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Monday in Paris, and a Rant about French Food

Posted on 2008/12/13 09:56:50 (December 2008).

[Monday 8th December]
Today was our actual wedding anniversary which had been our main reason for going to Paris at the weekend, and we'd both taken today off work to make the most of it.

We somewhat reluctantly checked out of the lovely Hotel Raphael this morning, not before taking a quick peek at the roof terrace which was rather nice.

Our train back to London was at 6PM, leaving us the day to do touristy stuff around Paris. We didn't really get up to much in the end though - the main thing being a boat trip on the Seine. Or two, in fact.

Having had our wedding reception on a boat, Chie has championed this notion whereby each of our wedding anniversaries should also feature a boat somehow. So it was that last year in Cambridge we went punting on the Cam, and this year, being in Paris, a boat trip on the Seine seemed a very obvious choice.

Unfortunately the timing wasn't all that great - we got on the boat around lunchtime, and I was then concious of the fact that most places stop serving lunch at 2, and there was a particular place I had in mind. Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately) we had chosen the "Batobus" for which you buy a day pass and can then get on and off as much as you want. So after a quick 30 minute trip, we hopped off, and got on the metro.

Knowing that Paris is a very hard place to find vegetarian food, I'd done some research on the web prior to coming this time, and amongst others had found this page about a place called Chez Alexandre, where apparently the chef was somewhat adept at preparing vegetarian meals. I had actually phoned to check before we headed over there, and in hindsight I should have been suspicious then - when asked if they did vegetarian food the woman said something along the lines of "well, we can do...". On arrival there it transpired there was nothing vegetarian on the menu, and they didn't even have any particular vegetarian specialities off the menu either - she just suggested they could put together a "plat aux legumes" (plate of vegetables) with some frites. Given this was the same sort of thing I'd eaten the last two evenings I wasn't really that keen.

I apologise in advance for this next paragraph which is deliberately inflammatory, but culinarily speaking my weekend in Paris was a huge disappointment and I was left quite annoyed. I don't know how France deserves it's reputation for good food. As far as I'm concerned if you're not capable of producing an interesting vegetarian dish, then you're simply not a good cook. Anyone can grill a steak and fry some potatoes, there is no particular skill, talent or creativity in that. Let's face it, meat eaters like meat, and you don't really have to do very much to it at all to make it appealing. A good cook however shouldn't need to rely on a slab of flesh to make a meal. There is a much greater variety of flavours in the vegetable kingdom, and to be ignorant to that shows astonishing naivety as a chef. Equally, to consider that a plate of boiled uninteresting vegetables (with no flavouring and no kind of sauce) is going to be a satisfying meal shows a complete lack of understanding of food.

Other great culinary nations like Italy, China and even Japan are, despite having no vegetarian population, quite capable of producing dishes which are interesting and tasty and just happen to be vegetarian. Why is France so inept in this capacity? I'll tell you why, it's because as chefs they're simply very closed minded and lacking in talent or imagination.

Please feel free to prove me wrong - if on my next trip to France I find even a single decent vegetarian meal I'll happily retract all of the above. However, I'm not particularly hopeful.

So rather downtrodden, we left Chez Alexandre without ordering anything - I think the web page I read had probably got the wrong end of the stick about this place. Instead we went to a place called "Au General La Fayette" down the road, which we'd been to on our previous trip, and I recall did fairly passable mushroom omelettes. I guess that was OK, and was followed by a very respectable coffee. That may have been a redeeming feature of this trip to Paris - whilst the food was awful, the coffee was consistently pretty good.

The remainder of the afternoon wasn't particularly great. Given that we were already near to Gare du Nord and time was running out I wasn't overly keen on going back down to the Seine again, but Chie was determined to make use of the day pass we had for the boat, so we rushed back down there for another 30 minutes along the river. Then we got the metro back to the hotel to pick up our bag, and got a taxi from there to the station. That bit was actually quite fun - the taxi drove past the Arc de Triomphe, over that crazy giant roundabout, which is always entertaining.

It was a longer than usual train journey back to London, owing to speed restrictions in the channel tunnel or something (maybe it was on fire again?), so it ended up taking over three hours. So we got back to London around 8:30, and headed back to the flat for a simple supper of cheese and biscuits.

Comment 1

You see... going to France instead of Italy... What did you think? I agree that French cusine is overrated although the recent trip around France did uncover some interesting spots...

Posted by Lox at 2008/12/13 11:15:14.

Comment 2

Unfortunately there isn't a 2 hour train to Italy or I'd be there every weekend!

Posted by John at 2008/12/13 11:42:56.

Comment 3

Italy is like France. You want real proper food ? Go to places peopled with locals. It'll be generally cheaper and much better.

Posted by Sheri at 2008/12/17 19:01:39.

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