Sunday, April 7, 2013

French Class, Part Deux

"Pull up a chair.  Take a taste,  Come join us.
Life is so endlessly delicious."
~ Ruth Reichl

Yesterday I mentioned that I thought it was crazy that the Parisians were sitting and eating outdoors in this freezing weather. I had one photo that wasn't that good, but today I was a bit more brazen and took photos all over the city of these nuts sitting outside and eating.

Apparently, I don't quite get the whole "cafe" society in Paris. For the record, the cafes are not coffee shops. They all have full kitchens and offer everything from breakfast to the late-night dinner. Most of them also have a full bar and wine.  They are also one place where the smokers can sit and enjoy a little nicotine with their wine.

The Parisian cafe is a social hub. . . social center . . . meeting place. . . . relaxation center. . . place to sit and watch the world go by.  The Parisians like to sit and watch the world go by while enjoying an aperitif, glass of wine, or plate of food, and they like to take their time doing so.  The Parisian cafe offers them the opportunity to do that undisturbed for hours if they want. We walked from the hotel to a market this morning and saw a man and his Welsh Corgi sitting at a table at one cafe.  When we returned to the hotel more than an hour later, the two were still there.  Almost two hours after that, we were in a taxi heading to our flat, drove by the same cafe, and saw the guy and his dog in the same spot.

Truth be told, I like to have a drink or meal on a restaurant patio from time-to-time, and I can understand how relaxing it can be.  That said, though, I like to do it when the weather cooperates.  Seventy degrees is one thing, and forty is quite another.  Oh, well.  Cest la vie.  That's why I'm not Parisian, I guess. We've gone to the cafes, but we've eaten inside where it's warm and our food doesn't freeze before it hits the table.

While I'm on the subject of Parisian cafes, I thought that I'd mention something that the French do that I think is great.  Anyone who has ever worked in a restaurant in the States knows that the wages are pretty bad and that tips are what can bring one's wages up to almost a living wage.  Not so in Europe, and especially France.

French law requires that restaurants and cafes add a 15% service charge to the check (for tax purposes).  You don't normally see this service charge added to the check because, believe it or not, it's included in the price that is on the menu.  Buy an 11.50 euro hamburger, and 1.50 euro are for the waiter.  Of course, you can tip a little extra for very good service, but it's not necessary and definitely not required. And, you have to watch if you do tip because some people are very insulted if you try to tip them.

Case in point:  Our first night in Paris we ate at a small Italian restaurant.  The owner was the waiter and the chef.  The food was good.  The service was great.  The man was very nice and, even though he didn't speak much English and I don't know much French, he stood and talked with us at the end of the dinner.  He didn't charge us for cappuccinos or the little chocolate he gave us.  Mike paid the bill and tried to add a tip.  The man refused the tip telling us, "Non. Non. Non."

Sometimes we Americans can learn something from other countries, I think.

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