Thursday, August 21, 2008

A French Truck Stop Experience

At the truck stop somewhere along a route nationale near Arles

It was such a great feeling to be rolling back into town after a brief trip down South. We had dinner on the way home at a truck stop, quite interesting. The first truck stop I ever ate in here in France was in the year 2001, and the only thing I remember about it was the incredible pyramid of house smoked beef jerkey and the white lace curtains. This place was different. The good ones are easy to spot with the classic rule. Tons of trucks, good truck stop.

First, we entered the dining room through a bar where men were all watching the television or playing billiards. I noticed that they were shadowing us with their eyes, we were a bit out of place but no one really minded. We were just something to look at. Loic gave me a look like he felt a little strange but I pressed on. (note: Loic read this and thinks it was the other way around! I'm willing to compromise and say it was a little bit of both. Here's to teamwork!)

In the dining room, one of the two servers abruptly stopped us and asked if we had our dinner tickets, available at the bar. Only once we had our tickets could we come and choose a seat. Not sure if there was a line or not because men were just kind of standing all over the place, we finally got the tickets without causing any problem by the old register and paid for our dinner in advance, 12 euros for buffet, main course, cheese, and dessert.

Once we were in the dining room, there was a buffet along one wall, with mayonnaise based salads, pulses, macaroni and cold cuts of about 12 different kinds. We served ourselves, and found a table. The server again abruptly steered us to a different table, telling us that the truckers would be arriving soon and that the early arrivals were to sit at the edges of the room. I almost resisted but something in her tone stopped me.

We noticed about halfway through our buffet course, as freshly showered truckers began to trickle in and seat themselves one next to the other, fitting themselves along the long communal tables in the dining room like sardines in into a can, that they were well versed in how things were supposed to go. They were also serving themselves pitchers of wine, red or rose, from the fountain at the end of the buffet. I called the server and asked if we had to buy a ticket for a pot of wine. "Serve yourself" she said, putting up her hand to stop me from asking any more questions, keeping her distance. So we did.

There were about 10 different dishes on the chalk board, all simple. Loic had the veal kidneys in red wine sauce and I had the chitterling sausage. Not the greatest in the world, but more than suitable for a multi-course meal with wine at this truck stop.

By the time the cheese platter loaded with generous wedges of 8 different kinds of cheese and a knife to carve at will began to circulate, the dining room was completely packed with truckers. I was the only woman dining there that evening. Loic had been reading some trivia handed out by the highway authority on our trip down the other day, and appropriately noted that there are about 65 woman truckers in France.

My neighbor had his dog with him, and they both greeted us. Discussion plucked from around us was murmured and rather limited - traffic jams, etc. There was a television in the corner that many of the truckers watched while eating. We kept to ourselves. After Loic finished his Ile Flottant and I enjoyed an extra glass of wine (it was actually quite good, and I enjoyed it, being the designated passenger), Loic opted for his coffee at one of the tables out by the car. The ride home went quickly and we were home soon enough!



Blogger David said...

That sounds much better than the McDo's that was stopped at last year, on the way back from Agen!

4:51 PM, August 21, 2008  
Blogger L Vanel said...

What did we have on the way back from Agen? Oh yes now I remember, we stopped at a cafeteria. Terrible. Truck stops are definitely the way to go.

5:33 PM, August 21, 2008  
Blogger Wendy said...

I'm slightly awed by your bravery! I'm happy to eat alone in any restaurant and to traipse into an expensive restaurant in jeans but a room full of truckers? I take my hat off to you, Lucy. :)

8:57 PM, August 21, 2008  
Blogger Mari @ Once Upon a Plate said...

Thank you for taking us along with you Lucy ~ your descriptions are delightfully vivid!

5:36 PM, August 22, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That post so brings me back to when Dad came to visit at the end of my year in CF... during one of our more lengthy drives(i think coming back from the alps) we had a meal at a truck stop that reminded me remarkably of the one you described. Dad and I were really tickled about the wine on tap! Too much fun. Something i would highly recommend indulging in once in your life. Thanks for bringing back those memories! xoxo ali

6:30 PM, August 23, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

God, so different from American trock stops! This is a great example of why we admire the French. The new home looks like it is in an incredible spot. Congratlations!

11:11 PM, August 23, 2008  
Blogger Kitt said...

Well worth the visit! And certainly nicer than most trucks stops here.

(When I interviewed for a job in South Dakota, I was taken to the truck stop for breakfast ... wearing a business suit. Talk about stares!)

1:02 AM, August 24, 2008  
Blogger Unknown said...

Well done, Lucy!

4:47 AM, August 29, 2008  

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