It’s always fascinated me to see people rush into a cafe in France, head to the counter, order un cafe – which comes in a tiny cup – toss it back, drop some coins on the counter, and leave. It’s like a legal drug infusion. Quick and, in large town and cities at least, close. There’s always a cafe close by.
Aside to anyone looking for property in the Aude – Close by only in cities and towns, in the Aude there are lots of villages without cafes.
Coffee fix in Fabrezan
This morning I had an appointment to meet someone at 10 am to list his house. It’s in the middle of the village and he was having trouble giving me directions – or I was having trouble figuring them out – so we agreed to meet in the parking lot at Clos de Souquet at 10 am.
It was about 10.10 when I arrived. (I have to learn not to answer the phone when I’m about to leave for an appointment) He wasn’t there. I waited til about 10.25 and then called him. No answer so I left a message. It was a gorgeous day, there was a friendly dog to talk to, my next appointment wasn’t until 15.30, I didn’t mind waiting.
About 5 minutes later my phone rang. The owner, very apologetic, he’d be right there. When he arrived he didn’t even have to open the window for me to see that he had a hangover (gueule de bois) from hell. His aura was neon and flashing HANGOVER HANGOVER HANGOVER like a beer sign.
I followed him to the house. We stood in the garden chatting for a few minutes – that’s when I learned the French for hangover. He said that he really needed coffee. I said I was going to take pictures of the garden. Classic cultural misunderstanding. I assumed he was going to go make himself some coffee.
We spent the next 50 minutes walking through the house, me taking pictures and asking questions, he trying to walk, breathe, and answer my questions. After the tour we sat outside – it truly was a gorgeous day – and I filled in the Mandat forms. He was almost twitching. I hadn’t figured out that he still hadn’t had coffee. After the forms were signed I put down the pen and looked up, ready to say something pleasant.
As soon as I raised my head he blurted ‘now let’s go have coffee’.
Outside he asked if I wanted to come with him or follow in my car. Car? The cafe’s only about two blocks away! Why not walk? By now he was desperate. I could see him thinking ‘walk, is she insane?’ So we went in his car.
He held the cafe door open for me, nice of him considering his condition and necessary because I can never open that door, raced up to the bar and gasped ‘cafe’ before he even said hello to anyone. Normally the hellos happen before anything else.
After he’s finished about half of his large coffee and had stopped quivering I asked him why he hadn’t had coffee at home earlier. Because he always has coffee at the cafe in the morning. Then why didn’t he say something to me when we first got to the house. We could have had coffee before we did the listing. The answer? A Gallic shrug.