The day began cloaked in grey; high, even clouds covered the sky from side to side without a break. In the beginning, before being fully awake, it was hard to distinguish through the window if the day was cloudy, or the sky was just waiting for the sun to turn it blue. But yes, that day it was clouded, just as had been predicted the day before. Incredible as it may have seemed that first summer when I spent a month in Salies, the weather forecast had been absolutely correct every day, predicting each 24 hour period within a very slight margin of error of, perhaps, only one or two degrees. However, the day before I had been certain they were going to be wrong. At 8pm the sun had still been shining, the sky a clear blue without a cloud in sight; there had been no wind, not even a breeze. Rain, quite a bit of it had been predicted for the following day and I thought to myself that for sure the forecast was wrong. Not only had rain been predicted, but steady rain, not just cloud bursts or showers, so in my opinion, unless something drastic happened in the following hours, the weather channel was going to be wrong for the first time that month.
At 9 pm the sky was still bright and cloudless; at 10 a sudden and quite strong wind picked up, blew for a few minutes and then died down again. When I went to the Jardin Public at 11pm I could see Mars shining brightly in the sky, although far from seeming to be a second moon as described by some internet communications. There appeared to be no clouds. I went to bed expecting the day to be bright the following morning, but no, the forecast had been correct and the rain, though not heavy, had been a steady, even and persistent drizzle that would soak one to the skin if one stood in it for more than 5 minutes.
Therefore, as I got ready to go and eat lunch, I pulled out my long-sleeved sweater and popped an umbrella in my bag. At that moment the drizzle had lessened enough to walk to the restaurant with minimal wetness. I had taken the precaution, a few days earlier, of reserving a table at La Terrace when they had announced they would be serving moule-frites for the daily fare (plat du jour) a treat that few Saliesiens were going to miss. Several times that summer I had attempted to eat moule-frites (which, by the way, are not fried mussels, but mussels with French-fried potatoes) only to find that they had finished by the time I had arrived at the restaurant serving them. This time, the reservation assured my meal.
My table, set for one, was waiting next to the balcony of the terrace that overlooked the channelled Saleys River. The plastic blinds had been lowered against the rain, but as there was no wind, the terrace was perfectly acceptable for lunch. The moules were placed in front of me without further ado. Small, perfumed and heaped high in the bowl in which they were presented, they looked as good as I was soon to find they tasted. Alongside was a generous helping of French fries, thinly cut which made them more delectable. I immediately was brought my demi-Badoit and a large (Perrier) glass with ice into which I did not empty the Badoit. Rather I placed two delicate pieces of ice in the small wine glass and poured a parsimonious amount of sparkling water over them à-la-française!
The aroma of the moules under my nose had produced its effects on my stomach and I dug in with relish eating them as I have been taught I recall not where. One uses the fork to remove the first moule from its shell and then uses that shell as tweezers to extract the remaining moules from their shells. It is like chopsticks and Chinese food. I find that eating Chinese food or moules with a fork ruins the taste and the experience. When the shell I have been using looses its “spring”, I choose another one to continue. In prevision of this form of eating, the waiter had placed in front of me two small envelops with the picture of a yellow lemon on the cover and the words in English: Handy Wash.
The moules were outstanding, the best I had ever eaten; they were small and very tasty, fresh as could be and splendidly prepared in a wine base that adds to rather than hiding the slightly sweet flavour of the fresh moule. I alternated between the moules and the frites until both were gone and then I ordered the sherbet (mango-ananas) instead of the rice pudding. It had been a perfect lunch, cinched with a small cup of espresso.
As I sat at the table finishing my espresso and gazing out at the rain which was now coming down fast and furious, I remember thinking what a lovely town Salies was and how lucky were the people who lived there… Strange, I never imagined I would some day.