Okay, so I think I mentioned that cafe crawling is one of my favourite pastimes? Seriously, I could while away hours at cafes. Not because I prefer to pay for my food and drink, or even for the food and drink itself, but more for the experience and the ambience. There’s no greater way to while away a few hours than in idle observation and contemplation of daily life as it goes on around you.
I was reflecting that perfection for me would be a life where I could make enough money to live by sitting at cafes and blogging. Note to self: must work on a long-term plan to achieve that. It can’t be that hard.
In the meantime, three months in the south of France with nothing better to do than cafe crawl and blog was as near to perfection as I will get for now. And we made the most of it.
Not that we went to cafes every day, but most days. Sometimes more than once! Don’t think that we’re made of money – I can assure you we’re not. But traveling with baby necessitates many food breaks, and where more convenient, often, than the nearest cafe. For the price of a one euro coffee or sometimes a two euro diabolo (OK, so we were in one of the most economically deprived departments in France, but still), you can spend a good amount of time soaking up the atmosphere.
With all that cafe crawling, you’d be thinking we acquired some regular haunts and some top picks. You’d be right. Here are a few of my favourites, though if pushed I could probably identify a few more.
1. Cafe du Fleuve, Quillan
Our local, so this was obviously going to feature. Perfect location. 😉 Friendly service, great music, the hub for events in the square, one euro coffees, endless hours of entertainment from our windows above. We tended to go here for our morning coffee and croissants (bought from the nearby boulangerie) and also for group drinks with friends, allowing the adults to drink and chat, while the children played on the square.
2. Le Palace, Quillan
Not the flashest establishment, but always busy, and ideally sited right on the river, providing great views of canoes and kayaks and other river tourism. The best kirs and diabolos and Ollie’s cafe of choice for drinks and chats or postcard writing. We went here several times late afternoon or early evening for a relaxed aperitif in the sunshine. Great omelette frites and creme caramel maison. Brusque at times but always friendly and often entertaining service.
3. Auberge du Faby, Rouvenac
OK, it’s partly that we fell in love with this pretty riverside village, but the location and outlook of the auberge is idyllic for a summer lunch al fresco, just 25 minutes’ drive from Quillan. The service is very friendly, even if the food and coffee is nothing to rave about. Only open lunchtimes and evenings, but you get that. It’s a restaurant, not a cafe. We considered buying a house in this village, and would have been happy with this as a local.
4. Le Lou Sicret, Montsegur
The food is to die for, the location is beyond compare, the products are all organic and locally sourced, the service is outstanding, the place has been owned by the same family for several generations. You can even stay here in the gite d’etape if walker’s accommodation is your thing. It would be wonderful. Need I say more? Go there!
5. Cafe du Jardin, Alet-les-Bains
I’m actually not certain what the name of this place is. But, I love it for the unique location, in a beautiful back garden and partly in an opened-up old barn, hidden away on a wee side street. Also for the food, which was home cooked and delicious. Though we only had crepes on the occasion we visited, they were very good, and the menu selection was not extensive, but homely and appealing.
6. Patisserie, Esperaza
For the simple reason that, one Sunday morning, amid the bustle of the weekly Esperaza market, we had a divine croissant, fresh from the oven. It was, perhaps, the best croissant I have ever eaten in my entire life. Sadly, we could never quite replicate it, despite returning twice in an attempt to do so.
There were many others, but these were my favourites. What’s your favourite cafe?