Nothing fine about French dining

Last weekend my wife and I took a trip to Paris.  To many it is an opportunity to visit landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and the Louvre, but for us it was all about visiting Jim Morrison’s grave as my wife is a massive fan of The Doors.

As a city, I’ve never really been a big fan of Paris. Years ago I worked for Eurostar which meant I had been to Paris a lot and the more exposure I had, the worse it got; a lot like toxic radiation.

Aside from the smelly sewers, unruly traffic, overpriced dining and poorly signposted Metro system; my main gripe with Paris is the people.

It’s no secret that the French and the English aren’t particularly fond of each other, but I’m not referring to the French in general; just the Parisians.  They can be summed up in words like Contemptuous, Unfriendly, Nasty, Terrible and Smug.

I’m sure I’ll think of an easy to remember acronym but one escapes me right now.

Let me tell you why I’m not particularly keen on these people.

Firstly, not a single one of them looks like this.

french clichefrench onion

That in itself just goes to show their lack of respect for tradition.

Secondly, the attitude they have towards anyone who isn’t French is abysmal, particularly if you’ve ever attempted to dine in Paris; it’s an experience that soon becomes a chore.

Forget a cute little café owned by a friendly fat Frenchman called Gustav; Paris is monopolised by McDonalds, Quick (France’s answer to McDonalds, even though the question was never asked), kebab shops, grills and bistros.

Lots and lots of fucking bloody bistros.

I think the word ‘Bistro’ means ‘to add 80% to the price’

 

Jacques – “François, ow can we put ze prices of our mediocre food up wizout upsetting all ze people?”

François – “Oh Jacques, zis is eezy peezy, just put ze word ‘Bistro’ on ze sign.

Jacques – “Oh François you are ze clever boy, no?”

 

Here is a dining experience my wife and I had on Sunday.

It was a summer’s day in Paris, so naturally it was freezing cold and pissing with rain.  My wife and I had decided to give up walking to Notre Dame and instead looked for somewhere to eat.

Eventually, amongst all the bistros, we found (oh look) another fucking bistro.

We walked in and were greeted by a smiling waiter, “Bonjour Monsieur”.

I replied with “Bonjour”.

His smile quickly dropped at the sound of my accent and he curtly replied, “Table for two?  Zis way please” with less enthusiasm than he started with.

He sat us down at the smallest table in existence, thrust menus at us and walked away.

After literally (and I mean literally) ten seconds he returned; “What would you like Monsieur?”

Holy shit, I hadn’t even found the drinks section of the menu yet!

I flipped through the menu frantically and then scanned the drinks in a panic, choosing the first beer I recognised.  It was 9 Euros for a pint. Nine Euros!  My wife ordered the cheapest red wine at 13 Euros for a glass.

Just a glass, NOT a bottle.

He wrote down the order, snatched away our menus and disappeared.

After thirty seconds he returned with our drinks on a tray and the bill which he placed face down on the table.  This was because he preferred us to look at it after he was gone so he didn’t have to deal with “Twenty two fucking Euros for two drinks??”

I asked, “We’d like to order some food please” which was met with a scowl that said, ‘why didn’t you order ze food with your drinks you stupid Eeenglish?’ followed by a very audible sigh.

I really felt sorry for this guy, having to go the whole 6 or 7 metres back to the entrance of the restaurant to retrieve our menus.

He ‘gently’ handed our menus back to us, rolled his eyes and disappeared for approximately eight seconds before returning with “What would you like Monsieur?”; standing right over us while we perused the menu at a pace he was clearly not happy with.

The word ‘Waiter’ suddenly made a lot more sense.

My wife indicated she wanted me to order for us so I asked for the Caesar salad in my best attempted broken French and pointed to the ‘Vienna’ club sandwich for myself.

I assumed he understood.

He nodded a bit.

Then, as he took the menus away for the second time, I said “Merci”.  This cheeky bastard – who resembled a shaved giraffe with bad hair – let out a small chuckle under his breath; his stupid French breath.

He then picked up our drinks bill, still face down, and disappeared again.

As we sat there sipping our life savings away and chatting, we admiring the view of the Seine river through the heavy traffic, beggars and tourists.

Ah, Paris; The city of romance and love.

Eventually the waiter returned with my wife’s salad and a ‘Vienna’ pizza.

A whole pizza.

A whole pizza that I hadn’t ordered and yet cost twice that of the 10 Euro sandwich I’d actually asked for.

Did I dispute this?

Did I fuck.

I wasn’t even going to attempt to take on this guy.  Besides, the pizza did look good.

“Thank you” I said, in English this time as he placed the original drinks bill face down on the table with the food bill now stapled to it.  I noticed he had crudely scrawled the total on the back in red pen, or blood.

Either way it looked angry. The paper was slightly torn along the ink lines.

(I have to say at this point that the food was very good).

(I also have to say at this point that, at those prices, a shit sandwich would have been very good).

Whilst we were eating I noticed our waiter walking back and forth behind us like a big cat stalking its prey.  It soon becomes evident he was checking to see if we’d paid yet.

Hold your horses Pierre, we hadn’t even finished eating yet!

Furthermore, what if we’d want to order more drinks?  I fear the stapler would have to come out again.

Eventually we finished eating and the waiter leapt like a…like a….hmm, I want to say ‘frog’ but I’m pushing my luck with this post as it is.

He leapt like a….like a toad.  Yes, like a toad; clearing our plates before we’d even finished chewing.

I picked up the only thing he’d coincidentally left on the table (other than our overpriced drinks) which was the two page bill.

The total came to 53.90 Euros.

Jesus. We’d only ‘popped in’ for a light lunch.

Aside from feeling like we were being mugged slowly and in comfort, this created a dilemma; I only had notes. No coins.

I could either pay 55 Euros and come across as a cheapskate, or pay 60 Euros and then risk not getting change.  I’m not a light tipper, but I will be damned if this pompous prick was getting over 6 Euros for his ‘service’. Also, in all honesty, I was a bit scared to ask him for change.

So I bit the bullet and went with the 60 Euro option.

The moment the notes touched the surface of the table at a microscopic level our toad was there, scooping up his loot, er, I mean the payment for lunch with a smug “Merci Monsieur”.

He disappeared for about four and a half seconds before returning to give us our change.

‘This will be interesting’, I thought.

He fumbled around in his pockets for a bit, jangling change and eventually dug out his wallet.  He opened it, peered inside, tutted loudly and then went back to rummaging around in his pockets.

After an eternity he pulled out a small selection of coins.

Ok, zere is one…two….

This performance of a poor and desolate waiter was worthy of an Academy Award as he picked through the pathetic collection of small coins held in his hand.

Any minute now I expected him to drag his elderly sick mother from the back of the restaurant or a homeless beggar from the street to help him pay the evil fat cat English pigs that were extorting money from him.

It was like watching a charity appeal advert on TV.

“Every day a poor Parisian waiter has to give change to tourists following an overpriced meal with underwhelming service. Please call or text to donate 5 Euros a month so we can provide these [insert acronym here] with the simple things in life like striped shirts, berets, bicycles and bad manners”.

Once he began crying I folded and waived him away.

“Keep the change”

Oh Merci Monsieur!”

Yes, Mercy indeed mate.  Be thankful I resisted my urge to slap you, you pompously arrogant twat.

We finished drinking up next month’s mortgage payment and left.  By the time we got outside and walked past the window we had been sat by, another Eeenglish couple were already sat in our seats having a drink, holding the bill in their hands and sobbing gently.

Ah, Paris.

Au Revoir.

french waiter

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The Great(?) British Weather?

We Brits hate our weather.

Let’s be honest, it’s a constant battle to try and second guess what clothes would be best to wear for the day.

“But it’s supposed to be nice later”, you’ve said whilst looking out of the window in your pyjamas at the thunderstorm destroying half of your garden.

The warmth of your house feels so lovely compared to the cold touch of the glass, and the fact that half of the neighbourhood’s kids have just flown past your window (being chased by frantic parents) only reinforces the belief that maybe, just maybe, the weathermen are wrong.

Yet, by 2pm, it is glorious sunshine and the massive chunky knit jumper you’re wearing suddenly seems like a bad idea. You’re slowly shrivelling to a sweaty little raisin under the sheer depth of insulation you stupidly decided to don.  Luckily you didn’t wear anything underneath so there’s no chance of beating the heat by shedding a layer without the possibility of getting arrested.

This is why we Brits talk about the weather, a lot. It is unpredictable and ever changing, so of course it becomes the focal point of most conversations.

We hate it. We long for consistency in our weather; preferably involving a lot of sun, plenty of sand and an assortment of brightly coloured fruity beverages with umbrellas in them.

The irony of the umbrellas is often lost on us.

It is because of all these things that we love to travel. We love to go to faraway places and do nothing but eat, drink, shop and tan. In fact, the quality of our holiday is often judged on just how dark we can go.

Also, the colour of choice is brown; the darker the brown, the more awesome the holiday. Dark pink, on the other hand, is as welcomed as it is on a chicken leg at a barbeque.  Burning and peeling is deemed a sign of a bad holiday and, by the laws of British conversational etiquette, usurps weather as the prominent topic of which to moan.

“I was so burned I had to have an ice bath”

“I can’t stop peeling. George A. Romero called me to see if I wanted a job as an extra”

So off we fly, to faraway lands and the limitless experiences that await us. We eat, we drink (and being British, we DRINK) and we meet lots of different people, cultures and customs. We also take plenty of photos and videos to ensure we keep Facebook, Twitter and Instagram on their toes; buying bigger data servers to accommodate our overwhelming need to show off

‘Point of view’ shot of your feet by the pool?

Don’t mind if I do.

You see, these holidays are a necessity for us. We manage to sleep better than we have in years and we allow the stresses of everyday life to dissipate in the bubbles of our in-room Jacuzzi. In fact, whilst having a massage in the spa, all we have to worry about is whether we’ll be having white wine or a cocktail with dinner.

Obviously it depends if we go for the Lobster or the Sirloin.

But we’ve earned it. We’ve worked hard for this. Day in, day out we’ve endured deadlines, emails, phone calls and everything in between. We’ve saved our pennies and now it’s time to cash in and treat ourselves to a little luxury.  This is what life is all about, right?

We simply love our holidays.

Then, when it’s all over and we arrive back in good old Blighty, there’s an odd part of us that looks forward to going back to work.  We look forward to others commenting on how brown we are in our carefully chosen white shirt.

That is unless we’re the type, guide book in hand, running around at breakneck speed to ensure we’re getting in as much culture and sights as possible.

Can’t miss a thing!

We end up spending more time inside buildings than outside them, resulting in us returning home almost the same colour as when we left.

The upside is we have a lot of photos to show you in a well prepared four hour slide presentation.

“Here’s Bob next to a tree”.

“Here’s Bob inside the cathedral”.

“Here’s Bob eating an ice cream”.

“Here’s Bob next to a tree”.

Ad Nauseum.

And after all is done, as we commute to work in the rain, we think about where we were this time yesterday and where we want to go to next.

Yes, we Brits hate our weather sometimes, but without it we wouldn’t have the desire to go out into the world and explore what’s on offer.

Mind you, our summers can be pretty damn good!

Pimms anyone?

British socks and sandals

Cats and dogs and apes

During our lunch break at work today, my wife and I took advantage of the relatively nice day (a.k.a. “fuck me it’s not raining”) and took a leisurely stroll to the British Museum.

As a lunch break has a limited duration, we managed to walk in, say “ooh, it makes you think doesn’t it?” to a couple of exhibits, marvel (and get annoyed) at the amount of students and tourists there were and (attempt to) walk back out again.

We were in there 10 minutes, at the most.

As we exited the building into the big stone porch area we could see it was raining heavily.  The most appropriate English idiom I can think of is: It was absolutely fucking pissing it down.

With both of us clever enough not to wear coats that had hoods, we decided it might be best to wait inside the large porch area until the rain either stopped or at least subsided enough for us to venture into it without the need for scuba gear or a kayak.

It seemed we weren’t the only people who had decided to stand in the dry, but I can assure you we were the only people I was the only person getting hit in the face with child umbrellas and doused with excess water from umbrellas being shaken off by the neanderthals arriving at the museum.

Maybe they’re visiting family.

My favourite moment was hearing the large oak doors open behind us, followed by a short pause, and then a voice that implied inbreeding was alive and well in our nation.

“Is it still raining?”

No mate, the floor is bubbling and splashy like that because it’s covered in 7-Up and we’re all stood here waiting for straws.  Now pull your trousers up, dust off your knuckles and get back in your exhibit!

follwed by monkeys

By now 20 minutes had passed and rivers had started forming.  Time and patience were running out, so we decided to start the swim back to the office.

Along the way I joked that it would be typical if the rain stopped mere metres from the office.

It did.

My wife laughed.

Literally?

2014 is upon us and, so it seems, is some of the worst weather England has ever seen.

On this lovely Monday morning all the trains were either delayed or cancelled due to severe flooding from the deluge our fine country is relentlessly being twatted with.

There were buses being operated between certain parts of the route which meant the stations were getting very crowded, very quickly.

So, to hear a guy on the train tell some uninterested bastard on the phone that “there was literally a million people on the platform” left me to conclude that he was “literally an arse”.

Fat, hairy and spouting nothing but shit.

Happy new year everyone!

Toys, taxis and tourettes

I’ve just been for a wander in London, mostly to get out of the office for some fresh air and to stretch my legs.

My travels took me to ‘Forbidden Planet’; a Mecca to geeks up and down the country, selling all sorts of film, gaming and comic memorabilia. 

I passed a couple with their young son who was holding a life size replica of the portal gun from Aperture Laboratories, made famous by the game ‘Portal’.  Awesome!

As I got nearer I heard the dad telling the boy that he couldn’t have it.  This is fair enough, but the kid was already holding it in his arms.  At least tell the boy BEFORE you’ve watched him carefully pick it up off the shelf and hold it lovingly in his arms like a puppy, you turd.  

He pleaded with his dad, but the answer was no.

“How about a foam sword son?”

“How about you suck my hairless balls dad?”

I mooched around the shop for a bit, dribbling over Star Wars stuff, before heading back out into the rain. 

As I got to Tottenham Court road I saw a woman in a suit hail a taxi from the kerb.  She threw her arm up like an enthusiastic pupil answering a classroom question and the cab pulled over sharply.  She hop, skipped and jumped the deepening puddles towards the taxi door only to stop, turn back and shout “for fucks sake!” at the top of her lungs.

This turned a few heads.

It seems three Chinese students had beaten her to the taxi, and as it sped off she angrily attempted to hail another one.  This time she looked less like a pupil and more like a Nazi.

To top all this off I saw a skinny little man with a massive beard waiting to cross the road; shouting and arguing with the traffic lights, the pavement and the corner of the pub.  Despite it being one of the busiest cities in the world, there didn’t seem to be anyone else needing to cross the road at that moment. 

Weird.

Wet walk

It’s clearly been raining through the night as the ground was still quite wet during my early morning walk to the train station.  At least it wasnt raining so I’ll stay nice and dry.  

Imagine the joy I felt as I walked under a tree where it still seemed to be raining heavily.  One can only assume this is due to the bastard water retention in the bastard leaves. As a result I got a massive drip in the face and one down the back of my neck. There are top darts players and snipers out there who couldn’t have achieved such ball-twitching accuracy.  

I hadn’t walked more than 10 feet, whilst cursing the tree, when I stood on a loose paving stone that shot a gallon of refreshingly cold rainwater up and over the lower half of my trousers, dousing my shoes which have the water resistant properties of tissue found in wedding invitations.  

Awesome. My feet were too warm and dry anyway.

It’s going to be one of those days.

Sometimes time just isn’t on your side…

Snoozing through the alarm – 20 mins
Showering, brushing teeth etc – 20 mins
Getting dressed and ready to leave the house – 10 mins
Realising I’m running late and might miss my train – minus 7 mins
Powerwalking the 20 min walk to the station in the rain – 15 mins
Finding out the train is 12 mins late anyway so I’m forced to stand on the platform in the rain, hot and sweaty, holding a brolly in one hand and updating my status with the other – timeless.

Arse.