I have a real treat for you this week of the very sweetest kind. So sit back, relax and let your tastebuds go totally wild. Today I am taking you inside the boulangerie pâtisserie.
Let’s start at the very beginning because to totally enjoy the experience you need to know the difference between the two. I am sure that for most of you this is common knowledge, but just in case you are new to the French way of things let me briefly explain. A boulangerie is a bakery that mostly focuses on baking bread whilst a pâtisserie will have a pastry chef and specialises in those incredibly tempting tarts and all manner of sweet treats. There is also the little word ‘artisanal’ which you might see creeping in to confuse you. This basically means that the bread is baked fresh on the premises, always a good sign to look out for.
Personally I like to see a sign inside the boulangerie telling me where the flour is milled.
So now the lesson is over let’s have some fun. This is very much a pictorial post. But I do have to make an excuse, all the photos were shot quickly with my iPhone, so they are perhaps not the very best quality. I didn’t want to go into various places with a camera and make a big deal out of this. I wanted it to be totally natural, on the spur of the moment, exactly what you would see if you were with me and we were shopping together.
Perhaps we should start the day by buying croissants and pain au chocolat, or a chocolatine as they are known in this part of France or pain au raisin.
The boulangerie is changing with the times. There are now a large variety of baguette along with all sorts of other breads too, complet meaning wholewheat and spelt. Breads made with maize flour and my favourite a viking which is made with rye flour, and this is just a few of the many varieties one can find. The boulangerie has come a long way from the days when it sold just a baguette and nothing else.
But don’t dally, bread sells out quickly!
So now we have our croissants and our bread lets head out together, in the virtual sense of course. It is a Sunday morning in the middle of March. Technically still winter, but spring is making itself known. We are on the coast, in Pontaillac, a residential area of Royan which sits to the west of the main town. Having parked the car we are taking a stroll along the seafront. Watching the surfers making the most of the stiff breeze. There are plenty of people around, all enjoying a morning walk.
Our conversation turns to lunch and dinner and we realise we must buy something for dessert.
We are utterly spoilt for choice!
It’s not just a feast for the eyes, for anyone new to France, this is an entirely different experience and one you should take your time to enjoy.
Everyone buys bread and pâtisserie, young, old, men and women and no-one hurries. There is no use being in a rush, because the locals take the time to exchange kisses and hold a brief, and sometimes not so brief, conversation.
And another thing, this is France, even the dog is allowed inside!
The bigger establishments in the more populated areas are expanding rapidly. Now you can often buy a coffee, cappuccino, tea or chocolat chaud to take away with you and what’s more the French do.
Plus, and perhaps more importantly you can also select a bottle of wine to go with your meal. I find even the tiniest of places tend to have a few bottles for sale. Nearly always they are locally made, very often organic and well worth trying.
Many places now make sandwiches either to order or already waiting in the chilled counter. Sandwich Jambon beurre (ham and butter), jambon beurre emmental (ham butter and Emmental cheese), and jambon or poulet crudité (ham or chicken with salad and egg usually) are very popular and readily available.
So now we have spent quite a long time inside and finally we have our box of goodies, it was a very hard choice! Did we go for a large strawberry tart for the entire family, or a selection of eclairs?
Or did we make life simple and buy a tray of miniatures to let everyone make their own choice.
Armed with our delicacies we head back out into the street, ready to head home.
We are lucky, we live just twenty five minutes or so from Pontaillac, it is one of my favourite coastal haunts. It is super busy in the height of the summer but still it manages to remain agreeable. At this time of year it is reserved mostly for the year round residents. There aren’t many tourists which actually is a pity, for they are truly missing out. Of course not every day in winter is like this with clear blue skies and a real warmth to the sun. But for every day when the rain is lashing down, the wind is howling and the sea is spewing angry foam over the pavement there will equally be a clear still day with beautiful blue skies, when wrapped in warm clothing one has to enjoy the peace and solitude of the coast at this time of year.