The Sarlat Test, and a sad sign of our times

We are now over the hump — which is to say the peak of the Tourist Season, which in the Greater Daglan Area (GDA) runs roughly from mid-July to mid-August. You can see the cars heading back to other parts of France, the Netherlands and Great Britain, loaded to their roofs with all the possessions they hauled here a few weeks earlier.  And besides, I’ve confirmed this with the Sarlat Test.

The Sarlat Test is a simple way to measure the intensity of the Tourist Season in the GDA, and it works like this: If you can drive into Sarlat without going numb, as you inch forward in traffic, the worst is over. If you need to take a bedroll and food supplies to survive the traffic jam, the Season is still at its peak. The test is well proven (Liebstein and Stevenson, Oxford University, 2003), and our personal experience once again confirms it.

A few days ago, my wife Jan and I were foolish enough to venture into Sarlat for some shopping, and wound up having to inch forward in a traffic jam that stretched for what seemed like kilometres. But yesterday afternoon, when I drove into the town for an appointment, it was a relative breeze. So, the worst is over for 2016.

A sad sign of our times: I’m sure you’re aware of the kinds of signs that are plastered on the walls of hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s waiting rooms, whether in France or elsewhere. Generally they run to the benign and more-or-less informative: The need to keep your hands scrupulously clean; the need to cover your mouth if you cough; the need for getting your flu vaccine; and so on. But in Toulouse earlier this week, I came across a sign that was actually fairly troubling.

My wife and I were in the fourth floor waiting room of a well known (and excellent) clinic, waiting  to meet the (excellent) surgeon who had operated on Jan’s hand a few weeks earlier. (It all went well; she’s fine; thanks for asking.) But as I wandered around, I found a sign that I’d not seen before — with step-by-step advice on how to deal with a terrorist attack.

It seemed pretty sensible: Run away if you can; take cover if you can’t run away safely; call the police; raise your hands in the air to show you’re unarmed when the police arrive, and so on.

All very good. But quite troubling that in a civilized country, we need to be concerned with such things. Then again, not everyone here — and in much of this troubled world — is actually civilized.

 

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2 Responses to The Sarlat Test, and a sad sign of our times

  1. Paul says:

    Hi Loren
    Like the people you mention above (and I agree about Sarlat – not just getting in to the town but also trying to find a place to park was a nightmare) we are back from our hols in France and thought I’d let you know about some of the places we ate at:
    Top of the list was Etincelles in St Sabine Born (between Beaumont & Issigeac). Five courses of Michelin starred food served on a candlelit terrace by chef & his wife. Probably the most charming and unprepossessing Michelin starred restaurant I’ve been to. Two glasses of champagne, five courses of sublime food plus a bottle of wine for about 150 euros. Recommended if you’re in the area (and worth the trip if you’re not as Michelin might say).
    We always try to pay a visit to Le Table du Marche in Bergerac. This time, as always, the food was creative and imaginative. However, I have a nagging doubt that chef might be focusing more on the embellishments than the main event. So, the duck I ordered pink was definitely more of a grey, and a starter of an emulsion of mozzarella had an unusual and not altogether pleasant texture (like a very thick wallpaper paste!).
    There are three very good restaurants in Issigeac, but the pick of the bunch this time was L’Ancienne Gare. We had an excellent Sunday lunch there on a lovey terrace with great service (Mme Sylvie speaks excellent English and recommended an excellent wine). Can’t remember the price but I think about 100 euros for an amuse bouche, 3 courses, coffee & wine (incl. two coupe de champagne).
    L’Huitrier-Pie in St Emilion was good as always. Competent and imaginative cooking with excellent ingredients in the lovely small garden area, served by charming staff. A good find.
    Couple of nice places in Villereal: Au Gourmet was good, solid bourgeois cooking for an entirely French clientele when we were there (must be a good sign?). Les Marronniers is more down to earth, but had a nice buzzy atmosphere and a good mix of locals and visitors. Very extensive menu ranging from pizza (which looked good) to a good selection of local specialties (Tête de veau with sauce Gribiche, Ventre de veau à l’ancienne, various types of tripe….)
    Took your advice and went to La Plage (having given up on the queue for Castelnaud) and tried the Croque. I am partial to a good croque and this was one was very good. Judicious use of nutmeg and a rich creamy béchamel. The café gourmand was also good.
    By the way, finally got to visit Daglan and what a lovely place it is. Delighted to see the Insects you have written about and, on a very hot day, it was lovely to find the bathing area by the river (does that place have a name?)
    Just booked next year’s holiday to the same gite as this year (between Beaumont & Issigeac) so will hopefully will be back again – look forward to reading your eating recommendatiions throughout the year.
    Best wishes
    Paul
    Ps if you’re in Bordeaux i can recommend:
    • Le Petit Commerce
    • Le Bouchon Bordelais
    • Le Bar a Vin (good range of wines by the glass – at absurdly cheap prices- plus excellent cheese & charcuterie plates. Good option for a snack or light lunch).

  2. Rhiannon says:

    Hi Paul
    many thanks for the recommendations – they look interesting, we’ll be sure to check them out when we are next that way

    Rhi.

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