We meandered through the narrow cobblestone streets of Boulogne, admiring the incredible architecture, enjoying the friendly smiles checking out the cute shops, restaurants and patisseries.
In the centre of the walled city is a huge, immaculately kept garden park, complete with giant vegetable sculptures.
We tried to access a bank machine unsuccessfully (apparently it was empty!), so we nervously hoped we would be able to use credit or debit to eat.
We took one last stroll down the avenue that seemed to house the majority of restaurants in town to decide upon which we might dine, when a short, stout, well dressed, round-faced French man met us in the laneway.
In English (certainly we looked like dumb tourists) he said;
“What are you doing? Looking for something to eat? You will eat here. You (pointing to DD) will have the duck, and you (gesturing to me), will have a delicious goat cheese salad. Ok?”
We looked dumbfounded at each other, and agreed to his ‘suggestion’. We told him our financial issue and asked if he took credit – no. Pounds or Canadian dollars? A look of disdain;
“No, you will go to each bank machine in town and find Francs or Euros. If this is not possible, we will discuss it then. And should you smoke, the tobacconist closes immediately. So go to get cigarettes and money, your food will be ready when you return.”
I asked him what would happen if we couldn’t get money out, and he replied;
“This should not concern you.”
So we set out to find another bank machine and to get some smokes – we did exactly as we were told.
Our serious French host was conducting this leg of our tour, and we were excited to see where he would lead us. At the very least, we expected to get a great meal out of the experience.
After trying ALL of the bank machines in town, we finally hit the ‘mother lode’ and were able to take some money out. Turned out they actually were all empty – all but one.
When we returned to the restaurant, our host insisted we sit, enjoy a coffee on the outer patio and have a smoke to ‘calm down’ before we ate our glorious meal that was only to be enjoyed in a state of peace and tranquility.
(The below photo was taken during our directed ‘after dinner’ cigarette and glass of wine ritual).
Now I know smoking is grotesque, and we have (mostly) quit since this tour, but I will say that at that moment it did add to the drama of our experience – having an old French man direct our smoking patterns through a meal.
Fantastically different than our Canadian customs on smoking – still hideously bad for you though.
When it was finally time to eat our meal, it did not disappoint – exquisite. Our host brought us a bottle of white wine too – stating he would chose it, and our meal could not be enjoyed otherwise.
We were nervous about what the cost of our excursion would be (especially with a bottle of the best wine I have EVER enjoyed), and were entirely shocked when our bill arrived and our authentic French gourmet meal had cost barely more than a tour to McDonald’s. SHOCKED.
When we looked to find our incredibly attentive host, to thank him for such a remarkable experience, he was nowhere to be found. He didn’t want our accolades, in proper French gentleman style.
He had provided us with an experience – that he had been willing to pay for himself – and expected nothing in return.
We left a monstrous tip – more than the cost of the meal. We left what we figured the meal SHOULD have cost – with the exceptional ambience, magnificent host, exquisite food and fantastic bottle of wine.
Now we were full, tipsy and finally ready to head back to our hotel and relax for the first time since leaving Canada.
Additional photos in the slideshow.
- La Poivriere (Boulogne Sur Mer)