My darling wife S. and I have just returned from a delightful, but tiring holiday in Europe which began with two days in Paris at our standby hotel, the Bristol. There’s almost nothing one can say that’s bad about Le Hotel Bristol except that the prices are so high, one can get a nosebleed just walking in the lobby. But I knew this before I got there.
Also, let me say at the outset that I like french food, I like french wine, I like french women, I like french art. Heck, I’m pretty much an out and out francophile. I’ve struggled with french irregular verbs without ever mastering them for years. Even today, your average frenchman will immediately grimace when I mangle the language. But I draw the line at breakfast. I dunno what the deal is but the french don’t eat breakfast. Well, that’s not exactly right. They do wolf down a croissant and sip a teeny cup of coffee about the consistency and taste of high grade drilling mud. At the Bristol this will set you back Forty five Euros ($58.00). Ok, they give you the option of some juice and a great pat of french butter for the croissant, but I’m not having it. I need eggs. I need meat and some toast to sop up the egg juices, and a big cup of coffee. In theory, they have this at the Bristol as well. They call it their “American Breakfast”. So what they do is put everything in it that they won’t eat, charge an even more exorbitant price, a cool walking sixty Euros ($77.05), under the theory that if Americans are crazy enough to eat this stuff, they’ll pay up for it as well.
And I did. Let me tell you what I got, or actually, what I tried to get. Two eggs over medium, bacon, plain white toast, a glass of skim milk (one has to make concessions somewhere), and a big cup of black coffee with Splenda. Easy, huh. You could get this at any drive in, diner or dive in the US of A for $6.95 or less. Here’s what I got for my four the equivalent of four twenty dollar bills. A porcelain pot of weak, luke warm coffee (which they call “Ameican” coffee) and a cup about the size of a medium mixing bowl with large, irregularly shaped chunks of brown sugar that took twenty minutes to dissolve. The eggs were only partially cooked sunny side up…the whites and yellows still running, accompanied by a mini-baguette that had been not-quite toasted whole. And the piece de resistance, a bowl of bacon on the side. Oh yes, I did get the milk which was almost the consistency (and fat content) of cream cheese. Back to the bacon. I understand that you shouldn’t expect a lot when you order bacon outside of the US. Based on my experience in ordering bacon around the world (which is considerable), one should not expect what we get in Des Moines or Dallas. So I had relatively low expectations, but the gob of curled strips of grease soaked stuff they called bacon did not even measure up to that low standard. And it was cold, or almost cold. The whole kaboodle of stuff was delivered by a small army of perfectly coiffed and dressed waiters on hundred dollar china with a great flourish. The food tasted pretty much like it looked. I slathered some quite good jelly on the bun and made do.
My secret revenge was that my travel agent of long standing, had, unbeknownst to me, negotiated a deal with the hotel that included the price of breakfast. Hah! I didn’t have to pay for the bacon I couldn’t eat.
That evening before dinner, my darling wife and I had a drink at the bar before dinner. I ordered my usual potion of vitamin G and Tonic. The G and T only had about a thimble of G, but I expected that. After all, they only charged me twenty nine Euros ($37.25). Needless to say, I didn’t have a second.
The moral of the story: If you want to eat and drink like you do at home, stay at home, but if you go anyway, avoid, at all costs, any food or drink with “American” in the name.