Remember When Restaurant Service in France Was Gruff?

Paris is apparently making an effort to make its restaurant staff more polite.  It reminded me of the trip my wife and I took to Paris last year.  For those of you contemplating a similar trip and who want the inside story from an experienced traveler who was there for nearly five days, here are a few tips for dining in the City of Light:

1.     “Cheval” means horse.

2.     Every member of the waitstaff I met was very polite and spoke fluent English.  I didn’t even try to speak French.  One restaurant even had an American server that was assigned to any American patrons that walked in the door.  She reminded me of one of my classmates from high school.

3.     Despite the pervasive English fluency, if you ask for grog, and you don’t pronounce the “r” with a proper guttural roll, they won’t know what you’re talking about.  Practice in front of a mirror before you leave, maybe while you’re waiting in the airport.

4.     Believe the hype about the croissants.  No matter how lost you get or what other frustrations you meet along the way, the croissants in Paris will take you to another dimension.

5.     There were many cafes but nothing that had what I would count as coffee.  I’m not talking about espresso or some other smidgen of brown liquid shoved into a cup from a dollhouse tea set, but a coffee that can bring me back to life every morning.  The kind of coffee I drink every day before work, and as soon as I get to work, and after lunch so that I don’t pass out at my desk.  They have something called “Cafe Americain” but it must be an inside joke.  There was even a Starbucks across the street from our hotel.  From the length of the line and the price of the coffee and the kilos of cardboard and plastic that clothed each serving, I said to myself, “Well, this must be authentic American coffee!”  But I drank it and I still fell asleep on the train to Versailles.  What the croissants giveth, the coffee taketh away.

And those are my tips for dining in Paris.  Bon appetit!

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