Tuesday, November 10, 2015


When SWMBO and I did our "grand tour" of Europe in 1985 we planned it so we would be in Paris for my 45th birthday.

I mean what's better than celebrating your birthday in April in Paris.

I don't remember the day but I do remember the evening.

In our walks around the city we had spotted a restaurant with what appeared to be a nice windowed dining room on the second floor right across from the Paris Opera.

But when we went there that evening, the waiters would not allow us to go upstairs. 

Instead we were seated at a table right next to the kitchen door, the only people in the room.

Probably the worst table in the house.

Since we spoke only a few words of fractured French and the staff spoke no English (or at least claimed they didn't) we never learned why.

The menu was totally in French and we ordered blindly.

When SWMBO named her selection, the staff tried to talk her out of it.  

But she got her back up and insisted.

It turned out to be tripe and she gamely and stubbornly struggled through most of it.

Well we were disappointed in my "fabulous" French birthday dinner.

No, we were pissed.

But the next day we were wandering around the Seine across from Notre Dame and encountered a restaurant on a barge anchored on the river.

So we entered and were seated, along with many other lunchers.

Again the menu was totally in French.

But the waiter proceeded to translate the entire carte into impeccable English for us.

I had a delicious warm onion tart with bits of ham throughout the sauce that enveloped it.

Judy and I promptly declared that meal to be my official birthday dinner. 

In April. 

In Paris.

And now you know . . . the rest of the story.


Jager said...


Tom said...

If you ever get to visit Paris again, I recommend "L'Orangerie" on the Ile de St. Louis. (The island that does not have the Notre Dame de Paris.) The food and service are great. We celebrated our wedding anniversary there this year.

Lucy said...

Often the way isn't it. I think that restaurant boat's still there, glad you had a nice meal there anyway. The other one might well have been some really famous joint, which are often over-rated,overpriced, snotty and unwelcoming. Nowadays of course there's Trip Advisor and such like to warn one off such places; I suppose you might say some of the adventure's gone out of it but I don't think it's any great loss.

Everyone seems to be breaking into English here now, quite cheerfully and competently, even people we've seen for years like in the bank and the pharmacy, who never showed any signs of doing so before. Very odd.

Should Fish More said...

Sounds like a good meal, I think there are more than one restaurants on boats in Paris. A couple years ago my daughter Emily was doing Paris on a budget, but want to have a drink at the Buddha Bar.......she got the cheapest cocktail they offered, nursing it for an hour until the bartender brought her a plate of appetizers and another drink, on the house.

joeh said...

That is why I'm not adventurist. I know I avoid some uncomfortable times but miss out on some great ones.

The Bug said...

I was in Paris (for two days) in 1988. We ate at a restaurant in the former home of Dr. Guillotine. I had escargot for the first time. It was ok :)

Tom Cochrun said...

We love Paris and finding restaurants that leave memories-mostly good. On one trip we visited a place that we were told was about to get a Michelin star. We ordered what we roughly translated as the Captain's Platter of Sea food.
The waiter worked at a fish tank and built a 3 layered arrangement of muscles, clams, oysters, urchins, snails. It was beautiful, but they were all raw. He could tell the moment he delivered it was not what we expected. Up to that point we had struggled with French, using a dictionary to speak to him. He had just smiled and nodded as we had ordered wine, salad and the entree. Now with this raw mammoth before us he spoke in perfect English. "I am sorry this is not what you intended. We will bring you something you will like. We want you to enjoy visit." He took the three tiered entree away. Later he delivered a wonderful seafood dish in a béchamel sauce. Those raw items now transformed by butter and cream.
Glad you've got your computer system back in working order.

Catalyst said...

Thanks but I doubt we'll ever get to Paris again. Regrettably.

Catalyst said...

We love escargot and planned to have it every time we could in France. But the first, and only, time was at a cafe in Monte Carlo. It was great but we never saw it on the menu in France.

Catalyst said...

The damned computer still has some kind of bug that shuts off the monitor and won't let me light it up again unless I first umplug the computer and replug it. Haven't figured it out yet.

Thérèse said...

Don't worry you are not the only ones to be pissed off in Paris. I always warn visitors not to eat or have a drink on well known streets (because of high prices) but last time we went I did not follow my own advice and we had to change places three times before being nicely greeted and helped!
Menus are nowadays mostly in both languages though.
Lyon or Toulouse are nice alternatives to Paris.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

You were unlucky, there are wonderful restaurants in Paris. I must stick up for my native city but it's true that waiters/waitresses in many places can be rather rude. However, regarding their not speaking English: would a non English-speaking French tourist arriving in America find that all restaurants had French-speaking staff or menus written in French as well as English?

Catalyst said...

You are quite right, Natalie. I had not meant to insult the French.