Two years ago I spent seven months in the Loire Valley as an English teacher. I lived in the arty city of Nantes and worked in the bourgeois town of Angers. On my days in latter, I would undoubtedly find myself in the school’s neighbouring café, Atelier. Delicious hot chocolate constantly churning on the counter, bric a brac furnishings including a sewing machine table, armchairs and little shoes on the ceiling; and a very friendly owner-come-writer all drew me to this cosy abode without ever considering taking my lunchtime chill out time anywhere else.
We spent so much time in this little corner of Angers that we built up a friendship with the owner, Olivier Piat, who has written a novel based on what he observes from the daily custom of his business. We also used to go for hot chocolate and Baileys some evenings (which is a must try if you haven’t done so before!) and hang out with Olivier and his friends, one of whom was very talented in playing jazz on the rickety piano. So many a happy memory has often taken me back here, therefore I was delighted to be able to return for real a few days ago and share this favourite haunt with Gala.
Olivier has actually since opened a new bar in a busier location, yet with the same charm as Atelier. It finds itself down a tiny alley with similar furnishings (sewing machine and all!) and even an indoor courtyard, complete with a tree, birdcages and grass! Named ‘Le Boudoir‘, a vase of Boudoir biscuits accompanies every drink and I recognised many a regular from Atelier who have evidently followed this dedicated café chap! The jazz pianist sat at the bar smiling at the world going by, the couple chatting away across their bar between reading the paper, and a poster on the wall of the motley crew in the style of the French film ‘Les Petits Mouchoirs.‘
Whenever I ordered hot chocolate a couple of years back, Olivier would serve it to me in a Charles and Diana commemoration mug, just because I was English. They obviously believe that all English people are obsessed with the Royal Family, as when I said I was returning to England for the holidays they all asked if I was going back especially for the Royal Wedding, and some even thought that
I may be invited! This time round, to confirm their beliefs, I brought back a William and Kate commemoration mug to give to Olivier as a little souvenir and as a thank you for being so welcoming and making my year abroad that bit more special. He absolutely loved it and said he would keep it for his hot chocolate
On that note, we parted ways again with the standard French ‘à bientôt‘ (see you soon). With the prospect of taking the whole café back to England with me, I can only hope that it will be sooner rather than later that I can return once again to this very fond home from home!