Lately my traveling alter ego Mangeot of the Nordlands has chronicled expeditions through Norway, Quebec, and now France.
Try not to judge him too hard. He means well.
13 April — Tours
We arrive among Les Français (meaning “They who put sauces on anything”) at their chief aerodrome of Paris. It is a grand city of Statuary and much stone and plentiful macaroons. It is neither clean nor particularly well-lit.
There is Much Strife among the trainsmen. We journey forth regardless as far as they will convey us, into the Touraine. We stop at the drizzle-swept outpost of Tours, pronounced “TWO-er” and meaning in Old French “Why are you not smoking?”. The country folk greet us in a State of Ennui until we demonstrate means of payment. Then fine chefs serve us their Kir and Martini Rouge and treat us to feasts of savory pies made with chicken egg and salted pork. They show us all manner of chateau. Over local wine in which the townsfolk take Great Pride, they ask if I have read the writings of their noted author Balzac. “Some,” I say. “Oui,” they say, “you must be forgiven. You who are possibly from the Nordlands.” I nod. “Perhaps less so,” I say. “But still there is this,” they say. “Why are you not smoking?”
16 April — Bordeaux
We cross the Loire and sally forth into the hinterlands. Onward we venture, beyond the cloudy gloom and Lordly Manors, beyond the Signals of Wireless Service under what our quartermaster tells me is an International Roaming Plan. Our party presses into the Aquitaine, which I translate as “We wait until after the nap.”
In these Darkest Wilds we arrive among the Bordelaise. These are a river people who Continue reading “Mangeot of the Somewhat Nordlands: Among Les Français, 2018”
To celebrate “The Carcassonne Dream” turning a year old, here again is the recipe for the legendary sandwich that drives honeymooner Dan to desperate measures. As crisis deepens and he closes in on the final ingredients, he ultimately must choose where his fate lies: with his new bride or his dream sandwich.
FULL DISCLOSURE 1: the story isn’t crime like my latest stuff. It’s a blend of satire, adventure and magic realism that–OK, it’s a romp.
FULL DISCLOSURE 2: the local ham is completely made up. If you don’t mind fictional ham, proceed. Otherwise maybe try a Bayonne or Spanish jamon.
Old Carcassonne is Medieval fortress preserved and looming over a modern-ish French town. Even beset by tourists the place has the grandeur of a tomb and the vibe of fantasy. A place so epic needed a sandwich to match.
I started with the Provence classic pan bagnat. From there, lose the tuna and add some fiction and voilà:
- Goat cheese spread
- Carcassonne Ham (fictional)
- Sliced hard-boiled egg from a purebred Marans chicken
- Red onions
- Kalamata olives
- Cucumber, sliced
- Red wine vinaigrette fermented from Languedoc Minervois AOC wine
- Camarguesea salt
- Fresh ground pepper
No one sets out to buy a $35 club sandwich. You back into that kind of decision later and over time, after long miles journeyed, after tiny losses mounting on your stomach, after foolish choices and opportunities foregone, after hunger sets in and then settles in. The $35 club sandwich is a end-of-the-line choice, almost happenstance, but it happens, and when it happens, it happens all the way.
It was November 2007, and the journey was Venice. A dream city, the Floating City, Queen of the Adriatic. We left Florence on an afternoon train. For fun that morning we marched ancient streets and climbed Il Duomo’s 467 stairs–yes, for fun–which had us rushing to the station with train station snacks for lunch. In Italy, the presence of a service, in this case a snack car, never guarantees actual availability. Closed, reason unknown. A three-hour ride later Continue reading “In Which I Buy a $35 Club Sandwich”
It is winter. Christmas Eve 2011, and Writer Guy rides the train to Arles. Second class. The South of France trundles by outside, salt flats and olive trees, the mountainside and harbor towns of the Mediterranean coast. I sip my Coca-Cola Lite and return to my laptop.
For in France the writing flows, as fast as the sweeping wind is vicious. I plan a collection, short stories set in different French locales, and the first idea has begun to spill out.
It is about a guy in Provence. On a train. In winter.
Such is my premise. Six words nearly bring the Coca-Cola Lite out my nose: “France Is Continue reading “Behind: “The Carcassonne Dream””