22 June 2011


We set off in the direction of the hospital in Loches in search of the Sous-Préfecture.  We found it without too much difficulty - it was in a grand old building in an equally grand garden in the suburbs of Loches.

When we got to the front door there was a notice saying that cartes grises could no longer be obtained there but were now issued at the Préfecture in Tours.

By now it was almost 11.30 am and we realised that we were unlikely to get to Tours in time to find the Préfecture before everything closed for lunch, which might be at 12.00 or possibly 12.30 if we were lucky.  So we thought the thing to do would be drive to the centre of Tours, have a spot of lunch and then go to the Préfecture.

As we drove along the road from Loches towards Tours, we spotted a sign indicating a restaurant down a road to our right.  We seemed to be in the middle of nowhere but we do like an adventure that might lead to a good lunch and drove down a tree-lined lane with elegant lamp-posts to find this:

fly 1The restaurant “La Couture” at Courçay.

We arrived on the dot of 12.00 and although the restaurant was completely empty it soon filled up – well maybe to half full.

It was one of those places where you just know you are in for a special treat.  The restaurant was beautiful inside with a huge fireplace, oak beams, polished tomettes and lots of crisp white linen and sparkling wine glasses.

fly 6 

The menu indicated a “menu du jour” at 17euros but there was no specials board or anything to say what that might be.  A waiter with a severe hairstyle and equally severe spectacles said he would send his colleague to tell us what it was.  An older and very smartly dressed waitress arrived at our table and rattled off a confusing list of choices, most of which we didn’t hear or didn’t understand.  So we decided to go “à la carte” and treat ourselves to a really special lunch – feeling somewhat battered and bruised after our experience in the Hôtel de Ville in Loches that morning, we felt we deserved it.

fly 5

There was a platter of delicious amuses bouches to nibble at with our apéritifs.  However, Nick decided he would act as designated driver and just have a fruit juice to begin with and maybe one glass of wine with his meal.

fly 4

Next we had a quail’s egg baked in ratatouille as a pre-starter starter.  It was delicious too.  The rest of the meal was fabulous, although I didn’t take any more photos until it came to my dessert, which was “omelette Norvégienne”.  I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect but it turned out to be something like a baked alaska, with ice cream, cake and sorbet, covered in meringue and baked.

fly 3 

For a finishing touch an extra little detail had been added:

fly 8

Presumably the offending insect had landed on the meringue just before the blowtorch was applied.  I scooped it up with a spoonful of the meringue, put it on the side of my plate and enjoyed the rest of the dessert.

I didn’t see any point in making a fuss – maybe I should have – I expected that all that would happen if I sent it back to the kitchen is that the fly would be removed and the dish returned to our table.  And in any case, I just didn’t fancy any more confrontations in a language of which I had only a slim grasp – once so far that day had been enough.  However, I did get the satisfaction of the raised eyebrows above the severe spectacles when the plate was taken away.

We settled our bill and, many euros lighter in the pocket, walked out into the sunshine to continue with our quest - it had been an expensive lunch but we enjoyed it – although I’m not sure we would rush back.

Fortunately our French road atlas had a small, basic street map of Tours and Nick spotted that there was a “Place du Préfecture” in the city centre.  We put this into our Tom-Tom and it took us straight to the very grand entrance of the Préfecture itself.  How easy that was.  We had both been concerned about the prospect of finding our way around in the traffic but it turned out to be an absolute doddle.  Once again we were reminded of one of the many things we love about our little corner of France – however bad the traffic is, it’s never as bad as at home in the UK.

fly 10

We paid one euro to park for 40 minutes and approached the elegant and imposing gates, only to find that the public entrance is in another street around the back of the building. 

So we marched round there and passed a shop selling vehicle number plates.  Now we were getting really excited – once we had our carte grise we would need a new number plate and then we were nearly home and dry.

Except for this:

fly 9

If only the person responsible for writing the notice and putting it on the door of the Sous-Préfecture in Loches had thought to add the words “but only from 8.30 until 12.30”, it would have saved us a lot of trouble.  And a very expensive toasted fly.

On the way back home, we were stopped at a police road block in La Celle- Guenand and Nick was breathalysed.  We had failed so far in our quest for a carte grise, but our new policy of absolutely no more than one small glass of wine when driving had paid off.


  1. Hello Jean:
    Your quest for the Holy Grail might, we suspect, be quicker than your search for the Carte Grise!

    But, what fun to have found the restaurant off the beaten track. A good lunch, which clearly you enjoyed apart from the cremated fly,was some compensation for your trials and , at least, there was no fine or worse still driving ban, to add to your woes.

  2. What a lovely day out you had (LOL) try again!!!!
    Sue I have found the most memorable lunches at drop-in spots along the way as well.

  3. I agree that very often the most memorable meals are the least expected.
    You're quest for the carte gris is going from bad to worse! But we're enjoying coming along for the ride!

  4. Cars with a foreign license plate are rarely stopped by the French police, except in wine regions, where they are well aware of the fact that tourists often drive from 'cave' to 'cave' to taste and buy wine. It was very wise and galant of Nick to volunteer to be the designated driver! Can't wait to read about the outcome of your 'carte grise' adventure :) Martine

  5. It is a lovel restaurant but expensive - just 2 minutes away from where we live.
    When you go to Tours for the Carte Grise, make sure you get there really early as there is always a huge queue, sdo much so that people take a ticket, go and do some shopping and come back to their place!!!
    I would aslo make sure you go to the right place - there is a Prefecture just to the right of the Vinci and normally that is where you go for the Carte Grise!
    Shout if you need help

  6. Haha, I agree trying to complain in French is not easy :-) Dciane

  7. oh this made me chuckle, especially the opening times because I have been caught out no end of times as well. Good thinking about that glass of wine though, and I think you were very patient about the fly!

  8. Crikey, fate was not smiling on you that day, was it? At least the fly was probably sterile after being blowtorched :) And I find a good lunch is a great way of compensating for all manner of frustrations.

  9. Ah, France; the land of adventures and misadventures. «Bon chance» next time around.

  10. What a morning! I probably would have just lifted the toasted fly off of my dessert, too. I don't always have it in me to make a big fuss and if it happened at home that's what I'd do.

    The gendarmes and their breathalysers seem to be everywhere these days. But it works, we always go out with a designated driver...or we walk.

  11. Jane and Lance - a Holy Grail it is indeed !!

    Leon - a lunch adventure is always fun.

    Craig - the ride is not over yet by a long way - stick with it !!

    Martine - you can't be too careful about drinking and driving these days - and rightly so.

    Susan - too right !!

    Sue - thanks for the offer of help. We might need it yet, although we do get nearer.......

    Diane - complaining is ok but answering back is the tricky bit.

    Vera - a fly is just a fly and it was probably sterile !! As pointed out by Veronica !!

    Veronica - it was definitely comfort food of a kind !!

    Rob-bear - thanks, we seemed to be needing all the luck available.

    Meredith - we have been stopped several times before, although this was the first time we had been breathalysed - they seem to be getting very keen.