In 1996, I went on a French exchange and stayed with a family in their home. One evening at dinner, when the family were pestering me to have thirdsies, maybe it was even fourthsies, I gave up, defeated and declared: “Non! Merci, mais je suis plein!” Which theoretically means “I am full.”
They all started rolling about laughing, to my dismay. I didn’t get it. The next day my teacher explained that to say “I am full” in French you would say “J’ai trop mangé.” In English, “I have too much eaten.” What I had instead announced, aged 13, was “No, thank you so much, but I am pregnant.”
Now 31, I’ve just been to France, pregnant and eaten too much. I had a beautiful break with my mum, stepdad Gary and other family and friend company, to the Périgord region. We stayed in our friend’s super idyllic house with a pool. This year we even had a resident peahen, a noisy twat who we suspected lived in the roof.
I can’t quite tell you how much joy I get from trawling round a hypermarché. I feel like a peckish pirate exploring in there. This year’s treasure was two flavours of Magnum they haven’t bothered with at home. Honeycomb and also pistachio. Flipping delicious, the pair of them. The honeycomb was all in the rich, slightly-stronger-than-normal milk chocolate shell. Scrum in my tum.
The pistachio was far less sickly than the UK’s crappy, temporary offering last year. Huge chunks of crunchy pistachio in the casing and an almost salty ice-cream. Formidable. It was my duty to devour one a day. Half a day. The baby eats half, doesn’t it? Yeah it eats half. Probably more than its half. After all, it is my baby.
Mum and Gary are keen fans of a ‘potter’ and a ‘mooch’. They love anywhere that might serve “a nice coffee” and any other clothes or tat or any shit at all. I hate shopping. Unless it’s for food. Our fantasy outings collided in a town called Thiviers, which has a food market.
My happiest find were these beautiful baguettes feuilletées. Foot-long sticks made up of layers of crunchy filo. Stuffed with either lardons and blue cheese (cooked so I’m allowed it, shut up) or chorizo. The man selling them saw my giant baby-guts and gave me half a free one to wolf down there and then. Yes Gabrielle, dreams can come true.
On my last night we had a gorgeous dinner out in Saint Yrieix. The closest biggish town to where we stayed, we thought we knew it well. We’d planned to eat at Chez Lorenzo Pizzeria in the middle of town. It was especially fun when we realised Nana pronounces pizzeria, “pits area”.
Turns out she was right, though. When Gary asked what time they opened, we changed our mind. The man scowled to Gary that he shouldn’t have said ‘hello’, “c’est bon soir”, and then spat on the floor with a giant egg-on. And with that rude encounter, Lorenzo whistled goodbye to six hungry customers. Dick.
Mum and Gary had, though, through their joyous, dawdling explorations found an old part of the town that we’d never seen before. All cobbled streets and public herb gardens. A medieval church and a bar called Pépé Lucien with an incredible view from the terrace. We were starving by then; it was a wonder-find.
Looking out over the green valleys, glowing off the back of a week-long heatwave, we tucked in to a feast. We all had a glass of a 2010 Minervois. An earthy, woody red which warmed our appetites and moods.
Nana and my sister Hatty had tartines. Giant slabs of crusty bread toasted and topped with huge amounts of lovely things. Nana’s came piled with smoked salmon and crème fraîche. Hatty’s was a mound of salami, ham, lardons and cheese AND tomato AND sautéed spuds. They were sturdy replenishment of the tastiest kind.
Gary had a burger XXL. Cooked so rare they were essentially steak-haché, which yes, okay, I’m really not allowed. It looked drool-makingly delicious.
The rest of us went for the steak. They came with sautéed potatoes and an absolutely knock-out Roquefort sauce. The spuds were crunchy, dissolving and moreish. Sitting somewhere between a chip and a roasty, they were impossible to not polish off.
The steaks were lean and juicy and full of the gorgeous iron-y goodness we all craved after our long day. The keynote speaker, though, was the homemade sauce. It was so tasty. Creamy and mellow but powerful too, like being sat in a jacuzzi during a storm. We all loved it. What a gem.
J’ai trop mangé ET je suis plein. Alors.
Pépé Lucien, 3 Place Attane, 87500, Saint-Yrieix-la-Perche, France
Tel: 09 81 75 70 31
Open: (in season) Mon – Thu 10am – midnight, Fri & Sat 10am – 2am; this is for the bar though. Lunch is served around lunchtime (details not available) and then a reduced menu (no starters or desserts) is served from 7pm.
Accessible: Oui! And holy shit, what a rarity that is. You think the UK is still a touch on the crap side when it comes to this, especially for wheelchair users being able to get about? France is another 60–100 years behind us.
This was the one, solitary restaurant/bar which we went to in nearly two weeks where my sister (a completely non-ambulant wheelchair user) could use the toilet.
So – it’s all on one level, step-free with wide doors to the bar and the outdoor terrace. The ladies’ toilet doubles as a large disabled toilet, with extra space and some handle bars. Also, if you follow signs from the centre of town to ‘Medieval Town’ then there’s a free car park right outside this restaurant with some properly sized large disabled parking spots too.