Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Poppy in the Valley of the Somme

It was early afternoon in Picardie two weeks ago, and the tour leader asked his group of six our preferences for lunch. Our van was parked in front of the Historial de la Grande Guerre in the town of Péronne. Nodding to his suggestion of sandwiches, we crossed the Place André Audinot and took our places at the sidewalk tables of the Castel Pic-Nic.

The sandwich offerings on the menu each had a creative name. I opted for Le Medievale -- a round sandwich of tuna and boiled egg with lettuce and tomato. To drink? I took a hint from a poster on display next to our tables and ordered a local beer called Poppy.

I had not expected the label on a beer bottle to mention the Battle of the Somme, but this one did, together with the year the battle had taken place: 1916. "Remember" and "Souvenez-vous" were both printed on the label, recognizing that visitors to the area were as likely to speak English as French.

At meal's end I asked the owner of the eatery whether I might take home the bottle with its distinctive label. She smiled and let me walk off with my souvenir.

Well cushioned, the bottle crossed the Atlantic in my luggage. The poppies will help me remember.

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