The right way and the French way

Notre-Dame de L'Epine

My travelling Hubby had to be away on business for another week stretch. But, since this time he was only travelling 3 hours away to France, he suggest that Little T and I join him. It took me 2 seconds to decide to tag along to la belle France.

I have come to the realization that the French are a bit of a peculiar lot, and have their own approach to “service”.  Our first night there we decided to have supper at the hotel.  With eating always being my top priority (at home or away), before we left I went online to Google translate their menu into English, and printed a copy.  I was prepared!  It turns out that we ended up on the Brasserie side of the hotel instead of the restaurant, which turned out for the better as the menu was a lot less expensive and the atmosphere was casual.  Perfect when dining with a 6-yr old.  And, the menu included an English translation.

Our server clearly didn’t understand a stitch of English, so we just pointed and grunted at the menu.  Little T ordered escargot. Hubby and I ordered the famous local dish containing “Pig Trotters” (more on that later) as an appetizer to share, and I ordered steak tartare and Hubby duck breast as our mains.  As we sat waiting for our food to come and doing our best to keep Little T entertained with pirates, I noticed that other diners received water and a basket of bread promptly after they ordered (in French).  No water and bread for us, the weird family speaking English with German license plates.  This wasn’t Paris either where service like this is expected- it was a small village.

After numerous complaints of starvation from Little T, Hubby kindly asked the server for some “Pain”.  “Ah, oui” was the server’s reply.  The basket of “le Pain” came 15 minutes later.  I was beginning to see the pain in le Pain.  30 minutes later, and normally I really don’t mind waiting for food when I know it is being prepared well, but not only did the server bring our appetizer, he brought our mains as well.  Did he think we were that uncivilized to want to eat everything at once?  Maybe he was put off that we wanted to share a starter and not have our own, which is very unFrench.  But after my first bit of the Pig Trotter pie, my frustration with the little prick server quickly was forgotten.  No question about it.  The French can cook.  Little T would agree.  His serving of 6 escargots was gobbled down in no time, and he soaked up the last of the garlic and oil with le Pain.

The next morning I lounged in bed, sipped a coffee, munched on a croissant and watched TV. It was a little slice of heaven from my normal weekly grind.  (Hubby here: she forgets to mention that I took Little T down for breakfast at 7:00 when he got up with a coughing fit and let her sleep and brought her breakfast and coffee up to the room for her!)  Suddenly someone knocked on the door, and before I could say anything I heard a key in the lock and gasped as the door opened.  Their stood a very eager housekeeping staff, looking rather surprised that I was still there, having a very uncivilized breakfast in bed.  She gave me a smile nonetheless and said “pardon et moi” and went on her way.  This is when I long for one of those cardboard door hangers found in every hotel room in North America that say “Please clean my room” on one side and “Please leave me alone” on the other.  These types of cards are practically non-existent in Europe.

Later we were back in the same restaurant for supper at the same table and same server (the food was so good the night before that we couldn’t resist).  We promptly ordered Little T’s request for another round of snails while we pondered the menu, hoping that maybe the server would take the hint and bring his meal as soon as possible.  We then ordered a small plate of the Pig Trotters, to which Hubby emphasized as best he could that this was the entrée (appetizer). For the main I ordered salmon and Hubby ordered the chicken special.  At the same time we ordered L’eau (water).  Again, the minutes ticked by with no l’eau and no Pain.  Two attempts later for some L’eau and we were still L’eau-less, but everyone else dining there was bathing in their water. 

Once again, our server arrived with our appetizer and mains at the same time, and no snails.  This time, a very angry Hubby told the server in anglais to take back the mains, pointing to the Pig Trotters repeatedly saying “Entrée!”  I also added in a third reminder for the #^&! Water, and he smugly replied as if it was our first request “Ohhh, de l’eau?”   I was not amused. 

He nonchalantly took back the mains while we started to eat our APPETIZER of Pigs trotters, which consists of butter, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, and a pig’s foot – bones and all.  As I stared down at this foot lying on a plate, I couldn’t believe I was actually going to eat it.  My sour experience with our evil server was once again forgotten while I slowly ate my foot and marveled at how the French could ever come up with such a dish. 

While checking out, the woman at the front desk handed me the bill, rang the transaction through on my credit card, and walked away without a word apparently indifferent to my choice in staying there.  Well, it wasn’t really my choice as the local Agent put us there and the company was paying for it, but she didn’t know that and clearly doesn’t give two hoots who stays there or not.  She obviously didn’t attend the Holiday Inn workshop of guest appreciation.

I arrived at the event Hubby was exhibiting at and was warmly greeted by the French owner with an offer of a sandwich and glass of champagne for lunch. 

Now that’s the French way and the right way.

2 thoughts on “The right way and the French way

  1. just arrived home for the Montreal jazz fest. Hilton doesn’t have privacy cards either. Had to beg for toilet paper at $250/night. l guess they don,t give a shit!


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