We sat on an elevated terrace among strangers beside the lake, breathing in the languid air at dusk.
We were dining at l’Etang de la Bonde Pizzeria Snack Bar. My friend said it was his favorite place to eat: good food, no waiter hovering about, no decor, just people and trees. In a nation with 350 cheeses and three-star chefs, here was a dining place for everyone, an escape from work, a cheap plate of food, a glass of red wine, and conversation under the trees.
The smell was of hand-rolled cigarette smoke and rosemary. Squeals of laughter came from children playing in the lake. Shy dogs begged politely for scraps. Occasionally, a mournful cry from the kitchen announced that an order was ready, then someone would claim a pizza the size of a table cloth or a steak and frites.
A lot of the people dining here looked as if they worked hard. The parking lot was full of white vans and older model cars. There was laughter but no drunkenness.
At nightfall, a family of ducks eased into the water with hardly a ripple. Moms wrapped their children in towels. And we all left for home.