With an area almost 18 times bigger than Belgium (30.528 km²), workers in France (543.965 km²) are often called to work at several 100 kilometres from their home. As travelling up and down everyday would mean losing precious time, they set off for a week or even longer to join a building site. They stay in cheap lodgings offering only bed and breakfast. So to make sure that they get at least one decent meal a day, they go to a ‘routier’ (truck stop restaurant) or some village ‘café’ or ‘bar’ to have a so-called ‘menu d’ouvrier’ (workers menu).
You’ll find this type of restaurant in almost every town and village and along the main roads in France. They are very popular with the locals too, which is not surprising as the ‘menu d’ouvrier’ is a sturdy three course meal at a ridiculously low price.
We had our first ‘menu d’ouvrier’ in 2000 in a restaurant called ‘Le Relais du Moulin’, near the Cher River in Saint-Aignan. It was kind of a head spinning experience as we don’t have this kind of restaurant in Belgium.
We returned to Saint-Aignan on day 2 of this year’s stay. We had been invited for lunch by blogger friends Ken and Walt, who live at only a few kilometres from ‘Le Relais du Moulin. We reached Saint-Aignan by 10:30 a.m., which was a bit early as Ken and Walt expected us by 11:30. So we decided to stop to take a few pictures of what used to be the ‘Relais du Moulin’.
Former ‘Relais du Moulin’ in Saint-Aignan.
The place still exists but is run these days as a hotel without a restaurant. The name has changed too. It is now called the ‘Hotel du Moulin’. There was no one in sight so we peeked in through the windows and found that the interior had drastically changed as well. There was wall to wall fitted carpet and the lounge had leather chairs. Except for the outside, which was mainly the same as ten years ago, the place had undergone an important face lift.
We looked around for a while, took some pictures of the hotel and the nearby bridge over the Cher River. After this short stop we drove into the centre of the town to buy a baguette for our picnic supper later that day. We had a quick drink on the terrace of a bar in front of the local ‘Mairie’, before setting out to join Ken, Walt and their houseguest Chm for lunch. It had stopped raining but the weather was too cold and damp to have the outdoor barbecue that was initially planned. We had a lovely indoor meal instead, expertly prepared by Ken and Walt, who are both real ‘cordons bleus’. You can read all about it on Ken’s blog ‘Living the life in Saint-Aignan’.
(to be continued)