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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Afternoon in Mantes


Bakeries abound. 
I could easily have a sandwich and a coke. But I’d rather sit to something hot. It isn’t very warm out yet, even with the strengthening sun clearing away the clouds. The restaurants I’m seeing, however, are either closed, or white linen affairs serving people in ties. I am determined to find something in between: open, modest but not a bar serving ham&cheese with fries.
At last I find just the perfect place. Down a narrow alley lined with shops there’s an archway leading to a courtyard of shops at the base of a high rise apartment complex. There’s a hairdresser’s, a real estate office, and a café. Pasta, panini, crèpes, not expensive. The daily special is spinach & ricotta tortellini with pignon nuts – sounds good to me. The room is comfortable and unpretentious, a place you have to know about to find, but with a faithful evening clientele once they’ve found the way.
The pasta is alright. They probably buy it by the kilo sack, but it’s not overcooked. Because it’s dressed meerly with cream (why do the French think that cream, more or less by itself, is a sauce? It’s so boring!), I’m generous with the parmesan. A little pepper would be nice. The grilled pignons are a nice addition, and there are plenty of them. It’s exactly what I expected.
Now how about a crèpe for dessert? The crèpes in this part of France are usually fabulous. I wonder if they make their own caramel. Oooh, they do have caramel crèpes. I’ll find out soon.
Mmm, not home-made, but good. The caramel is served in a little leaf-shaped container on the side, a nice touch. The crèpe itself, alas, was made earlier and nuked. What is with that?? Reheated, perhaps, but nuked? I’d have been happy to wait the extra two minutes it would take for one fresh off the griddle.

13:55 Train to Mareil-sur-Mauldre, empty but for me.
14:20 Here we are, and what have we but a bright yellow trail mark right there on the fence. How convenient. Knew I was coming, did they?
The marks lead first to a pocket-sized church. Locked up tight. The priest comes weekly. No name I can find. The street is called Ruelle St Martin, so it must be St Martin’s the Closed.
A few steps later and I’m strolling in the sun with a field of grass on one side and a field of weeds on the other. Now, that’s how to pass a good day in Paris.
Around a bend at the foot of a wide, sweeping hillside bright with new grass is a plank bench set across cinder blocks, and a stone cross, heavy and lopsided, like some farmer made it himself. The lichen says the cross is old, but the wood of the planks says the bench is fresh. A spot maintained.
You can hear the trains from here, hourly to Paris, and back. A generous tree provides shade in other parts of the year.
The trail doubles back and climbs to the summit of the hill, where the green meets the horizon for my entire field of vision. Green+blue plus a thin sliver of tan path. There’s a single hiker in RED in the distance. Red you can’t miss a mile away.
Bells chime. Somewhere it’s 3 o’clock.
By 4 I’ve made a long loop, going as far as the next town on the line to Mantes before giving up on the yellow-marked trail, which went off in just the wrong direction to give me any confidence in it’s turning back to Mareil. So did a bit of road-walking after all. I near the station with just 10 minutes for the next ride on to Paris, and consider walking some more and catching the one after. There’s plenty of sun left.
But my feet are tender from a long winter indoors, so I decide to head back. My hotel room has a treat for me – a bathtub – and I’m looking forward to a hot soak.

Ciao!

1 comment:

Jessica Maybury said...

everything good is always down a narrow alley.