By Margaret Webb-August 2016
In 2003 I went to France with my friend Kathy from Texas. It was just the two of us. We rented a car and after spending three days in Paris, we hit the autoroute toward Limoges. Why Limoges? I had thought that touring the porcelain museum there would be nice, and I had never been there before. I thought there might be dishes and porcelains to buy! But then I started thinking that the autoroute was pretty expensive, and where were all the cozy hotels? Our first night on the road was spent at a Hôtel Première Classe in Guéret. It was not cozy, but we were tired and there was nothing else around. We had bunk beds and a tiny little bathroom, smaller than the one in our Airstream trailer. We could have had a comfortable stay if the crazy lady next door had stopped screaming at her child. Poor child. Pauvre enfant! For dinner, we crossed the highway and ate at the Campanile Hôtel, a.k.a. Western Sizzlin’. The food was o.k., but there was a bit of distress when my Visa card didn’t work. But my Master Card worked, so all was well.The next morning, Monday, June 9, we had breakfast at our cute little “camping” hotel and then drove into the little town to shop at Le Clerc, the French version of Walmart. It was closed. We went to another store of that type. It was closed. We needed gas. The gas station was closed. We found one that would take credit cards at the pump, so we tried to do that, but neither one of my cards would work. “Carte invalide!” the pump said. I hate it when my cards become invalids. We headed on to Limoges, for surely we would be able to find what we needed there. Mais, non, it was Twilight Zone there. Nothing was open. The streets were almost empty. Not a pleasant feeling. Finally, at another gas station, where I had to pay cash because my cards were still invalids, I asked the lady working there why everything was closed. She said that day was un jour férié, a special holiday, lundi Pentecôte, Pentecost Monday. Everyone was taking a holiday. That explained the filled up hotels and all the campers on the highway (a phenomenon that I had never witnessed before in France.)
Because everything was fermé in Limoges, we had to leave town on empty stomachs. At least our little car didn’t have an empty stomach. It could go for quite a while, but we couldn’t. At a gravel turnout on the highway, we spotted a friterie snack place, called “Chez Annick”. Monsieur, with his Salvador Dali mustache, white short shorts, white patent leather shoes and dark socks, and a yellow towel wrapped around his head, was very pleased to serve us. But poor Madame Annick made a faux pas by serving our salads to someone else.“Non, non, Annick!” le monsieur yelled at his wife. She was mortified. But we waited patiently for the next salad and ate them while seated in little plastic chairs at a little plastic table under an umbrella advertising Perrier.