From the Belgian town of Mons south of Brussels, we would take the ‘route nationale’ in the direction of the French town of Laon. On our first visit we decided to stop there and do some sightseeing and maybe find a place to have lunch. Loan is built on a hill. The highest part – or ‘ville haute’ – is also the oldest with some very nice medieval buildings, a cathedral, a fortress and picturesque cobblestone streets. We strolled around for a while and had a drink on a sidewalk terrace. During our short walk we didn’t come across any inviting restaurants … but maybe that’s because we didn’t really take the time or the trouble to look for one.
The town of Laon.
Photo: Office de tourisme de Laon
We therefore decided to move on the next (smaller) town on our route, called Fismes, hoping to find something to our liking there. Some 7 km south of Laon we drove into a tiny village called Bruyères-et-Montbérault. The main particularity of this village (of which the name has probably more characters than there are inhabitants) is that the village church is almost built in the middle the main road making it impossible for two cars driving in opposite directions to pass the spot simultaneously. We had to give way to a large lorry. I guess it is thanks to this truck slowing us down, that I was able to catch a glimpse of a restaurant that was hidden behind a street corner …
While the car was pulling up I looked in the rear-view mirror on the side and saw a picturesque pink and red building with three or four steps leading up to a solid wooden door. The colourful appearance was enhanced by a multitude of bright and soft pink climbing rosebushes against the façade. “Stop”, I said, startling my friend who immediately pulled over to the side of the road. “What’s wrong?” he worriedly enquired. “Look there, behind us. That looks like a nice restaurant, doesn’t it?” I said. As there was no way of turning the car around in the village, we were forced to drive on to the next roundabout and come back to have a closer look at the restaurant. That’s when we first saw its name: ‘Montmartre’.
There were no other cars parked in front of the restaurant, but inside the lights were on and there was smoke coming out of the chimney. We walked up the steps. Just when my friend was about to put his hand on the door handle, the door almost miraculously opened by itself. From behind it appeared the landlord who courteously showed us to a table for two. We were the only patrons, which is always slightly worrying as it may be an indication of poor quality and/or bad service. We could do nothing but wait and hope for the best …
(to be continued)