Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

The Unicorn

I’m currently preparing our upcoming weekend trip to the French Alsace. On the way down to Strasbourg we’ll certainly be making a’ pit stop’ in Saverne, the charming town where we stayed last year and the year before. The town’s emblem is a unicorn. I had read on the internet that there was a statue of this mythical animal in the town square. Although very beautifully and delicately sculptured, it turned out to be a tiny little thing - so tiny even that we overlooked it during our first visit in 2007.

'La Licorne' – French for The Unicorn is also the name of the local lager type beer. Belgium being a beer country, we are very particular when it comes to beer. Most French beers, such as 'Kronenbourg', are much too sweet for our taste buds, which are used to the more bitter tasting Belgian brands. And even the Belgian 'Stella Artois' that is brewed for the export market lacks the required bitterness. We therefore rarely drink beer when travelling in France.

The Unicorn or 'Licorne' beer, however, is an exception. I remember having our first 'Licorne' experience sitting in the sun on a sidewalk terrace in the town square of Saverne in September 2007.

Imagine our surprise last year when we found that the little bar – 'Le Bouchon' – down the road of our chambre d’hôtes in Vouvray serves this brand of beer too! 'Le Bouchon' is a small bar with a charming young landlady V. who’s on first name basis with all her patrons. Last year as well as this summer, we made a habit of stopping there after returning from our daily excursion to savour a refreshing 'Licorne' – or two – on the little terrace overlooking the town. Very soon we got to know the locals...

Evening sky over Vouvray, seen from the sidewalk terrace of 'Le Bouchon'

There was the town’s gardener, looking very skinny and tanned, who introduced himself as the ‘employé communal’ (town’s clerk!), in blue working clothes, who dropped in every evening after work to have his two ‘panachés’ (beer and lemonade). And the couple living next door minding their 1,5 year old grandson, which mainly meant following him around and preventing him from running out into the road. We had a long talk with an elderly man who turned out to be a jack of all trades who had lived all over
France and had now retired in Vouvray. To keep himself occupied he kept bees and made his own honey. He was trying to get a license as a market vendor to sell his produce in the area.

By our third visit in 2008 the landlady as well as the other patrons had accepted us as one of them. Every afternoon, when we dropped in for our daily 'Licorne', they asked what we had been up to during the day. They were very interested in the sites we had visited. Very often they hadn’t been to these places themselves or hardly knew that they existed.

When we returned to 'Le Bouchon' this year, our 'Licornes' were waiting for us on one of the tables on the terrace. V., the landlady, had recognized the car when we drove up to the bar and had anticipated our thirst! Shortly after we’d arrived, the town’s gardener and the couple next door showed up. We were greeted like old-time friends who had returned from a long journey …


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