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Americans in France… the good, bad and the ugly

It was actually 20 years ago this month that I went to France for the first time with my college roommate; I can’t believe it has been 20 years!  I also can’t believe it has already been 9 months since my second trip to France, the wonderful trip with my husband.  I like to relive that trip every once in a while.  I thought Bastille Day would be a good time to do that.

Now, referring to the title of this blog entry… let’s just say most everything was good.  Every previous post about France was a post about what was good.  But, these are the little things you should know as an American heading to France.

Skinny:

Everyone and everything is skinny, from people to stairwells and hallways.  I don’t know how they do it with all that delicious food and wine but they do.  They have mastered moderation I guess.  I’m going to work on that.  We ordered Frog’s Legs one night and they were the tiniest things we had ever seen.  We joked that even the frogs in France are skinny.

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Notice the Frog Leg is smaller than the sprig of parsley.  Still delicious though.

Salads:

The best salads!  Every salad was very simple and so delicious.  Just wonderful greens and an amazing vinaigrette.

Steak:

If you are American you will not get a better steak in France than you will in the US.  It may be cooked to perfection in France but our beef is better. Period. Except for steak tartare, every steak tartare was fantastic.

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Looks good and was good… but not great.  No wonder so many sauces.

Cocktails:

In our experience, not really a cocktail place.  Beer, yes.  Wine, yes.  Soda, yes.  Different kinds of water, yes.  Martini… not so much.  A lot of times they didn’t know what a martini was.  Even if someone says yes we can make a martini, beware.  I like my (vodka) martinis “dirty.” Very. Filthy. Dirty.  Generally I order them as olive juice with a splash of vodka.  But, even the regular amount of “dirty” does not translate.  Even when I was told “yes, I understand what you want” I did not get a dirty vodka martini.  I’m not sure what I got to be honest but I do know it wasn’t drinkable.

Service:

Service in restaurants is different than it is here.  I’m not saying it is bad at all, it is just not what we are used to.  If you want constant attention, you will be disappointed.  The servers leave you alone on purpose so you can enjoy your dining experience.  They are not being rude and ignoring you.  Even if you tell them you are finished and you don’t want anything else, they will not bring the bill until you ask for it.  Bottom line is, don’t be in a rush.

Coffee:

I am not a huge coffee drinker.  If I ordered at all it was a café au lait.  And, I don’t ever want more than one so I had wonderful coffee experiences.

My husband, on the other hand, LOVES coffee.  He is very American in this respect and needs volume.  Well, coffee in France is really just espresso.  He still wanted the volume though so he would drink like 4 of them before we left the hotel and then be all hopped up for quite a while.  I must admit I found the entire situation hilarious.

He drinks too much coffee and could have used this time to have a more rational relationship with the beverage.  It didn’t work out that way, he was just disappointed the whole time.  The best was on our second to last night his coffee arrived in a shot glass.  At the time, I could have fallen on the floor laughing at his disappointment.img_2873

You can order a Café Allongé, it will be the most similar to American drip coffee but still not large in size.  When we got to the Atlanta airport on our way home the first thing he did was order a giant coffee.  I asked him how it was and he responded with a smile, “Watered down and delicious.”  He was so happy.

These are just a few tips we picked up on our travels and I thought I would pass them along in case they could be useful to anyone else.

Please go to France if you have the chance.  Go to multiple cities and enjoy what each has to offer.  Don’t be a “rude American” and begin conversations in English assuming someone will understand you.  Imagine if someone came up to you and just started speaking French; what would you think of them?  Here are a couple of phrases to get you started…

Bonjour- Good Day/Hello
Bonsoir- Good Evening/Hello
Bonne journée- Have a good day
Au revoir- Good Bye
S’il vous plaît- Please
Merci- Thank You
Parlez vous Anglais- Do you speak English?

Happy Bastille Day and Happy Travels!

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