Wednesday, July 24, 2013


I've always heard that French food is tasty but the portions are small.  And I've always heard that French waiters are incredibly rude.

Cultural stereotypes are interesting, no?

There is no excuse for going hungry in Paris.  There are restaurants, bakeries, bars and bistros everywhere.  Fruit sellers come out in the early evening on nearly every street.  Prices vary from "Wow, that was cheap!"  to "Mortgage payment."  It didn't matter what we paid, everything we had was wonderful.  We frequently ordered appetizers and shared them, which allowed each of us to taste things we'd never had before.  We often did not need to order a full dinner.  On more than one occasion we had dessert for lunch. 

One very memorable meal was at Laduree'.  Famous for macaroons and other baked goods and located on the Champs-Elysees, this lovely place has the most excellent hot chocolate anywhere.  It was so thick I expected it to solidify as it cooled!  We had various flavors of macaroons (and don't think of coconut - these are small cake-like cookies sandwiching a rich filling and covered with bright-colored frosting) and eclairs with hot chocolate for lunch and paid more for it than for any other meal we ate!  The strength of that meal got us all the way up Sacre Coeur's dome!

Babygirl adores chocolate.  And while she was not as impressed as I was with Laduree's hot chocolate, she loved chocolate mousse, chocolate croissants, and chocolate crepes.  Crepes were the specialty of the Britons, who settled in the neighborhood of our hotel.  They could be made savory or sweet, and either way they were amazing.

Each of us ended up learning to like something we hadn't had before - stinky cheeses, anchovies, mustard and cream sauces. We had wine of every color, beer from three continents and hard cider.  In fact, one of my favorite pictures of the trip (on Citygirl's camera) is a picture of Babygirl after she'd taken a swig of that cider.  She had the oogies. 

As for the waiters?  Well...... I guess some stereotypes have a basis in reality.  Waiters would bring menus.  From that point on if you wanted one, you had to wave him down and ask.  And ask.  And ask again.  The plus side of this is that they never seemed to want to hurry you out.  The downside is that eating out is not terribly efficient.  But the relationship between eating and living in Paris is so radically different than here that it's almost impossible to imagine.  We never saw people eating and walking at the same time.  Lots of people would carry picnics to the banks of the Seine, but one never saw them hurry a meal. 

We had two funny stories. In one restaurant I made the mistake of not beginning my request in French (unspeakable rudeness!) and the waiter ignored us to the point of not even bringing menus.  Citygirl stood up and stomped out in a pique inspired by hunger.  We ended up half a block away and a most delightful place, and gained our introduction to Belgian beer.  The second time we went to the same restaurant (our only repeat) we had a different waiter.  He was unimaginably rude to start with, literally throwing up his hands and walking away while Hubby was deciding what to eat.  Bless Citygirl - she had the nerve to ask him what his problem was.  Turns out he had just quit and had to finish out his shift.  We cheered him on in his choice and became his favorite customers! 

Looking back, our largest food-related expense was hydration.  We routinely spent 4 euro for bottles of water, multiplied by four people, four times a day at least.  One of the kindnesses of Make-A-Wish was that they made it unnecessary to buy water in bulk and carry it wherever we went.  We were able to provide Babygirl (and all of us) with cold drinks wherever we were without having to worry about the cost.  It seems like such a small thing, but as the one who is usually carrying a backpack full of water bottles, it was a BIG deal.

Being able to eat whatever we chose wherever we wanted was awesome.  On each day we'd ask each other what our favorite memory of the day was.  My all-time favorite response was Babygirl's:  "This is my favorite part, all eating together and laughing."


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