

So a few months ago, Stéph came back from his formation in Châlons and declared that there was a bar and a store I just had to see and one day he was going to take me there. I reminded him of this promise on Monday and we decided that the next day would be perfect for visiting for a few hours.

Châlons-en-Champagne is the capital of the Marne département, which is surprising when larger and better known Reims is also in the same département. Châlons has kind of a small but charming downtown area and the rest seems to be just residential areas. We had a really great lunch in front of the Mairie, eating outside on the terrace in the shade. I can't speak for Stéph but my simple salad of lettuce, lardons, tomatoes with loads of chèvre on toast and buttery garlic toast was wonderful! Possibly not the healthiest thing on earth, but it's the closest I've come to a BLT on this side of the ocean and I enjoyed every bite!

From there we went to Stéph's first "you gotta go" destination - The Red Bar & Lounge. This was something of a shock in a town that is not known for having any kind of a hip, young demographic. In fact, the only higher institute of learning there is a teacher's college, and most students commute, like Stéph did. This bar was a dream - very fun and hip interior, a very wide array of hot and cold drinks as well as many cocktails I recognized from my bar hopping days back in the States. In fact, Stéph mentioned that he often heard Americans hanging out and chatting there when he and his colleagues came in for a coffee before heading back to class. The atmosphere and the drinks list reminded me so much of some coffee houses I loved in Orlando and Greenville and I wouldn't be surprised to learn if the place was owned by Americans. We sat on a backless sofa surrounded by pillows with our cappuccinos (it must be years since I enjoyed a cappuccino!) and just hung out and watched the world go by. What a great hangout that place would be!

The next place I had to see was actually a little crafts shop that Stéph's colleague had told him about. It seemed to be the proprietor's house, with a car parked in the garage and we imagined that she probably lived on the first (second for Americans) floor. It seemed that most of her business was in patchwork (I know one person in particular who would have very much enjoyed their fabric selection!) but as for yarn, there wasn't much more than a few skeins of fantasy yarn and some uninspiring solid colored yarn. Too bad - Stéph had let me loose in the shop and there was nothing really that interested me! It was a cute little shop and the proprietor did say that she sometimes had some customers that came and worked on their projects at the large dining room table and enjoy a cup of tea from time to time. I was touched beyond words that Stéph even thought I'd be interested in it, and then followed me around while I inspected the crafty things! Yeah, he's a keeper.

So then we went on our last errand - Stéph said I absolutely had to see the Carrefour, which is freakin' ginormous! It's got to be one of the biggest - not to mention nicest, since I think it's only been recently built - shopping complexes I've seen here. It's basically a huge grocery inside a decent sized mall! We ended up buying a new car battery in case our zombie battery ever kicks it - seriously, that thing has been working for like, ten years! - and I was even very pleased to find that they had Cheddar! in their cheese section! In my excitement I nearly ordered 500 grams of the stuff (that's a pretty hefty block, more than a pound!) but Stéph talked me back down to a sensible 250 grams. We've already devoured half of it, on a very tasty steak salad I whipped up for dinner tonight. I think the rest of it will be destined for a new cold taco salad recipe I've found.

It looks like the next week or so will be just work, work, work but it looks like the end of next week will see us heading back out on the road for a real, honest to God vacation! Can you believe it? More to come on that soon...

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