Just a minute away from from the house, on the way to the library, the market, or the other side of the old town, there’s a large cafe on the corner: the Cafe Plaza. You can eat in the restaurant next door, but in the cafe you just drink – ‘Café, café crème, du thé, chocolat, Orangina, une bière, pastis? ‘Oui, Madame! ‘
I might go there once twice, three times a day to to chill and watch the world after a hard day’s walking, looking, emailing, or writing. It’s a good place to take stock and think of what you have done and what you might do later in the day. (This is important when only you can motivate yourself for the large task of writing a novel…) I might go there with Writing Junkie but sometimes she is off on her aventures au bicyclette* so I’m happy be there on my own.
On market days the cafe and the pavement outside are crowded. On sunny days there is always a steady flow of customers. On rainy days (there have been a couple) there are less customers, but even then I have joined the regulars to sit under the sun canopy and drink our petits cafés or our pastis to watch people passing by under their umbrellas.
On a hot day I slip out of my denim writing jacket (good pockets for notebook and pens) and dump my laptop bag.
‘Un café et un verre d’eau, s’il vous plait.’
I sit there with the sun on my back, my head shaded by the canopy, drink my café and water, and note the wide range of The Plaza Café’s clientele:
- Some local men at the bar behind me are arguing and talking in the deep local accent. The Languedoc has its own language so even French is rendered differently.
- A group of young women talk over glasses of wine that glitter in the sun, their toddlers in strollers beside them and tumbling about their feet.
An elderly couple, very smart in the bourgeois fashion , sip red wine, On the table beside them are oysters in a smartly labelled box and a fancy wrapped cake ready to take home for their Sunday afternoon treat.
- I notice a small girl with hair so shiny that it’s slipping from its ribbon. Her brown feet are tucked into glittery sandals.
I see a man with an orange leather crossover bag carrying a poodle in his arms like a baby.
I note how well the young French women walk – straight backs, hips jutting slightly forward. I wonder if they have deportment lessons in their lycées. I can just see them walking with books on their heads.
All of this goes into my notebook. To this extent it counts as work. Any of these observations might end up incorporated in the novel. I don’t know yet. But they are there for me.
I just remembered something my art lecturer said to me in college. ‘You know how to look, Miss Wetherill. Once one knows how to look, one is never bored.’
Now that is so very true. And so very true here in Agde.
* Read about her bicyclette in her current post.