We had arrived a few hours earlier from London on the Eurostar. After finally getting out of the Gare du Nord train station (a warning tip) we went to our hotel to drop off our bags and freshen up. We then took our first Metro trip (took RER from Gare du Nord) and got off at St. Michel. Walked over toward the Cathedral of Notre Dame and since we had about 1 1/2 hour until our bike trip we stopped off for a quick sandwich at this stand just down the street from Notre Dame
For those Americans on their first time out of the U.S., a big difference you will find when dining is the waiters will not be rushing you away from their tables by giving you the check immediately -- or ever, until you ask for it. You will be sitting forever if you don't request the check. And for Europeans coming to the U.S., expect the check to be shoved at you any time from when your food first arrives till you say you've had enough, depending on the quality of the restaurant, but don't feel like you have to leave -- just a difference in the custom.
This is the advice of Gulliver on The Economist:
Eating and drinking
• When dining out in Paris, it is easy to be intimidated by stroppy-looking waiters, long menus and longer wine-lists. Relax.
• Grabbing a sandwich for lunch at one’s desk confirms Parisians’ worst stereotypes of Anglo-Saxons. Lunch, a sit-down affair, is treated as a real break from the office, and conversation over food is not necessarily work-related.
• Don't turn up at 8pm for an 8pm dinner and expect anyone to be pleased to see you. Most Parisians won't arrive until 9pm (and dinner will probably start at 9.45pm). Conversely, it would be rude to overstay your welcome: once one couple leaves a private dinner party, the others will follow suit. This means that most private dinners are over by midnight.
• Wine at a business lunch is becoming unusual in Paris. But to refuse wine at a dinner could be considered odd. Whatever the circumstances, it is extremely bad form to drink too much. Equally, it is still bad form to object to a post-prandial cigarette or cigar (Nicolas Sarkozy himself is partial to the occasional Havana).
• Tipping is simple. A 15% service charge is automatically added to your restaurant bill, and no extra payment need be made. However, it’s a good idea if you intend to return to leave a modest amount; even just a couple of euro coins will be appreciated.
• As a rule, French waiters take their work seriously. They would not dream of indulging in the gushing familiarity that marks America’s dining rooms. You and they should first exchange a formal “bonjour/bonsoir Monsieur/Madame”. On the other hand, they will happily explain what is on the menu.
• Unless you are a connoisseur, it is wise to ask advice on what wine to drink. Even in quite humble restaurants the waiter will have the expertise to make a suitable choice. The same is true for cheese (eaten before the dessert). Moreover, whatever the standard of restaurant, the waiter will quite probably speak some English and be proud to use it.
• Water normally has to be asked for (and rarely comes with ice); loud voices are not appreciated; and in posh restaurants even the least stroppy waiter may sneer (at least inwardly) if you order a Coca-Cola to go with the chef’s haute cuisine.
• Smoking in bars, cafés and restaurants has been banned since January 2008, although establishments can provide a sealed-off room for smokers.
Just remember, be polite...if you are not sure about something-ask!
Unlike the USA, the waiter will not bring the check until you ask.
The gratuity is included, but leaving an extra Euro or two is appreciated.
One of the things that every visitor to Paris must do is dine at one if its many fine restaurants and bistros. The latter are often less expensive. Also, taste one of the many fine wines available. Bordeux and others cans be found quite easily throughout the city. Also note that many restaurants dont open for dinner until 7:00pm.
In going through our family travel pictures, I came upon a kodachrome that my father took 45 years ago. (I hope the copy is OK). He did not give the address or the Arrondissement but I think it was on the Right Bank. Neither he nor I (adventurous eaters both) have ever eaten horsemeat, but my now deceased Irish Setter to whom I fed it regularly, told me it was better than beef. I have never encountered it on a Parisian menu but my Larousse Gastronomique gives details for a roast rump steak and a roast with cinnamon. It also states that it is the best steak tartare (after all it is the meat richest in glycogen). It was only declared legal to butcher it in France in 1811 (after Napoleon's Russian defeat it saved numerous lives). Today special horses are bred for slaughter, but I do not think it is sold in ordinary butcher shops. Does anyone know more to add to this Tip?
One thing that jumped out at me whilst wandering the parisian streets was the way the locals sat in cafes. All in a pretty row!
It is very common to see tables in the window of a cafe with people sitting at them staring straight ahead out onto the street. All lined up as if in the front row of a cinema or theatre.
I guess part of the Parisian culture is to street gaze and people watch.
Part of the absolute charm of being in Paris is the custom of enjoying an aperitif. You will see all Parisians doing this and you should take their cue and do the same.
Two types of aperitif are kir and pastis. Kir is made with a mixture of white wine and creme of cassis which is a black currant liqueur. It is pure heaven. To spike it champagne is added and then it's called a kir royal.
Pastis is an aniseed flavored drink. It's served alongside a glass of water and you mix them together. Usually it's about a 1:5 ratio (one part pastis to 5 parts water). The mixture will look milky hence it's nickname 'the milk of Provence'. Due to aniseed it is licorice flavored.
So order up one of the above and savor it slowly. It leads to the upcoming meal which is eaten slowly and itself savored. No rush at all when you're dining in Paris.
Parisians like their brasseries or, at least, Le Zeyer.
The morning I had my breakfast there, I saw locals. A bit surprising given the day (a working day) & that we were there in summery August. It is the time of the year when "Paris a le blues" according to French artist MC Solaar. It is emptied of its inhabitants (Juilletistes use to leave Paris for their vacation in July whilst Aoutistes do it in August.. now do all Juilletistes return in August ? Not sure). Anyway, one has to wait for Septembre & the rentrée to live Paris again.
Still, as I said, I saw locals at le Zeyer at 10am. Must be Parisians savouring their last days of vacations. Those who work shouldn't be out at a terrace at 10am. Amongst locals, I saw a French TV star. Elegant in her beige linen suit. Sans sunglasses, just busy chatting & having a café serré.
Unbeknownst to me at that time, Le Zeyer used to count the likes of Henry Miller as regulars when he stayed in the area during his 30s European jaunts. On the net, I also saw a painting of Le Zeyer, a bright one with the distinctive yellow awning, said to be painted by an artist who lived in the area. A great fauna ! Anyway, with its warm yellow-orangey-gold Art deco interior, it sure has a special and inspiring flair. I just knew about the painter & Arthur Miller being regulars there long after my first sitting at Le Zeyer in the early 80s & still some time after this afternoon in 2004. Even when you want to know about a place in a non-touristy Parisian arrondissement, Google would still find it.
Later in the afternoon: more locals, the terrace was full (I think my parents & I were the only tourists). We proceeded our way inside. Yet, we could still have a look onto the streets, stretch our sore feet & legs, watch the world passing by. People were chatting while sipping their Kros, Pastis, Tonic. Those who stop at a time could hear the polyphony aired in the room. It also happens that when a bit uninhibited by their alcohol intake, people talk to neighbours.
Belgium has brasseries (: breweries), so do Parisians. Parisians don't brew beer anymore. I have heard the sole case ever of a Parisian guy brewing his beer & serving it at his brasserie. Still, for me, Paris is the place for brasseries & Parisians love theirs. Maybe for the very reason I find them to be a good bargain: good food, less formal than restaurants.
For our stay in 2004, we used to have our typically French, half-baguette beurrée and café/ chocolat chaud breakfasts at Le Zeyer. The first day, it was around 10am. I was having my breakfast whilst the chef was studying the menu & his colleagues, displaying the fruits (strawberries, raspberries being placed in the fridge to be served at noon). Outside, the cute yellow awning stressed the impression of warmth. Another garçon was displaying oysters on a stack of ice. Those oysters & this seafood used to drawn us to Le Zeyer that day. It was a summer August stay in Paris. Still, it was fresh & quite relaxing inside.
Got to think... it was the same decades ago. In 1984, we used to live in the 14e for our 2-month stay. The same oyster & seafood display used to lure us when taking & stepping down at Alésia station.
Later on, after visiting les Batignolles, when my dad suggested we headed to this brasserie on Place Alésia, I remembered about the fruits... Mmmm.. so refreshing they were while chilling out after the long walk around Batignolles area.
Le Zeyer also has a roofed terrace where to sit soaking up the ambience, having some drinks (esp. a Kro, the French beer, a Pastis, a kir royal) and, for me, enjoying my dish of strawberries, suncurrants, raspberries at 4pm :-)... whilst one can have a look on the streets, on Place Alésia. Life is great. Life is cool.
Of course, breweries serve noon lunch and diner too. According to their specialty, one can have oysters, a regional cuisine, but mostly cuisine de brasserie, rather massive such as steak frites, a good grill, sometimes venison, fish, seafood...
To try one, browse the below web address .
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