This is our second visit to Langres. We’ve found that when we told someone here that we were going to Langres, the universal response was “Why?” Langres has nothing of note to draw tourists. But readers of our 2010 blog, when we also visited Langres, know why.
In the 1950s, the American writer Elliot Paul visited Langres and wrote about it in a book about his travels in France. Here’s what he wrote about Langres:
The old city, and there is no other, covers the top of a hill, one of the foothills of the Vosges. The wall still stands, and one may walk on top of it, around the city, and on the outside is the fertile plain, those white roads lined with poplars, on hilltops red-roofed villages set off with stately trees, surrounded by farms that make patchworks of color in concentric bands. Inside the city you will find the Middle Ages you have heard so much about, and you will learn that they had something we have lost, and lacked much we have discovered. There is nothing else remarkable about Langres, few relics in museums that bring pilgrims hence, no restaurants whose specialties are watchwords of gourmets. The food is excellent and plain, and not expensive enough to be frenziedly praised. You will tread stones that were old when Columbus sailed the seas, if you care for treading stones. You will look into windows out of which the age of chivalry has passed, leaving behind its aroma and flavor. You will feel the ache of wondering what was the past, of what is now, and what, if anything, shall be. You will not be talkative on the way back toward Paris, and home.
That, in one paragraph, sums up what we love about Langres and about small towns everywhere, I think. It certainly reflects why Laurie and I love to go to small towns and stay in them. We see a part of the country that simply doesn’t exist in the cities.
Anyway, Langres, 2013. We had a bit more time this trip to just walk and see Langres, and I can say that it still fits Elliot Paul’s description. Nothing notable, but something special. Rather than write about it, I’m just going to present some photographs.
Walls – Langres does indeed have walls
Streets of Langres
And a fountain
One huge disappointment: in 2010 we had dinner at the restaurant in our hotel here and encountered the culinary surprise of the trip: superb food, presented beautifully, served with style and grace, in a restaurant where our expectations were not high. We all looked forward to another great evening of dining at that same restaurant in Langres.
Alas, ’twas not to be. The restaurant has changed names since our last trip, and likely chefs and owners. For a $40 menu, our first course was two – count ’em – two gambas, on skewers, stuck into a daub of some mediocre paté. Main course for three of us was a fish from the Loire River, the sandre. There must have been a shortage that night, because our servings were about 2 ounces each, really; each of us got a piece that was about 1 inch by 2 inches by three-quarters of an inch thick. And that was all that was on the plate, except for a tiny potato – maybe an inch round – cut in half. Dessert was nougat glacé, which is available in 90% of the restaurants in France, except in 90% of the restaurants in France, you get a decent-sized serving; this was a disk of nougat glacé about an inch in diameter. Honestly, we could not have had more than five ounces of food in the three courses combined and none of those five ounces even reached the level of average. What a disappointment! Our dinner on the Canal Bourgogne the night before was far better, at a far lower price.