One of our Canadian friends who is about to travel on French trains for the first time wanted to know about having a picnic on the train. He emailed me to ask whether you can, for instance, have wine. Bien sûr! You can either buy wine on the train (usually), or pack a bottle with your lunch. Now, what about eating?
My wife and I have become fairly accomplished at having picnics on French trains over the years, especially on the relatively long hauls between Paris and the Greater Daglan Area, and we’d tried all the variations. You can take food that you’ve made at home (salads, sandwiches) or bought in a supermarket. You can buy food on the train.
What works best? Some of the keys to train-picnicking success are ease and convenience, remembering to bring all the right gear (bottle opener, napkins, and so on), and of course having good food and wine. When we’re leaving from home, it’s of course easier to get organized. But on our recent trip home from Paris, we thought it was best to buy food that’s already prepared and organized. So we went to the nearest Lenôtre, which is only a block or two from our hotel, Hotel le Tourville.
You may have heard of the Lenôtre group — it includes a famous café on the Avenue de Champs-Élysées, and several retail outlets known for fine food and pastries. Here’s a look at one of the Lenôtre boxes, just so that you’ll recognize the logo:
When we bought our dishes for the train (and I’ll get to them in a few seconds), the very nice woman in the store also supplied us with plastic knifes and forks and a good selection of napkins. Then we bought a decent bottle of Côtes-de-Provence rosé in the nearby Carrefour supermarket, and took everything back to the hotel to be stored in the bar fridge overnight, along with a few plastic bottles of Perrier.
And here’s our picnic. For me, thin slices of roast veal, sitting on top of a pasta salad that included black olives, artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes, plus some carrot-and-pineapple salad and Lenôtre’s own potato chips that Jan and I shared. My meal:
For Jan, it was poached salmon, topped with a quail egg, and accompanied by a tiny stuffed tomato. Like this:
Finally, I had a delicious chocolate dessert, with a crunchy base and a creamy interior. The picnic was all over by the time the TGV had pulled out of Bordeaux, headed for Agen.
All the garbage was put away (the train includes ample places for garbage), and we had time for a nice long chat with an elderly couple from Agen who were headed home. It was an enjoyable end to a quite delicious meal.