Desperation, part one

That our first meal in southern France was at McDonald’s always gets a laugh. Like a great New Yorker cartoon, it immediately balances the warmth and beauty of life by the Mediterranean.

I’ll make this short, so I can get to why we’re eating pizza tonight in the seafood capital of the Outer Banks, N.C.

We got off the train from Paris on a Sunday afternoon, had to take a taxi to the airport to pick up our rental car, managed to lose ourselves on the way out of Nimes and finally found our cottage in St. Mamert du Gard after some confusing encounters with people who speak the language a hell of a lot faster and better than anybody in our car.

Saint Mamert, town square

Saint Mamert du Gard

This photo shows the square. Our gite was on a street nearby, under olive trees. The landlady was away, but we found the key to the front door above the lintel.

Note the closed shutters in the square. Since we’d driven through town, we already knew the grocery was closed. So was the tiny bistro we saw, and the boulangerie. Small town, sleepy Sunday. Sun going down. Hunger coming full on.

Back to the car, but to go where? We headed for the highway and went north. (South to Montpellier would have been a better choice, but who knew?) Tried a few exits and found nothing but houses. Hunger had become a third voice in the car, an unpleasant finger-pointing WTF-Were-You-Thinking snarky voice that didn’t sound like calming down soon.

About an hour into our search, with only headlights and moonlight around us, a soft reddish-yellow glow appeared on the right side of the roadway, miles ahead. It looked M-ish.

HFS — it was an M. It was a McDoubleCheeseBurger M, a McFries With That M, a Where’s The Damn Exit M that pulled us clean off the highway and into a long line of Peugeots and Renaults.

It’s called McDo en francais, and done with full French efficiency and courtesy. Uniformed servers walked the lines of cars, taking orders and taking money, so that when we got to the takeout window all we had to do was grab our hot bag of holy junk food and find a place to park.

And give thanks.

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