the travels & travails of an escaped lab rat

Paris: Café et Thé

As mentioned in a previous post, I love my cafés and salons de thé.

In Paris, these places are more than just establishments to duck into to grab a quick caffeine fix — they are a culture unto themselves. Taking coffee or tea (and perhaps a light snack) is something to be done with friends (or at least an engrossing read if you find yourself lacking in the friend department). It’s something to be lingered over — never rushed.

There’s tradition and history to contend with, manners and cigarette smoke to negotiate your way through. Space is usually tight, but welcome to Europe — get used to the lack of space.  You quickly develop a sense of polite discretion and feigned indifference once you start frequenting these places. But you’re not kidding anyone if you don’t think that catching snippets of neighbouring conversations isn’t a large part of the charm of café seating.

No matter how busy it gets, there never seems to be any pressure to turn over tables. Conversation (or reading) can continue until played out. I was chided quite seriously by a French colleague who found me taking lunch at my desk one day in our Paris office. “You must never eat alone at your desk! It is very important to leave work and eat with your friends.” In France, the act of dining together nourishes the social, as well as the physical, self.

Tipping is not a custom nor is it expected in France (though generally I usually round up to the nearest euro to keep the ballast from collecting in my pockets, and I leave a few extra euro if the meal or service is particularly memorable). Not being so incentivized, however, means that service is typically rendered at the server’s pace and leisure. Rather than get worked up over any time lost to delays, you should take the very French attitude of seeing it as a few more stolen moments waiting for l’addition before having to step back into the daily grind.


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Angelina - Exterior (2008)++Angelina - Interior (2008)++Angelina - Interior (2008)++Angelina - L'Africain (2008)++Laduree - Rue Royale - Exterior (2008)++Laduree - Champs-Élysées - Exterior (2007)++Laduree - Champs-Élysées - Interior (2007)++Laduree - Giant Macaron (2007)++Laduree - Assorted Macarons (2007)++

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Paris: Gastronomy

(or: “Le nom nom nom”)

In the heart of the 8th arrondissement of Paris, just north of the Place de la Concorde, stands the commanding presence of L’Eglise Sainte-Marie-Madeleine (known less formally as simply La Madeleine). Although a structure of its beauty and history would naturally draw visitors to it, the area around La Madeleine seems to entice far more people than can be attributed to just the religious and architecturally inclined alone.

That’s because the circle surrounding the church is lined with some of the world’s most famous purveyors of epicurean delights. From condiments to caviar, from fresh pastries to delicious preserves, the streets around La Madeleine are to gastronomy what the Champs-Élysées is to upscale shopping.

But worry not if you’re unable to make your way over. In Paris, good food is never far from hand. Even a department store like Galeries Lafayette keeps a well-stocked gourmet hall.

These columns do more for me than a pair of golden arches.


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Fauchon - Place de la Madeleine - Exterior (2008)++Fauchon - Place de la Madeleine - Exterior (2008)++Fauchon - Place de la Madeleine - Interior (2008)++Fauchon - Place de la Madeleine - Interior (2008)++Hediard - Place de la Madeleine - Exterior (2008)++Hediard - Place de la Madeleine - Interior (2008)++Hediard - Place de la Madeleine - Interior (2008)++Hediard - Place de la Madeleine - Interior (2008)++Maille - Place de la Madeleine - Exterior (2008)++Galeries Lafayette - Dome Interior (2008)++Galeries Lafayette - Gourmet Hall (2008)++Galeries Lafayette - Gourmet Hall (2008)++

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