I have to confess that this one is more like travels without my stepfather, since I stayed home for this one, engaging in some form of exam torture. But it has become a family legend, so I thought I’d share it here.
Firstly, you should understand that my mother is not given to flights of fancy. An industrial chemist by profession, and later an IT specialist, she is a woman of impeccable logic and practical solutions. My stepfather (SF) on the other hand, was a sci-fi addict, and could definitely have imagined this whole thing. But my mother, who we will call V, for that is the start of her name, lived in a very real world.
Off to Normandy
So they took the ferry to Cherbourg, and were pootling their way across Normandy on the way to trade some particulary exotic philatelic specimens. Of course this was always good reason to indulge in some great French cuisine, and do rather too much food shopping. At least on this occasion there was no evidence of any particularly virulent cheese having accompanied them home. I remember one especially odorous purchase being left in the mountains somewhere near Clement Ferraud. My apologies to the doyens of that fine town. I could just no longer stand to travel with that cheesy package of goodness.
Anyway, to return to our moutons… SF and V were looking around for lunch and transiting the normal French highway routes of three small hills, lined with trees, one Frenchman on a bicycle and then a small town with two sets of traffic lights. At the town of Patten, it was decided that lunch could wait no longer, and they left the cover of the highway to search for somewhere suitable. At a small farmhouse, they found a restaurant, where they were the only customers.
Anticipating Hobson’s choice, albeit that Hobson would most likely have been very content with the offering on hand, they were pleased to be quickly seated and courteously served without a menu being proffered. The main event was a pig, rendolent with juices and crispy crackling. Deliciously replete, they waited for the bill.
Even in the late 1970s, the bill was a shocker. As my SF passed the carefully scribed paper across the table, even my sanguine V gasped. They had dined, protractedly and copiously, for the sum of approximately £1. Immediately SF called across Madame to query the bill. “Non”, she said “C’est vrai”. SF promptly left a tip that rounded the bill up to what they would have expected to pay – probably around a tenner at that time.
The restaurant that Used to be
A year later, they were again in Patten, and went back to find the restaurant. Circling the small town, they could find no sign of the farmhouse, nor the home of the magnificent pig roast. But there was a ruin, well overgrown, roughly where they thought they had dined. Finding a passer-by, they discovered that there was no restaurant in the town. Nor had there been so since the war, when the restaurant had been burnt to the ground, exactly where they were standing.
Have you been there?
Even more spookily, I can find no sign of a town or village called Patten or Patton anywhere in Normandy. If you spot it, let me know