Last week, we had a parking lot “fender-bender.” Craig pulled out of a parking space at the same time as the car parked behind us…..they were in each other’s blind spots and “voila”…..two scraped bumpers.
France has a universal accident form that everyone should carry. We had the form….the other driver didn’t. Since the form was in his native language, he completed the form and we each left with a copy of it.
We called the rental company and were told that since there were no injuries, we could turn the form in when we returned the car. We were content with this until we translated the form and saw that the other driver implied that he was at a standstill when Craig backed into him. There were other inconsistencies, too, so we thought it would be prudent to return to Toulouse to discuss our concerns with the rental company.
So today, we skipped breakfast and headed off to Toulouse. An hour into the trip, we were feeling a bit “peckish” (a word we laugh at each time we hear it on the telly) and decided to stop in Castelnaudary for lunch. Castelnaudary is the home of “cassoulet” and, since last week’s warmth has yielded to the still crisp days of winter, a hearty cassoulet would be the perfect meal.
We found a parking space convenient to all the downtown restaurants and were pleased to see that the French birthright to a good lunch knows no bounds…..there’s no charge for parking between noon and 2:00 pm.
We opted to dine at the Hotel du Centre et du Lauragais…..its restaurant makes one of the area’s best cassoulets.
The dining room, with its black chairs and white panelling, felt elegant. The restaurant, though not full, had many tables occupied by Frenchies quietly chatting. I wish Americans could master this art of softly spoken speech…..especially the American I’m married to.
After we had ordered our cassoulet, a charming young man brought our amuse-bouche to the table…..two small poppy-seed rolls (about the size of a quarter) filled with a seafood mousse. They were delicious….. but they were gone after one bite.
Craig and I love the French sense of humor. Our waiter, with a big grin, stopped to pick up our now empty plate and asked “Cafe maintenant (Coffee now)?”
Before too long, a large, earthenware casserole full of steaming cassoulet was delivered to our table…..the melange of beans, duck, pork and housemade sausage, garnished with a savory breadcrumb topping, was placed between us with two big serving spoons. We helped ourselves to large servings and dug in…..with occasional breaks for bites of salad or sips of an excellent wine from the nearby Malpere area.
We tried our best, but the beans won…..it was too much for two mere mortals to finish. We attempted to eat enough so as to not anger the chef when the dish was returned to the kitchen but, when we found ourselves just pushing food around, we knew it was time to throw in the towel. Our waiter, now speaking English, with a wink and a smile said, “Too bad, if you had finished it, it would have been free.”
One dessert later and we were back on the road.
We arrived at the rental agency at the Toulouse Airport, explained that we didn’t think the accident report was accurate, and showed them the car’s bumper, the accident report and the pictures I took of the other car. We needed have worried…..as long as the car is driveable, the report could wait. We were given new copies of the accident report (one in French and one in English) and bid “adieu.” Hmmm…..is it really this easy or will our credit card be hit for damages to two cars? We’ll keep thinking the good thought.