Friday, November 26, 2010

Paris 8: Le snotty waiter

We have had a great trip so far: excellent food, nice people,* not horrible weather.

But on Wednesday, we ate on Mont St Michel.

The trip there was fine, although I was exhausted from the stress of being the passenger in a rental car that SH was driving. In France, you yield to the person on your right unless that person has a stop or a yield sign and how are you supposed to know if they do? It’s constant vigilance, looking out for someone zooming into the road from the right, possibly arriving just as we are passing. It’s a lot of work.

We went to the D-Day beaches and the American cemetery at Omaha Beach, which is lovely, although really, people who run the place – you make us go through a metal detector and look in my bag? It’s not like we’re at an airport.

I asked one of the four men manning the security booth for the ten visitors per hour that they appeared to get in late November just what they were seeking.

“Weapons!” he told me. Because that’s exactly what someone takes to a place where most of the people there are already dead. A weapon.

It was getting dark and then it started to rain as we left the cemetery. We still had 70 miles to go. On small country roads. In the dark. In the rain. With a map designed to fool les Boches, should they dare another invasion. SH driving, me navigating under these conditions – we have not had the best of experiences with that.

Suffice it to say that we emerged unharmed. We got to Mont St Michel at 7:30, just as the rain was really starting to come down and the wind was picking up. We had to walk 200 yards from the car to the base of the mont and then we couldn’t find the entrance because it was dark and who can see a wooden path that sneaks around the side in the dark and the rain?

We dropped our bags at our hotel and went in search of food. The few open restaurants maintain good price discipline: moules frites all cost about 17 euros, so we went with the place that also had galette bretonne, which was what I wanted. This was La Confiance Bar Restaurant in Mont St Michel, if anyone is googling for restaurant advice. Do not eat there!

When we went inside the restaurant, the snotty waiter informed us that the fixed price menu, which was what we wanted, which was what was promoted on the window, with moules frites for SH and galette bretonne for me, was no longer available. We should have walked out right then.

“You can order a la carte,” he continued.

But the galette bretonne was not available a la carte. We should have walked out right then.

I didn’t want the other kinds of crepes. I wanted this one. I didn’t know how to ask the proper questions about the other crepes because my French has gone south along with my ability to eat half a jar of pickles without looking like a blowfish the next day.

I thought maybe the fish soup, but I wanted more information. I wanted a description of the soup, like the kind found on the menus at home that seem so mockworthy when I am at home but now seem like a really good idea: Fish soup – a hearty broth with overtones of fennel and tarragon filled with chunks of cod, shrimp, tomatoes, and potatoes. Wouldn’t that be what you would want?

Now. What would you say to Fish soup: a bunch of stuff that may or may not be fish thrown into a blender and pureed but with no salt or other flavorings?

You would have said “non” if that’s what you had been offered and that’s what I would have done if I had known that’s what fish soup from the land of bouillabaisse was.

Yet I ordered it because the waiter was hovering over me and I didn’t know how to ask him what I wanted to know and he was rather dismissive of the questions I did ask and I can’t believe I let myself be intimidated by a waiter! How dumb was that?

Don't be fooled. Good moules, but bad soup and bad bread.

SH got the moules frites, which were delicious and that had great broth, which was how we softened the more than day-old bread the waiter brought us. We should have demanded fresh bread but we are both out of French.

His French fries were bad: soggy and cold. An American hippie couple on the way out of the restaurant had told us the frites were excellent. Now I know not to trust the taste of a man whose gray ponytail is pulled through the back of his gimme hat.

Rather than actually do something about the situation, I sulked. I ate less than half my soup. When the waiter came to clear the bowl, he asked if I wanted dessert. “No thank you,” I told him.

“Un cafĂ©?”

“No thank you.”

“Just the check?” he smirked.

Oh he’d had unhappy customers before.

We paid, left, walked back to our hotel. Found our cute little clerk outside smoking a cigarette. “We ate at La Confiance,” I pouted.

“Oh no! Pas La Confiance!” she said as she shook her head in sympathy, taking her cigarette out of her mouth and doing that French thing with her lips. “Pas La Confiance!” She knew. She knew.


Fijufic said...

Well...At least you were there which is better than me sitting behind my computer jockeying stocks and bonds all day...

Julie D. said...

I have really been enjoying reading your French adventures. I had the opposite problem when we were there ... in Brittany. Not knowing there was a difference I wanted a regular crepe and was dumbstruck when being served Breton crepes.