Concluding my French trip
It’s a Sunday night and I’m about 30kms from the Spanish border. Since it’s my last night in France, I decided to round off the France part of my trip with good French cuisine. I walked past many restaurants until I noticed this one that was clearly a cut above the rest. Without giving a second thought to how I looked in my dirty riding pants, faded motorcycle jacket, and helmet hair, I strolled right in.
It started the same as every other dinner in France. I put on my best smile and said “Bonsoir, I’m afraid I don’t speak French, do you speak English?”. The ‘bonsoir’ I add just so that they know I have nothing against the French or the language and that I would have spoken French if I could. “Non monsieur” would be the standard reply. That’s usually my cue to start using my hands, arms, eyes and any other movable body part to indicate that I was there for dinner. “Qui monsieur” they would say, relieved for having understood this strange person. They would then show me to a table, hand me a menu and scurry away for fear of being subjected to English again. Just then I would notice that the menu was in French, and spend the next five minutes trying to attract their attention to bring me the English one. Well, up to this point tonight’s experience was no different than usual, except that instead of an English menu, the waiter brought the owner to translate the French menu.
It was a three page menu, and he decided to describe every dish and how it was prepared. He spoke English with that ‘Pepe Le Pew’ French accent which would have been amusing, had he not also used the French names of the dishes to make it all just too crazy. Because I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about most of the time, I stopped him a few times to ask something about a dish just to figure out if it was meat, fish, soup, or some other French concoction that us mortals in the rest of the world haven’t yet been introduced to. Every time I asked, he would start his response with “You don’t know this dish monsieur? It is a very famous dish in France”. In desperation I finally recognized the word ‘veal’ and placed my order. Then we tackled the wine list. My second lesson for the night was also accompanied by the owners’ astonishment that I knew nothing about French wines. It ended pretty much the same as the food lesson by me just picking any damn wine to get it over with.
As I was sitting there, sipping my wine and comparing the ordering session with going a few rounds with Mike Tysen, the waiter starts bringing me strangely shaped little dishes with unknown ‘stuff’ in it that I just assumed to be appetizers. The first little dish was something pink on a toast-like platform, which I had no idea how to eat, so I decided on a two teared approach. The first half I would cut into small pieces and eat by hand, and the second half I would eat with my knife and fork, making sure that I hold it properly. Let me tell you, it’s not easy to transfer a crust of toast on a fork without dropping it while at the same time watching the waiter from the corner of your eye to see if he approves of your technique. Since nobody rushed over to correct me, I felt much more confident by the time the second little dish arrived, especially since this time it was obvious that it couldn’t be eaten by hand. To congratulate myself on a successful performance I poured another glass of wine and waited for the main course.
When it arrived, it looked more like an item in an art exhibition than dinner, and apart from the centre piece that I thankfully recognized as meat, the rest was a mystery. At this point I admitted defeat and unashamedly tasted bits of every part of the artwork to see if I could spot what it was. Sadly, I could only figure out about half. As with all French meals, and even trying to eat slowly, there was so little of it that it was over in no time. This made me think about having desert, but not having the guts to go into battle with the owner again I decided to end the evening with just a coffee, which I knew how to order in French. To keep things simple, I even settled for black.
Now it was time to worry if I’d have to sell my bike to pay for dinner. Even when it came in at a whopping 45 Euro, I was relieved since I had visions of a much higher number. So, with pleasant “merci beaucoups" and “au revoirs” from the waiter and the owner I left the restaurant, satisfied that I concluded the France part of my trip with a true French dinner experience, right down to getting the snobbish attitude from the owner.
France is a great country for touring by bike, and you got to love the French people with all their zest for life. Take for instance the way the French bikers kick out a leg to say 'hi' or 'thank you'. At first I thought they were having leg cramps, but later figured out that they were communicating with me. At one point I even started doing the same, and it made a lot of sense. Sometimes your hands are so busy pulling levers or just hanging on, that your legs are all that's available. Will have to break the habit when I cross the border though.
Now on to Spain and perhaps a bull fight.
Cheers for now
Ps For those of you who have forgotten what Pepe Le Pew sounds like, here is a sample:
YouTube - Pepe Le Pew
Thank you for the "report". Being French myself but living in North America since decades, I can only but appreciate your description of a French restaurant, the waiter attitude etc... I like your sense of humor as well.
Now, do not take it personal: the snobbish style of some Frenchies is not really snobbish, although I agree with you it sounds/feels/tastes like it :D.
Have a great travel in Spain :scooter:
Love your write up, just exactally how I would describe eating in France if I had the way with words you have.
Makes me want to head to France and sample some awesome food.
Hi Palica and Milimut1
Thanks for your kind words and glad you enjoyed my "article". French food is absolutely wonderful and it's almost worth travelling to France just for that reason.
Palica, I notice you live in Quebec. I lived in Toronto for two decades and love Canada. I think the French were sent there to spice up the place. I've never met a French guy or gal I didn't like. No chance I'll ever take the attitude personal :euro:
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