Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Look for the White Vans

It is well known that to find somewhere reasonably priced to eat you have to chose somewhere the locals frequent. One of the easiest ways of doing this in France is to look for the white vans.

Anyone who has had building work done in France may find this difficult to believe, but all French builders aren't millionaires. Masons, carpenters, electricians and plumbers don't carry a packed lunch with them here. They all drive off for a proper lunch at a restaurant around midday, and all have to have somewhere cheap to eat. Luckily for the value hunter, most builders drive white vans with the business names on the sides; therefore all you have to do is look for a concentration of white vans at 12.30 and you have found your lunch. Don't be put off by the appearance of the restaurant. These places are all about good food at good prices, not getting a Michelin star for the quality of the decor.

Business is obviously good
On Monday Susan and I ate at a Routier (the French equivalent of a transport caff, but much more) we have often noticed on our travels. We were amazed at how full the car park was, the reason for which soon became evident: 4 courses for €11.50. A big buffet salad entrée, main course of meat (ham or steack or pork chop) served with chips or seasonal vegetables, cheese (help yourself) and dessert. The plat du jour was petit salé ( which amazingly, neither of us had even though we love it) and the dessert of choice seemed to be either peach Melba or crême caramel, although there were other choices too. The clientele was a mixture of tradesmen, truck drivers, husbands and wives like us who had been shopping along the 'strip mall' of Chambray-lès-Tours and the occasional family (who had probably also been shopping - it's the school holidays here). I did a quick calculation and reckon their turnover is probably 1 million euros per annum - not bad for an unpretentious restaurant.

La Saulaie is a routier
(the faded blue and red signs says as much)
and is frequented by long distance truck drivers
The car park is visible from space - I have marked it here.



Berowne said...

Great theory, the White Van Theory. I hadn't thought about it before.

John said...

We have used this one several times when shopping like you. Its not the best Routier, but I defy anyone to get equivalent choice and value for money in the UK.

ladybird said...

A tip !! A postman's bicycle by the door of a bar or restaurant is a good sign too!!! Look out for them the next time you're looking for a good and affordable place to eat !

Leon Sims said...

Last year we stayed in the village of Thenay just out of Pontlevoy.
We would be out being tourists most days and hadn't discovered that the little cafe in Thenay had a roaring lunchtime trade, until close to our last day.
We discovered that you get a good meal at a good price where ever the tradies and roadside workers eat.
Good advice.

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