Two things I wish there were more of in France: pubs and cream teas. Not necessarily in that order.
So, when we found out that there is a British tea room in a nearby town, we both raised our pinkies and said, “Yes, please!” A couple of weeks earlier, Cherie was at the market talking with a local farmer who suggested that we check out a little café in the town near his farm where they offer cakes and tea. He probably assumed we were English. Most people here do. I guess, to them, our accents are indistinguishable from the British. So, naturally, he thought we would be eager to try this place out. Even though he was slightly off the mark about our origins, our farmer friend was spot-on about our love of a good tea room. Plus, he raises excellent pigs resulting in very tasty porc and sausage. Clever man.
A bit of detective work revealed that the café was named Le Patis. We’re still not quite sure what it means in French. On reference suggests it means a type of fish sauce. But that seems … doubtful in this context. Another indicates that it can refer to pastries. More likely, I think. And yet another source I found indicated that it defines a region in eastern Bretagne/western Mayenne and Loire, known as Le Patis Haut – essentially the area which once roughly formed the marches between oft-independent Bretagne and the kingdom of France. The café is located within this area. Maybe the name is meant to be a double-entendre of these two latter meanings. That, too, would be clever.
With dreams of jammy scones and hot brown water* dancing through our heads, Cherie and I drove northeast about 25 minutes to the small town of Landivy. That day, we had to weave in and out of one of the many bicycle races that stretch along the country lanes. In France, you never know when you’re going to encounter one, no matter far out in the country you find yourself. Bicycle races seem to happen spontaneously here. Like rain, or caterpillar parades. This was on a Tuesday. Unfortunately for us (and our dreams of overdosing on clotted cream), we found the café closed. We read the sign in the window with long faces: Le Patis is only open Wednesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons. Of course it is. Occasionally, we revert to our old expectations that businesses are open all day, all of the week, forgetting that we’re in France. Silly us.
Sullen, we drove back home, made our own tea, and regrouped. We had deliveries to receive and work to do on our newest addition to the empire for the remainder of the week. So, on the following week, we scheduled out a Thursday and off we drove to Landivy again. There were no bicycles to dodge this time. A good sign. And, sure enough, we arrived to find Le Patis open and welcoming, full of customers jonesing for a proper tea.
A quick word about tea in France. The French drink it, though they, like Americans, generally prefer coffee. Although one can find black tea without too much trouble, they tend to drink tisane (herbal infusion) teas. Because of this, they seem to find the concept of putting milk in tea to be a bit odd. When we order it in restaurants, we have to repeatedly ask for milk with our tea. Even when they eventually bring the milk, it is in a thimble. Hardly enough for even one cup. So, it can be a little frustrating to order a cup of black tea in France. It’s always an interesting experience though.
Le Patis is a pleasant tea shop run by two partners originally from the U.K. Both were very nice and they both took time out to have a good chat with all of their customers. Customers who, as far as we could tell, were all British except for a pair who sounded as though they were either Canadian or American. Interesting. It must be a magnet for all English-speaking expats in the area. We had some fine tea and enjoyed some excellent scones and cake. In fact, they had several different scones (sweet and savory) and cakes to choose from. Not wanting to limit ourselves to just one type of cake, we selected a couple of slices of other cakes to take home with us. As you do. To top it off, Le Patis was selling a variety of commemorative items for the upcoming coronation of King Charles III. So, yeah, we scooped up a pair of mugs and matching coasters too. Long may he reign!
Our visit to the tea shop in Landivy was a pleasant afternoon’s diversion. No doubt, it will become a regular break for us. I suppose we’re pretty lucky in that respect. We get to enjoy the wonders of a life in France while having a bit of the U.K on our doorstep as well. Now, if I could just find a cozy pub …
*That’s for all of you smug, coffee-drinking Ted Lasso fans out there. A funny joke, but hardly fair. I mean, isn’t coffee also just hot brown water? [Please keep your angry responses to less than fifty words. Thank you.]