Easy answer. The Café culture.
I was recently lucky enough to be invited to spend a week in Paris with my Parisian boyfriend, Arnaud, who had to return to France to renew his work visa for the US. Apart from staying with his family in Cergy for the weekend, which was both a familial and gastronomic delight, we had a corporate expensed hotel room in the 5eme arondissement near Montparnasse. Who could refuse?
Arnaud had to work for most of the working week, and I busied myself on this, my fourth visit to the French capital, with miles and miles of walking the neighborhoods, taking photographs, drinking in the atmosphere of it all. And, of course, the obligatory two to three stops per day to sample sweet delicious and watch the world go by in Paris cafes.
There is something very unique about Paris cafes, and I think it’s because they are as much a fundamental part of a Parisian’s life as is their daily commute on the Metro. Coffee is taken very seriously, and is always served as an espresso in the mandatory teeny cup. Except for me, of course, the perennially annoying “touriste” who insists on ruining her café by having it “au lait”, or worse yet (quel horreur!) in a big bowl, which I greedily devoured in a street café in the Montmartre.
I love cafes not just for the people watching and for the delicious cakes, pastries and croque monsieurs; which by the way is the world’s best sandwich. Hello? Béchamel sauce baked in with cheesy hammy wonder? I’m drooling just thinking about it. But I digress. I love cafes in Paris because each time I have a secret personal competition in my head as to where I can find the worst-mannered wait staff.
You see, they already hate me when they hear my English (or American, depends on whether you’re English or American) accented French. And they usually respond in English because they know it will piss me off. But then I go and massacre their sacred café by ordering it in a bowl and then they can’t slam down the silverware on my table hard enough.
I find it incredibly amusing. And refreshing. In the States, the over-the-top false niceness of service can sometimes be downright irritating. But they’re working for a tip, so one can understand. In Paris, I sometimes felt I had to stand and wave my arms above my head just to get a server’s attention.
It’s a good thing for French waiters that the l’addition typically includes the tip. So they can roll their eyes at you, mutter under their breath, slam your food on the table, and still wish you a “Bonne Journee” without breaking a smile.
LOL! Brilliant! I was really enjoying that, wish it was a bit longer.
Ayngelina Brogan said:
I love that you included food in the first post I read, how delicious!
And I love that you’re my first travel blogger to comment on my site! How you doing after that long mule ride??
jill- Jack and Jill Travel The World said:
Ah, Paris! One of these days we’ll make it there. Although it does sounds a little intimidating — how do you order you coffee in a ‘bowl’? YOu mean like a very big cup?
If memory serves, its actually listed in the menu as a “Bol de Cafe”. You can say it or just point to it. And yes, it is, in fact, a bowl, not a large cup. It requires balance to schlurp out of!
Christy @ Ordinary Traveler said:
Anita! It’s great to read about your trip! I’m glad you have your blog up and running again. Hope you are doing great!
Thanks Christy! I am loving it here…in Guatemala at the moment and took a “rest day”. The blog still needs a LOT of work, but I didn’t want it to stop me from producing content. Feels good to be writing again…
Sitting at the office today, I would kill for some Parisian cafe time!!
Always love a good cafe, and where can they get any better then in Paris! Great food shots.
Thanks Nancie! I always take photos of my meals. Some people think me strange but I find food just as memorable as the sights!
I love the cafes in France (and Spain.) No hurry, no rush, plenty of time to think…
Agreed. No waiter tapping his pen after giving you the check before you’ve asked for it!
Donna Hull said:
Oh how the Parisian waiter will hate me once I finally visit. That will be a decaf, non-fat latte, please. Perhaps they will be amused by my southern drawl? Fun post, Anita.
Thank you Donna! Write a post when you get around to ordering that coffee 🙂
I love the cafes of Paris… Cafes all over the world try to capture that special ambiance but so few succeed.
So true, Liz. Thanks for reading.
Don Faust said:
I love food shots. I agree with you – the food is just as much a part of the experience as everything else.