Taking it slow in Monpazier

I’m not sure exactly where the slow-food movement originated, but I can confirm that it’s reached its pinnacle at the Galerie M. Café in the lovely bastide town of Monpazier, about 30 kilometres south and east of Daglan. Our lunch there yesterday was proof enough.

Before I go on, I’ll quickly explain that a bastide is a medieval town that’s well designed, usually with a large central square, a few wide streets, often fortified, with a few large gates. Monpazier was founded (I have learned) in 1284 by King Edward 1 of England, back when the English and French were tussling over the ownership of this whole area.

Since the weather yesterday was beautiful and we were almost errand-free, we headed to Monpazier in the hopes that one of our favourite restaurants there — Privilège du Périgord or Bistro 2 — would have re-opened after their seasonal shutdown. Nope. Not just yet.

So we wandered into the main square where there are a few outdoor cafés, and settled ourselves at a table for two at Galerie M. Then the waiting began. A long wait for the lone waitress to appear, when we ordered two kirs; a long wait for her to return, so we could place our order. We chose simply: my wife Jan ordered moules marinières, and I ordered six oysters to begin, followed by white asparagus in a béchamel sauce; with a half-bottle of rosé wine.

It took more than half an hour for someone in the kitchen to shuck six oysters, but eventually they were delivered — and they were delicious, as good French oysters always are. Then another half-hour wait for my asparagus (very good) and my wife’s mussels, which were not done in white wine (as ordered) but in a thick tomato sauce (which happened to be the daily special).

But hey — we were very cool. For one thing, we didn’t feel singled out for slow service or wrong orders. Every table was enduring the same long wait times, and two Dutch women near us each received a whole grilled fish — when they had ordered the asparagus. Second, it was beautiful and sunny, and we were enjoying the sunshine. And finally, we were in no particular rush. Having said that, enough is enough — and because we wanted to be home before night fell, we both vowed not to order coffees, but just to ask for the bill and then leave.

And so we wandered through the village, eventually emerging onto a street with beautiful views over the countryside. Here’s what we saw:


The view from Monpazier.

As previously mentioned on Radio Free Daglan, the flowers on trees, shrubs and vines in the Dordogne have already popped out. Like these purple wisteria set between two old stone fence posts:


An old stone fence, with purple wisteria.

Behind another stone fence, we saw these apple trees in full bloom:

Apples trees

Flowering apple trees in Monpazier.

Finally we came across this little lemon tree in someone’s yard. It’s in a large pot, so it can be moved, and  probably spent the coldest part of winter indoors, perhaps in a shed or garage or a solarium — because it was loaded with small lemons. Like this:

Lemon tree

“Lemon tree, very pretty, and the lemon flower is sweet…”

Then it was back to the car, and off to Daglan. As we arrived home, we both agreed that the afternoon had been very well spent — doing not much more than taking our time and smelling the flowers. So to speak.



This entry was posted in French food, Life in southwest France, Restaurants in France. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Taking it slow in Monpazier

  1. Sharon says:

    Loren, it’s fair to say that your surroundings are beautiful and your excursions are interesting — but it should also be noted that you’re an awfully good writer. I always look forward to your blog entries. The photos in this one and the last one are gorgeous!

  2. loren24250 says:

    Thanks so much, Sharon. Wonderful to hear from you!

  3. Meredith says:

    Spectacular photos, Loren! I am seething with jealously. When we left Gio’s after dinner last night it was SNOWING – arrrgh!

  4. Dear guests of Monpazier and the Galerie .M.
    we like your statement.

    A nice analogy crossed your mind – slow food – slow service – nearly poetry.
    The colleagues from Bistro 2, where you like to stop for a bite to eat, are open the whole year, but always closed for lunch at Saturdays. That you should know.
    Fun aside.
    Saturday before last was the first delightful spring day this year and many people, like you, came to Monpazier, then to our terrace on the beautiful medieval square and had a good meal.
    Unfortunately you and the other guests had to wait longer than you are used to, for that we would like to apologize.
    The two ladies, our Dutch regular guests – those who got the grilled gilthead sea bream with asparagus instead of just gratinated asparagus – excused our mistake immediately, because they knew the problem would be resolved immediately.
    We hope that one of the next wonderful days you – so cool how you stayed, it will not be difficult for you – again stop for a bite to eat. We will invite you to have a quick Kir and a meal at your free choice. See for yourself, you will enjoy it.
    Best wishes and forgive the bad English.

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