National Geographic : 1966 Jun
Dining out in Le Puy, a top-knotted gourmet savors the delights of cafe cuisine. Sunny Saturday: Market day brings farmers into Le Puy from the country to sell their fresh fruits and vegetables. Dis cerning housewives, a few with children in tow, watch closely as vendors weigh purchases on old-fashioned balance scales. Le Puy, in the Auvergne dialect, means "the peak." Citizens of this ancient center of lace-making live in centuries-old houses built along hills so steep that some streets serve merely as stairways. it were corn likker. They were also experts on all that concerned the river. "Plenty of fish," yelled the smaller boy, handily outsounding his raucous radio. "Regardez!" He held up a netful of wriggling, glittering minnows. "We catch them with tiny hooks and eat them whole. But one must know where to find them. Swimming? Of course. Enjoy yourself." I stripped and approached the shore a few yards away. "Not there!" shrilled my mentor. "One must know where to swim, too. The current would take you to the bend, where the quicksand would swallow you. Now, if you will do just as I say....." I emerged some minutes later cooled, un scathed, and living proof that the youngster knew his river. In the evening, after a supper served by a muscular lady whose face presented the color 834 and expression of an apricot ("the meal pleased you," she stated, omitting the question mark), I found a clean, quiet room above a honey suckle hedge. Next morning I took the river road to Nevers. There is much to see in this land of tran sition from the simplicity of the upper river to the Renaissance opulence of the Val de Loire. Nevers, a supply center since Roman times, is a good place to see it. For France, the Renaissance was not so much a rebirth of culture, as the name im plies, but a great outpouring of new ideas in the arts and sciences, most of them coming at first from Italy. The Duke of Nevers was a Gonzaga from Mantua, and he brought to his French domain both crafts and craftsmen of his native land. The city's 400-year-old ceramics industry is his legacy (page 853). In the showroom of his establishment, M.