The Where to Eat importance was highlighted on a 'nature/wine tasting' walk in a village near us recently. The nature was appreciated by all, but the wine tasting, jam tasting, snail tasting etc along the way, probably more so; frequent signs giving a footstep countdown to the place where LUNCH was to be provided by caterers under some shady trees. As in any French publicity for an event, the menu was printed out in the brochure before any other information — a proper full three courses with wine. In the UK there probably would have been sandwiches available and/or a picnic space.
However . . . this importance to food seems to get lost in other areas that the English jump at the chance to feed and water the general public: the tea shop and the pub; permanent places, there all year round to be counted on for a cup of tea or a pint.
At any tourist place, or even any non-tourist place; the smallest bus station, a swimming pool, a layby, there will always be tea, coffee and cakes available in some form. Tiny villages marooned in the countryside will have a pub, or even two; here . . . virtually nothing. Most villages have lost their old cafés and therefore meeting points of gossip, chat and just somewhere to go without having to get in a car.
A good, and frustrating, example of this lack of 'getting together and sharing a nice cup of something' space is Mark's new work place; a shining new arts college mega-building with architect-designed everything and landscaped grounds full of olive and cypress trees. There are 1500 students that pass through its doors every week. It has NO restaurant or canteen or coffee shop; nothing, not even a lurking pizza van in the parking area with a couple of plastic chairs. Well there are two vending machines and a couple of high tables with stools, but it's hardly anywhere that you would head for, rubbing your hands and saying 'how about a nice cup of tea and a slice of fruit cake'.
The vast grounds would lend themselves so well to a smart 'salon du thè' or a little bistro 'la Bolero' or 'Le coin de Mozart' anything, just somewhere to sit and enjoy a spot of lunch between lessons or rehearsals. There's also nothing nearby so I suppose everyone gets in their cars and drives off into town for the statutory two hour lunch break . . . I wonder if they'd go for a fish and chip van in the grounds . . . Mmm.