The Cafe du Commerce

(Jim Archibald) #1

I have my own little corner of France. Oh! Its not what you're thinking. This is about 25 kms from my little bit of god's green acre; my bit of heaven here on earth: my home in La France Profonde.

The Cafe du Commerce in Aubusson sits on that corner. And its become my local of sorts. I certainly use it every Saturday after visiting the market. I'm also in Aubusson for one thing or another fairly regularly, and I always call in. Like many places in France, Aubusson got its start due to its proximity to water. In this case the fast flowing river Creuse which has carved its path deep in the surrounding hills. Aubusson fits comfortably into a deep, looping bend; seeming to spill from above through the many shallow gorges that border the North bank. Its a World Heritage site. Famous for its Tapisserie, its wall hung carpets; the best of which have made the grade as works of art and hang in the Louvre. It is no architectural gem. Its that eclectic mix of late-medieaval charm, French Empire chic, and industrial practicality that surprisingly blends very well together! But enough of the Travelog; I'm heading for the Cafe du Commerce.

My first visit on my own was a disaster! It was early March and already hot and sunny. I wanted to be taken for a Frenchman, or at least a cosmopolitan foreigner. I sat at the outside table to the left of the Cafe door. Its now my table, I always sit there. Curiously, I've never actually been inside the Cafe. The long cherished dream, that movie in my head, said Coffee. The cooling beads of sweat around my hat band said Beer. "Un Cafe et une biere, s'il vous plait." Madame is mid sixties, both in age and in dress. French and classy, she carries the attractive patina of age with grace. Though you have to get behind the workday clothes and manner to see that. "Both for you" she says, peering at me from beneath arched eyesbrows, "together?" Its obviously not done; I've blown my cover! "If that's ok," I say, giving her what remains of my boyish grin. She smiles fleetingly and says "c'est tout?" - "Is that all?"

The "Commerce" is a grey stone, three storey building with a plain front and square symmetrical windows. It sits at the end of a long, winding street which contains many more fashionable and typically French cafes, bistro and brasseries. On this corner, the road curves into the distance of the Rue de Commerce. I'm still curious as to what's around the corner, even though I've been down there many times! Occasionally a car emerges from my right, from the old town by the river. But road traffic is light and the scene is pedestrian French. So what attracts me? I don't know.

The Cafe sits like a well dressed, elderly French lady who has just winked at me from under her beret! I just smile, and walk to my table. I always order "un cafe et une biere". Many French eyebrows are arched over their pastis, their cafe, and their eau minerale. "Both for you?" she still asks, with a hovering smile; then smiling knowingly at all her French customers. It would appear that I'm now the "Commerce's" very own foreigner. Well, it is my local!!