Before getting all rankled, just be prepared. Those are common stuff that can happen to you in a French restaurant. Nothing to do about you, this is just mostly due to an overzealous devotion to the French eating schedule.
1- “La cuisine est fermée.”
This is one of those days where, borne away by a wind of freedom and distracted by a flurry of activity around you, you just extended your stay at the beach: snorkelled among the fishes for a bit longer, buried your feet in the sand more often than usual and unexpectedly dozed off over that boring book you’ve been pretending to read over the last two weeks. And then the humming noise coming from your child’s stomach becomes more and more regular and you know it is time to head to the restaurant. Obviously you did not pack any lunch because it is so much nicer to eat pasta at a terrasse. You and your starving kids wrap up your things and even deflate the goofy rubber tiger. With your sodden flipflop that your child just poured in the water by accident, you are making your way to the restaurant with two full bags on your hip and the stupid tiger swinging in the back. When you get there, you notice that rumble actually comes from your own stomach. The waiter comes up to you with a smile and you already feel relieved until he asks you what you want to drink. “We’d like to eat actually”. “Oh let me see…” he says and slips into the kitchen. Close to passing out, you are wondering what time it could be. He comes back, even-tempered. “Sorry, la cuisine est fermée.” The kitchen is closed. The kitchen is closed. The kitchen is closed. Don’t try to understand. It is past 2pm and if you are not in a very touristic area, you and your child might have to content yourself with a grasp of sand. You don’t joke around with the French eating schedule 🙂
2- “That is seriously small.”
You booked a room in a lovely hotel but to be honest, asking for 15 euros for a simple breakfast is probably a real rip-off. You said you’d rather do it the French way and eat a nice croissant with a coffee outside (and you are right). The place you found is lovely. It has old red floor-tiles and flower-shaped embroidery at every window. Even though the tablecloths look a bit outdated, the all place oozes way to much charm. You order a “café au lait” and a buttered croissant. Can a day start better than that! The waiter comes confident and delighted to serve you your morning booster. Your dream shatters. Yes, this is a French coffee. The cup is small, very small. Despite the nice taste, you are going to have to do with that measly expresso with a few drops of milk. 🙂
At home, French people drink their coffee in a big bowl for breakfast… not in a cup.
3- “What time is it by the way?”
You had such a wonderful vacations but now it is really time to go home. Even though, you took a wonderful initiative and booked a flight at 4pm what leaves you an other extra-hour before the taxi picks you up to the airport. You and the lovely girl who finally accepted to join you on a romantic trip to Provence decide hands-in-hands to enjoy a last French meal at the cute restaurant you saw on the main paved street. After ordering two fancy salads with unpronounceable names, you are simply gawking at each others, tickling each others’ fingers and taking advantage of the French nonchalance for public demonstration of affection. While being with that girl is clearly enjoyable, you don’t feel like time has been suspended and easily notice tomatoes should be chopped a bit faster. The salads are just not coming. 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 40 minutes…. And then you find yourself acting in a very unique and baffling way. Instead of gnashing your teeth, you actually smile to the waiter and thank him ten times for being so kind to have brought the salads just on time…10 minutes before you had to jump into a taxi.
4- “Ce n’est plus possible.”
Yesterday was just ridiculous. Tonight, you’ll have to keep it down. Your friends invited you to this trendy pub and as you are making your way there, the snow decides to join it and you finally manage to pass the door just before one of your frozen fingers shatters from the cold. Fully motivated, you bang your fist on the counter and order a hot chocolat viennois to thaw out. No more alcohol today! The barman laughs at you. “Get a beer, man. We don’t serve hot drinks after 8pm.” Another mystery unsolved.
Pierre Renoir, Luncheon of the Boating Party
5- “Where do I put my bread”
If you find it gross to put any food on the table, please don’t say it too much out loud. French take it for granted that a table has been cleaned. You won’t receive a special plate for your bread (mmm, maybe in a posh restaurant…or the ones where they serve butter with it). Close your eyes, breath in, forget about the germs and lay that baguette slice on the table… or just eat it! 🙂
6- “Sorry what is “champignons à la crème?”
This is how you ended up eating rabbit for the first time. Great experience but still, you would have rather understood the menu than unashamedly lie to your kids about what was in your plate. Feeding “Lovely” the dwarf rabbit back home will never be the same. Menus usually aren’t translated into English.
Scared? Dont forget that:
1- French food is deemed by UNESCO as a worldwide historic heritage;
2- Being a cook in France sounds as good as being an actor acting with Marion Cotillard;
3- Eating is sacred and you will never feel pushed out of the restaurant even after 2 hours;
4- You don’t have to tip but if the waiter is amazing, you’ll make his day;
5- If your coffee is small, at least it comes with a cookie or a chocolate 🙂
Image from Visionsgourmandes