Life in the Loire on lock-down – Saturday March 14th. The day before.

Yesterday we drove into Tours to collect some paint that we’d ordered from a small shop in the centre of town and took the opportunity to pop into Les Halles to buy some cheese for the week.

Les Halles is a large covered permanent market in the centre of Tours. The produce is exquisite and it’s a dangerous place for us to visit as there are so many delicious things that tempt you as you walk past.

You would never have thought we were on the cusp of a lock-in in France looking at the number of people queuing up at the various stalls. Long chains of people (many much older than 70), waiting patiently to buy their meat from the butcher, paté from the charcutier, cheese from the fromager.

We bought a selection of wonderful looking cheeses. 3 crottins de Chavignol (the little goat’s cheeses that come from the village of Chavignol just outside Sancerre), a large piece of Vacherin Fribourgeoise, another goat’s cheese, a Charolais from Burgundy and a piece of very ripe looking Taleggio (an Italian cheese to show some solidarity with our Italian friends).

We then went to the poultry specialist and ordered a lovely free range guinea fowl for our dinner this evening. You pay a lot more than you would do in the supermarket for a good quality bird but part of the pleasure is in the experience of actually purchasing the bird. We watched as the young man chose a bird and waved it at us to see if it corresponded to what we were after and then he butchered it. He removed the feet and head, drew out the innards and then burnt off any feathers that remained with a blow torch. He then strung it up and packed it neatly into a parcel of wax paper. A few herby chicken sausages and 6 eggs later and we decided it was time to make a move before we got carried away.

Last night we enjoyed the herby sausages roasted in the oven and served them alongside some crushed leek, thyme and cauliflower mash and some buttery new potatoes. A bottle of La Touche Mitaine, a delightful Chenin Blanc from Xavier Weisskopf in the appellation of Montlouis sur Loire just across the river from us was the perfect aperitif and we followed that with a glass of two of Chateau de Montdomaine’s Malbec l’Artiste from Fred Plou, friend and winemaker from our neighbouring village.

I glanced at social media around half past nine and there it was! From midnight we were officially in lock-down. All restaurants, cafés and bars to shut, all public places, libraries, events with over 100 people. Only supermarkets, garages, pharmacies and tabacs to remain open. People over 70 to stay indoors and others to socially isolate themselves leaving the house just to buy provisions.

Our immediate thoughts were with our local friends who own restaurants, wine shops and hotels.

Our own business has been taking cancellations for some time now and there will be nothing coming in for a while.

We poured ourselves a short and sat looking at one another for a while.

This is going to be a tough time for all of us.