While staying at La Tour Blanche in Forest-Montiers we noticed that there is not a single restaurant or bar in the little village. A lot of houses are empty. According to Wikipedia 547 people live here. But that was in 1999. It must be much less nowadays. It’s a typical situation for the north of France. Of course you can find enough places where you can eat or drink in the bigger towns like Rue, Saint Valerie sur Somme or Abbeville. We thought there would be more than this. Exploring a region is something we always like to do.
So we drove on a warm and sunny day to Ponthoile. It seemed even smaller than Forest-Montiers. In the middle of the village you can see 4 different roads, they lead to Forest-Montiers, Morlay, Nouvion and Noyelles. Very cleverly at that spot is a building that reminds of an inn, a public-house. Nowadays you can get your petrol over there from an ancient petrol station. There’s plenty of room in the building so there’s also a bar and a little shop where the local people do their shopping.
After getting some petrol we decided to sit in front of the building enjoying a perfect draught beer. You could see that the elderly lady behind the counter and bar was very experienced as a bartender.
She was very friendly and we almost felt tempted to stay inside. But the weather was so nice on this wonderful day in the spring of 2009 that this would have been a shame to do.
While we enjoyed our beer, people who came on bicycles followed our example. They sat down with a lemonade, spoke a sort of Flemish and went again very soon. On the right we could see the graveyard where a few people were taking care of some graves. An official looking man was walking around with a bundle of keys that would have made a warder jealous. He checked the doors of a sort of shed that was next to a perfect lawn. On that lawn we saw two elderly couples laying in the grass.
A man from that company walked over with two empty beer glasses. Before he could reach the building a car stopped. The driver let the engine run and a woman ran inside and came back within seconds with a few packets of cigarettes. She jumped in the car and they drove away. The bartender/shopkeeper must be very efficient. The man went in the building and came back with two filled glasses and walked back to his company. I have never seen this before. In the Netherlands you would get plastic cups, they would never trust you with glasses. And I couldn’t imagine that this would happen in the UK either.
After four more cars with men behind the steering wheel and women who ran in for cigarettes, the man came back and delivered the glasses to the bartender/shopkeeper. She obviously knew who to trust.
When I wanted to pay, a woman and a girl came with a car and went into the shop department.
They didn’t need to wait a long time, they were served very quickly and yet in a very friendly way.
I had to pay for the petrol and the beer so decided to pay with my credit card. The lady frowned when she saw the card and sighed. She messed a bit with the machine and nothing happened. She wiped my card, sighed and tried again. But nothing happened. She said a French word I didn’t know. Probably not a very nice word.
From the back of the building an elderly man and a younger woman appeared. The man took the card from her hands and also the machine and then I had paid within seconds. The lady said that she was never going to get used to this modern paying. Why did people not pay with proper money? The girl and the man laughed out loud. When we left the lady was still shaking her head.