As stereotypes go, the Frenchman (or woman) with a baguette tucked under their arm is a big one…and one that is actually rather true, at least to the degree that buying the bread from the baker is a daily task. As a current member of a French family, it’s my job to get the bread everyday. To do so, I have to walk across this ancient arched bridge, the Pont Vieux-sur-le-Garon. Dating back to the Middle Ages, this bridge links the neighbourhood section of town with the commercial centre. Cobblestones line the bottom of this beautiful humpback bridge. Once part of the route connecting Lyon to Saint-Étienne, in 1399 the bailiff of Lyon collected a tax from the people of Brignais and Vourles to fix the little bridge, causing it to stand the test of time. And since 1934, it’s listed as a historical monument in France, further protecting it. Though easier to walk across the new bridge (as the cobblestones can be hard and uncomfortable to navigate), walking across the bridge in rain or shine with baguettes under my arm has become both a habit and a treat. Any day that I don’t manage to cross my lovely bridge with the daily bread is a sad day indeed.
This is how the French start their day: a bowl of coffee (yes, that’s right, a bowl of black coffee – I’ve been told they do this to make dipping bread or croissants easier), toasted bread, and butter. Simple and delicious, they’ve kept at this almost unwavering routine for what seems like millenniums. No pancakes for them. Waffles are for snacks and yogurt is for dessert. Sausages they leave to the Germans, cereal to the Americans, grits to the British. Tea is sometimes substituted…but that too is consumed from a bowl. Croissants are often substituted for bread depending on how close the local boulangerie is and how lazy and hungry the breakfaster is in the morning. I knew I was fully embracing French culture when I stayed with a friend who didn’t drink coffee and had no fresh bread for my petit dejeuner – and I nearly threw a hissy-fit (I managed not to, but it was close). No matter how early or late in the morning, my routine is unwavering (unless you count the occasional addition of jam) – and for me, it’s the perfect way to say “good morning” – or, in this case, “bon matin!”