My wife (to be) and I had been dating for nearly a year when we went to France for vacation. We spent most of the week in St. Malo with the family who hosted me as an exchange student some years back. In many ways it was like going home. It was great to return, some things had changed, but when you’re visiting a walled in medieval city – many more things were exactly how you remembered them.
We ate our way around the region enjoying ourselves, my wife also enjoyed the “isolation” of not understanding French. I was her link to the world, and was even called upon to translate when she went to get her haircut – brave girl, but that’s another story.
We enjoyed some traditional fare, Crocque Monsieur, Pain au chocolat, gallettes and crepes, an all carrot salad, and turkey (because it’s more common than chicken). I even tried a pizza with fruits-de-la-mer (shellfish) – but I didn’t really like it. (But, I still think it’s a good idea and am willing to give it another shot)
We hiked up Mt. St. Michel, and saw the salt-meadow lamb, grazing in the pre’ sale’. We went down to the docks and watched the fishermen (farmers?) bring oysters in from the harbor in Cancale. We even had a great meal in a McDonalds. (We swear the food was fresher, and cooked healthier than back in the states). And we sat in numerous cafe’s and watched the world go by, bien sur!
The trip to McDonalds seemed to be an event to everybody but us, at first. (I mean it’s just McDonalds after all). They had the same menu (except, like they said in Pulp Fiction – they don’t call it a quarter pounder). However like any nicer restaurant, they had a hostess. Somehow they (or our host family) seemed to insist we order dessert (which they brought out to our table) and even though it looked like the same old vanilla soft-serve with chocolate syrup, it tasted fantastic! Everybody was dressed up too. Employees and patrons alike.
When we all left for McDonalds, our host mother’s father didn’t want to (perhaps refused to) come. We left him as he sat down to eat his own dinner. We had a nice, leisurely meal there and even took a meandering sight seeing drive on the way back home. “Grampy” was shocked – and perhaps disgusted, that we returned before he’d finished eating. Fast food – quelle horreur!
Days later we bid our hosts farewell and took the train back to Paris to explore the city for a couple days alone before we left for home. We walked the Champs Elysees, and ate in some fabulous restaurants…. as well as the obligatory lunch (on Easter Sunday no less) at the Hard Rock Cafe.
This was an interesting excursion, because, try as I might to speak French (which I can do) the waitress, who was French, would only speak English (this must be part of the HRC experience). Alas, I ordered my veggie burger, fries and a coke – chuckling at what my grandmother would think. Burgers on Easter!
The waitress asked how I wanted it cooked.
Odd, I thought, but I’m kinda new to this vegetarian thing, and perhaps they do things differently here. “Moyen – Medium – normale???.”
The answer seemed to satisfy, so I let it go… until I took my first bite…
“Umm, this isn’t a veggie burger”
“Oh. I’m sorry. Didn’t you think it was funny that I asked you how you wanted it cooked?
Ok… so pronunciation, or enunciation… something needs a little work.
After lunch, we strolled up the Champs Elysees, towards the Arc de Triomphe – the entire city had come out by now. We almost stopped at Planet Hollywood for dinner, then thought better of it, and went for a more authentic French dining experience. I don’t remember what we ordered, just that the waitstaff didn’t seem to care if we ever left. Busy or not, they didn’t expect any turnover. It’s funny how different, but refreshing, the ‘old world’ can be. I miss the 2- hour lunches, the long leisurely dinners that always included bread, pate, salad and dessert.
The slow-food movement just can’t get here fast enough!