It’s the summer holidays and if I want my three sons to do something other than play computer games, I have to get creative. Today, I packed them into the car without telling them where we were going. I wanted to avoid the rolling eyes, the slouching shoulders, and the sigh of desperation as they exclaimed “Are we going to do something… cultural…, again?”
Sarrant has many advantages. It’s a short drive from home, in the Gers. It’s one of the prettiest villages in France – it’s a medieval fortified village whose sponsor is the beautiful city of Carcassonne. It’s got cute houses with half-timbered façades, lovely cobbled alleyways and rustic flowerbeds bordered by woven hazel switches. But best of all, in Sarrant I have zero phone coverage, and absolutely no 3G network.
None. Zip. Nada.
What it does have, however, is a special kind of place that provides both food for thought and food for the body and it’s called La Tartinerie. It is both a quaint bookshop and a kind of café that serves large slices of grilled pain de campagne with something delicious on top – those are the tartines. The kids were getting hungry.
But first I challenged the boys to find a book without pictures that they will have read before the end of the holidays. They browsed for half an hour before making their choice, by which time a table outdoors was available – with the golden sunshine and all, even I didn’t want to eat among the books.
La Tartinerie sources from local farmers. Their prices are very reasonable (€5 for a kid’s plate, €7 for an adult’s, a litre of fresh fruit juice was €5 and desserts €3.80), and you really get value for money. Just look at those delicious toasts! I had goat’s cheese, honey and lavender, the boys had cheese and ham from the Pyrenees and onion confit with foie gras, plus a loaded plate of salad. Gorgeous! The kids had ice-cream for dessert. I applied a parent tax of 2 spoonfuls per scoop: The pineapple and the pistacio were the best I have tasted in a long, long while. The coffee was great, too. (The only criticism I have are the loos – they’re upstairs, sandwiched between a corner and two bookshelves, and they are a bit very rustic.)
We lingered for hours. The kids were reading their books in the sun. I was reading mine. Nobody asked to play Angry Birds. Nobody interrupted our moment of calm with a phone call. We watched the lizards play chase on the church’s stone walls, commented on the angry black and white sheep dog, and traded slivers of tartines across the blue wooden table.
The bookshop is very active on the local culture scene, with poetry readings, family art workshops and all sorts of litterary lestivals. I actually discovered the village and bookshop only a few months ago when my youngest son, aged 7, was invited to participate in a children’s litterature festival with debates on books they had read at school, the presentation of a Japanese Kamishibai theatre, and the presence of authors and illustrators who came to meet their readers and sign some books.
This place is a charm! Come on in…