The trees outside were dripping with moisture, the air cold and fresh. Once through the large doors of our garden wall we could see icy mist mingling with fragrant wood smoke giving the lanterns their Christmas halos and making the street jet slick. We made our way through the cold moist air in the dark, chattering about how chilly it was and where we wanted to eat.
We had always wondered about the little tiny bistro tucked in the side of a series of medieval “Ruelles” (allies) on our path to the market. The Raclette Bistro had always been shuttered up tight, dark and brown, but tonight on my way home from errands it was bright with light. I could see a new coat of yellow paint making it look decidedly open for business. Shall we try our luck?? Once out of the cold and into the warmth of that yellow, we were greeted by the new owner. Seems we were the first customers for the night (that would the Canadians who eat well before the anytime-after-7:30-French). He was delighted to have us and even spoke a little English, astoundingly pretty much the first time since we had arrived 2 ½ years ago.
The place, with its immense low beamed ceiling and ancient red burnished tiles began to feel cozy and warm as it filled and we settled into our wine. Beside us in the old stone wall there was a cubby with a great hand carved slab holding a candle. Perhaps it was an ancient cold store for meat or cheese? To the right of it, a bricked up window, or perhaps a short doorway for long gone wooden stairwells up or down. We wondered.
I can’t help but think about the many souls who have lived, loved and laughed in a place like that bistro, some odd 500 years ago after the first corner stone had been dragged into place. The stories and the ghosts. With it’s position in the alley it could have been many things, a hat shop, maybe an apothecary with herbs and love potions, perhaps a stable, blacksmiths, or even brothel? The stone endures, silent witness to the craftsmen who have altered them, never revealing their secrets.