Seeing charming photos of Auberge de la Poule Noire near the Loire in Charité when I was studying a Google map pushed me to get on a train in time to explore the town and have lunch, within the restaurant’s narrow window of noon to one. I had a couple of interesting chats here. First, I saw a couple of women and heard them speaking English, so I got them to stop and talk. Did they live here? No; they were Canadians, visiting friends who’ve lived here some years, and it’s a repeat visit for them. Friends are happy, they themselves enjoy the town. Later, when I’d reached the restaurant – too early, so that I walked around a bit more – a man locking up his shop for lunch greeted me and we started chatting. He moved to Charité from Poitiers five years ago and is very enthusiastic about life here. He started telling me about all the foreigners he knows in the neighborhood: Americans, Canadians, non-French Europeans …. I said that a foreign population isn’t so important, as I’d hope to be making friends with the French! And then he told me there are many associations, ways to be active with groups, groups that pursue water activities, bicycling, etc. It’s a no-stress life, he claimed, and he did radiate happiness.

I share my photos of my walk from the train station to the Loire, and back by a different route. It only takes about 15 minutes each way, so a bit of extra wandering is called for. Once I got into the heart of town, I noticed a number of tea shops, some claiming French style, some claiming English. I didn’t notice greengrocers. There is an Aldi opposite the train station, with an attractive produce department, but I’d have thought I’d find more downtown. Also, when I had finished lunch, I found most businesses closed for a lunch break until 3 or even 4 pm.

Ah yes, that lunch I’d aimed for. Charming place. And … another day, another oeufs en meurette, this time offered as a starter. The sauce had a surprising, yet light, touch of sweetness; was it only from the onions? I couldn’t be sure. The eggs were properly poached this time, and the dish was delicious. For a main course, there was only one option for me – as I eliminated mackerel ceviche, tête de veau, sausage, and something starring goat cheese. What was left? Ravioli “au Dauphiné” (cream and herbs) with Emmental. The ravioli were so overcooked that they all massed together; I would never have known what shape they started with. It made me think of heavily sauced crêpes. The flavor was good, it made for okay comfort food on this cold day, but I thought that to carry a price of 18 euros, it should have had more interest and texture with, say, asparagus, leeks, mushrooms. And of course, it would have been nice if the ravioli were identifiable as ravioli, with some firmness. I chose to try the most local wine: vin de Pays des Côtes-de-la-charité, a Pinot noir, and it was good.

Two little notes: The tourist office is permanently closed to the public (!) but posts a phone number one may call for information. And a banner outside the train station announces a monthly book fair in town.

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