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dimanche 11 décembre 2016




As you already know, I'm a die-hard reader, so whenever I go downtown, I always pay a visit to the local bookshop.

The place is rather small, and the aisles between the displays so narrow that to squeeze along requires flexibility, but a healthy diet,as well. I'm not kidding !
One roll of fat too many, and you can get stuck between wobbly piles of books threatening to crash down if you breathe out ! Porty regulars know that either they stop indulging their tastebuds, or they'll have to make do with the end-aisles displays !

The owner there is really the right man in the right place. He is friendly but not too intrusive, reserved but ready to help.
Whatever the novel, the thriller, the sci-fi or even the relatively unknowns you are looking for, he 'll go out of his way to get it !

So, even if the place is cramped, there's always something to whet my bookworm appetite  ! All the more as no book is shrink-wrapped !

That's how last week, while browsing, I stumbled upon " A guide to the toilets of the world " ! A bit weird, isn't it ? But yet quite useful, cause it's better to be prepared for the unexpected ...
Creativity has no bounds :  some pictures were really shocking,others were  hilarious, but all were mind-blowing !

Anyway, no photo of what happened to a Japanese friend of mine in the same kind of place ...

We have known each other since primary school, and even though she went back to Tokyo when she was eighteen, we were such close-knit friends that we have managed to keep in touch so far.

So, some years ago, when she told me that she was coming to Europe and planning a 10-day driving tour of the Loire valley, I jumped at that wonderful opportunity to suggest her to drive a bit farther down and stay with us in Charente for a while.
She was thrilled to bits and so was I !

Meeting again meant endless chitchats, uncontrollable giggles, little confessions, and if, some spare time, sightseeing (plenty of places to see in Charente Maritime), and,of course, indulging her with all our local specialties !
All the easier as Yumi was far from being a picky eater !
When we were at school, to make fun of her appetite, I used to tell her that I wondered what it would have been with one more ' m ' in her first name !
She was quick on the draw and never failed to reply :

   " Don't worry about my appetite ! Just call me ' Yum ' for short ".

The good old days ...

Yumi had never been to Charente Maritime before, and I really wanted her first visit to be an unforgettable experience.
So, everyday we crisscrossed the region to show her round all the places worth sightseeing.
We even took her to an oyster farm where she could see oyster beds and taste the famous ' Fines de Claire ' she had been jonesing for !

A few castles, romanesque churches, arenas,water mills and wineries later, Yumi's art and gourmet tour was coming to an end.

She could not leave Charente Maritime without trying an ' Eclade de moules ' !

For those who have never heard about that dish (poor you !), it is made by covering the mussels with a thick layer (10 cm) of dry pine needles , and then setting the dish alight. Pine needles burn very fiercely for a few minutes, the time needed to cook the mussels and give them the taste of wild pine.
Now, I guess you understand why I didn't want my Japanese friend to miss that spectacular and tasty culinary experience !

By fluke, an oyster farmer of a nearby village was organizing a huge  éclade in one of his meadows (a former camping site), so we decided to put our names down.

Two days later  when we parked in the farmyard and got out of the car, it was scorching hot and the party was already in full swing thanks to the home-made Pineau the owner was treating his guests to !
Not really thirst-quenching, but well, ' when in Rome, do as the Romans do ' !

Dearhubby and I had already experienced the side effects of that sweet aperitif, especially when home-made ...
In a single gulp you get the taste of fresh harvest fruit and throat-burning cognac, and the combination is so pleasant that you just feel like getting another shot, and that's when things start getting wrong...

So, when the farmer offered a third round, we gently refused, unlike Yumi who swallowed it straight back and started giggling ...
Just a glance at her and I knew what was going on : rosy cheeks, bright eyes and a blissful look meant that it was high time she had a hearty meal, otherwise she would start singing up a storm !

Fortunately, a few minutes later everybody was invited to sit at the tables.

I thought we would have the éclade immediately, but the farmer had put on a big spread, and we were first served half a melon with ...Pineau .
I told Yumi that she could pour the alcohol in her glass and have just the melon, but she replied that she was not a teetotaller, she was a big girl able to hold a drink, and what's more Japanese alcoholic beverages were much stronger than Pineau !!
Well, not that strong perhaps, but anyway, pretty tipsifying !

The melon was mellow and ...Yumi, too ! To be honest, Yumi was even too mellow ...
Before I could say Jack Robinson, she was done with the ' melon au Pineau '.

Then she stood up and said she would be back in a minute.
She whispered into my ear (or at least she thought she was whispering) that everything was ok, but she needed to go to the toilets.
And off she stumbled !!

How could she know where the toilets were ?? She had never been there before and no sign to show the way to the toilets anywhere ! She had not even asked me !

No time to think it over, the farmer was about to set fire to the éclade, and was inviting all the guests to get ready to take photos of that unforgettable experience.

I looked around, but Yumi could not be seen in the far distance !

The pine needles had burnt and the mussels were being served , when, at last, my friend turned up !

She was in a sorry state ; soaked to the bones and shamefaced !

She told me that she had gone across the meadow to find out that in the shed there were only squat toilets !
What a culture shock !
She would never have thought that French people were still using that sort of stuff !
And even worse, after that awfully uncomfortable pee break, when she had wanted to flush the toilet, she had gone through a kind of ice bucket challenge ! And yet, she had never been willing to dump a bucket of ice water on her head !!

I burst out laughing, and explained her that she had been mistaken.

The shed, she had been to, were the showers of the former camping
site !
The toilets were just in the opposite direction !

As she was looking rather embarrassed , to give her smile again, I added that now the showers had been turned into drunk tanks , and seemed to be quite efficient ...

That's how my Japanese friend got to know Charente Maritime, its delicious Pineau and also its side effects !!

As for the éclade , she could enjoy the mussels, but for the pine needles on fire, she had to do with my photos !

That's all for this week, folks !

Don't forget : be perky,but don't drink one glass too many !