15 January 2024


This is the first time that we have spent anything other than a few days of January in France.  When we were working we sometimes arrived on Boxing Day for a holiday until soon after New Year but otherwise the earliest in the year we have been here was the middle of February.  In recent years we have spent the whole winter in the UK but the pandemic had a lot to do with that.  Having arrived this time on 30th December, keeping ourselves warm has proved to be a challenge and both log fires have to be kept alight all day.

One day last week we had a scheduled power cut, which is not really what you want on a freezing cold January day!  We had had a month's notice from the electricity people that the power would be off from 9am to 12.00.

We were up early, got showered, breakfasted, changed and fires lit well before 9.00 which is, frankly, quite an achievement these days.  After forty years of early mornings when working, retirement gives us the opportunity to ease back a little and we no longer do much before 9.00 unless we're forced to!

The question was, what to do on a perishingly cold, frosty morning when we have no power?  It was way too cold for gardening!  So, we decided to go out for the day, to the city of Tours.  Shops and  restaurants would be nice and warm, we thought.

We arrived in time for a warming café au lait before heading off to Place Plumereau in search of somewhere for lunch.  Quite a few places were closed but we had plenty of choice and settled on this restaurant called Le Bouchon.  A bouchon is a cork (also a traffic jam).

It's a traditional, old fashioned place serving traditional French food.

The place was stuffed with old fashioned knick-knacks.

Like so many places they no longer accept cheques but did have the facility to pay by cash or card.  (I always worry that if a place can only accept cash it's because it might not doing well and the bank has pulled the "bouchon".)

The waiter was an older gentleman who installed us at a table by the window.
Fortunately it was right by a large concertina style radiator so not as chilly as it might have been.
Seating people in the window tells passers by that the restaurant is open for business and might help to attract other diners when there are not many punters around.

Our table was in prime position for people watching.  Unfortunately I didn't have my camera to hand when a young woman wearing a witch's hat walked by with a huge German shepherd.
City life, eh?

We both chose the same from the menu du jour, starting with "deep fried fish".
It never occurred to either of us that it meant whitebait!
We were expecting mini fish nuggets in batter or something like that.
Whitebait is not my favourite - it's the eyes you see!
We managed but I didn't eat any of the heads.

For main course we both chose boeuf bourgignon.  It was delicious.

We then had tarte tatin and an espresso.

Amongst the knick-knacks was this giant stuffed fish hanging from the ceiling.
According to the manager/owner (I don't know which) it's the actual barracuda caught by the original owner when he was fishing somewhere off the coast of America.

We didn't know if that was true or just a story.  It sounds a bit fishy to me!

It was good to see a traditional French restaurant still going in a very popular touristy place.
To me it seemed ripe for a makeover and I wonder how long it will be before it is transformed into something more modern.  Several of the traditional restaurants we used to visit have become smart but bland pizza places, serving snacky food that turns the tables over quickly.


  1. I had whitebait - once - having told by my boyfriend that "you'll love it, it's little mouthfuls of fried fish"

  2. Your whitebait story brought back memories of a restaurant on Corsica where Mangetout was on the menu. A plate heaped with fried whitebait rather than the peas I had imagined was a disappointment that obviously still lingers!

  3. I like whitebait. Usually on menus as 'fritures' here. And a Bouchon is also a traditional Lyonnaise workers restaurant run by fearsome women.