>> 'Twas the night we arrived in Paris, when all through the city, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. It was almost frightening how deserted it was -- for a second there, I was ready to write off Paris for a ghost town. My boyfriend and I were both ravenous after a day of travel, so we set off in search of a good French restaurant. I know that's kind of stupid, seeing as there's really no such thing as a "bad" French restaurant -- French chefs do commit suicide if their meal is not presentable, after all. But it turned out that the quest was harder than expected -- not because we couldn't find any good restaurants, but because they were all closed, rather (yay Parisian vacances!). Finally, after two good hours of trekking around the Marais, an oasis sprang up amidst the desert -- this adorable little cafe hidden in the Place des Vosges (left). And, even better, the cafe passed our two requirements: 1) the menus being in French; and 2) the customers were conversing in French. Because, really, why would you go to France to order from a English menu and dine with English-speaking peoples?
So, we're seated. And by this time, my stomach felt like it was about ready to jump out of me and go find a meal on its own. We are brought the menus, settle down at the thought of finally getting some good food, and then, I see it. The fine print. It always gets you. "No credit cards." (Except in that lovely flowerly language that is French). Oh gawd. Us being tourists, we weren't carrying enough cash. Why would we ever do something like that? Really.
I catch the waiter at his earliest convenience and bumble through asking him where the nearest ATM is. Of course, I don't actually know the word for ATM, because why would they ever have taught me such a useful word in six years of high school/college French? The waiter cocks his head at me like a dog does when it hears a weird noise. And then there's the awkward silence. Bumble bumble bumbling again, I finally get the point across. My boyfriend goes running off, following my pieced-together directions, and I'm left to stare at my menu.
Later, he tells me that in his rush to get the money so we can eat, he runs into a fellow patron's head with his arm. And brilliantly, instead of saying "Pardon" or "Excusez-moi" like I told him too, he says "Oh, Merci." Thank you ever so much for running your head into my arm -- how kind. I don't think I'm ever going to let him live that one down.
And what's worse -- this is just the beginning of the night's misunderstandings -- at the ATM, there was a "normal-looking" woman waiting behind him in line. She tells him: "J'aime tes cheveux." (I love your hair.) He understood, miraculously, but his French vocabulary consists of two words: oui and merci. He picks the most appropriate: "Oui." She speaks again, but this time, he only understands one word out the whole phrase: "toucher" (to touch). His response again (he's so well-versed): "Oui." Before he knows it, the woman is rubbing her hands all through his hair. Startled, he runs away, but not before a polite: "Merci."
Meanwhile, back at the cafe, I am musing over the menu and drooling. Soupe a l'oignon...gazpacho...steak frites...and their recommended special: Steak tartare (right). Yes, that's gourmet speak for raw beef. That you eat. And it's a delicacy. To be or not to be? You'll just have to wait and see... A bientot!