Four Ways to Horrify a French Waiter
*** Coffee, Cheese, Butter, and Substitutes: Four Sure-Fire Ways to Ruin an Otherwise Good French Meal
*** Authentic Paris: Three Ways to Find It (see today’s main article) and the Best Way to Write about It (see today’s writing prompt)
*** Leave Your Money at Home! If You’re Still Paying for Your Travel, Let Us Help…
*** Practical Writing Prompt of the Week: Authentic Washington
*** Reader Feedback: My Photo Contest Entry Ended Up in a Magazine
A friend called me this week and asked for tips on what to see and do in Paris.
I sent her a copy of some of my favorite walking tours (several of which we’re going to use for our upcoming Paris photography workshop in May). And I marked a few of my favorite cafes and photo opps along each route.
(By the way, the most photogenic view of the city is not from the top of the Eiffel Tower. The view from the top of the Notre Dame cathedral is much better. Not only can you include the gargoyles in your photographs but you can get the Eiffel Tower in, too — something you can’t do when you’re standing on the Tower itself.)
I also sent my friend a list of must-try foods and a few French phrases she should practice before she leaves. Before we got off the phone, she asked me, “Any advice for avoiding the rude French waiters?”
“Avoid them?” I replied. “Why would you want to avoid an encounter with the biggest stereotype there is about the French people?”
And then I gave her what I call “The Coffee, Cheese, Butter, and Substitution Rules,” also known as “Four Ways to Horrify a French Waiter.”
THE COFFEE RULE
In France, coffee is taken AFTER dessert. If you want to encourage a scowl from your waiter, act like it’s his fault that your coffee isn’t on your table when the dessert arrives. Unless you specify that you want your coffee “avec mon dessert” (with my dessert) you’ll likely get it after. And forget about asking to get your coffee to go. If you want a to-go cup of coffee, you should find a Starbucks (there are now 20 of them in Paris).
THE CHEESE RULE
The French eat their cheese AFTER their meal. One sure-fire way to horrify a French waiter is to request the cheese plate off the dessert menu as an appetizer.
THE BUTTER RULE
Most Europeans put butter on their bread at breakfast, sometimes in a sandwich at lunch, and occasionally under their cheese at dessert. But they don’t put it on bread served with dinner. If you want to set a French waiter to rolling his eyes, request butter when your dinner bread arrives.
And here’s another thing…
THE SUBSTITUTION RULE
In the States, it might be OK to request substitutions on the menu or sauce on the side. But French chefs treat food like art. You wouldn’t suggest to a painter that he use another color or a different brush stroke. Similarly, you shouldn’t suggest to a chef that he use another sauce or a different vegetable. Eat what you’re served. It will be wonderful!
Now, having said all that, if in Paris you pick small restaurants and cafes off the beaten tourist track, you’re not likely to encounter a rude waiter in the first place.
I’ve always found the French to be extremely hospitable and welcoming (assuming you do your best to conform to their cultural traditions). But that’s not to say that all restaurants — just like here in the States — are created equal. In the touristy parts (where you’re bound to go if you’re a first-time visitor), you may well come across a snippy Frenchman or two.
Here are three things you can do to ensure you have a more authentic experience in Paris (even if you do plan to hit all the main attractions while you’re there)…
1. Take your meals outside the most touristy areas. Head, for example, to the Marais District in the 3rd arrondissement. Get off the metro at Filles Du Calvaire and walk the side streets around Vielle Du Temple and Rue Charlot. (In addition to great cafes and restaurants, you’ll find a lot of jewelry shops in this area too — it’s great for shopping.)
2. Bring comfortable shoes and walk. Paris is a great walking city. Buy a book of walking tours and enjoy a few. My favorite guide is Thirza Vallois’ Around and About Paris. Folks who have heard Thirza speak at our live travel writing workshops in Paris have said that hearing her speak was worth the entire cost of their trip. How’s that for a testimonial? (Incidentally, she’ll be on hand for our program there this May and actually leading a walking tour, too.)
3. Explore Paris with a pen in your hand and a camera around your neck. In four days last May, we took a group of budding photographers, quite literally, all over Paris. And then we put them in a classroom where they learned how to sell the pictures they got on the street to magazines, newspapers, and local art galleries. This year will be no different…
We’ll head up to the top of Montmarte … down the Champs-Elysees… across the Luxembourg Gardens… to famous cafes — Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots… around the Louvre… down the Seine… to the Eiffel Tower by way of Les Invalides… around the Palais Royal… and beyond…
And this year we’re running our popular writing workshop simultaneously with our photography one.
While the photographers are out exploring the most photogenic parts of the city, the writers will be on a walking tour with Thirza, drumming up story idea after story idea, and uncovering layers of the city regular-old tourists never find on their own.
Our workshops are far and away the best way to discover Paris (whether it’s your first time there or you know the city well).
In addition to the time spent out-and-about, we’ll also convene in a conference setting with our much-praised panel of experts to learn what, exactly, to do with all the good material we’re collecting — both amazing photos and great fodder for articles.
The photographers will come away with photos they can sell. The writers will go home with publishable stories in hand. And the participants will know exactly what to do with both to turn them into cash!
OUR 300th ISSUE OF THE RIGHT WAY TO TRAVEL
In just over a month, we’ll be publishing our 300th issue of The Right Way to Travel. To celebrate, I’d like to include as many success stories from you and your fellow readers as possible.
If you’ve got a success story to share — an article published, a photo sold, or an import/export goal reached — and you’d like to be included in our round-up of stories, drop me a line here: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be sure to include your full name, email address, city, and state (in case I need to reach you — I won’t publish that information).
And don’t forget to scroll down to this week’s writing prompt on turning “Authentic Paris” and “authentic” stories about your home town into travel articles…
Director, Great Escape Publishing
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]
PRACTICAL WRITING PROMPT OF THE WEEK:
Since we’re talking about “authentic” Paris today, let’s talk about how you can turn that “authentic” notion into a travel article about your own home town…
A cute article ran in last Friday’s Washington Post, titled: “Authentic Washington.” The writer begins by bashing Washington for its lack of character and the time it takes to get anything done in the city.
It’s a funny lead. But I was, at first, surprised that the editor chose to run the piece with its negative opening. Keep reading, though, and you’ll find — as I did — that the writer transforms that initial negative into a positive by discovering places with personality and directing readers to the real heart of a city many people judge too quickly.
You’ll find the full article here: http://tinyurl.com/37w3tq
Take some time this weekend to read this article and think about how you might write an article like this about your own home town. Is there a common perception about your town that you can debunk?
Your goal is to find a story or draw a picture that your reader (think: your neighbor) can relate to and then turn the story around and offer suggestions for finding the real heart of your town.
“When I open my eyes these days, somehow the world has changed. Perhaps it is just my perception of reality that has been altered. I have always believed I was on the verge of doing something amazing with my life, and now, with the encouragement Turn Your Pictures into Cash has given me, I believe that I will somehow achieve that feeling of greatness.
At first I stuck a tentative toe into the editorial waters. Now I am skipping through those waters believing that the photographs I take and the copy I write are as good as anyone else’s who is trying to break into publication. Even though I already knew most of what I have read in the course materials so far, I now believe that what I know is enough to be successful.
What the course is doing for me is essentially giving me the push I need to submit my photographs. Since beginning the course a few months ago, I have had several photos published. One of them was in a digital photo contest sponsored by the Columbus Dispatch. My photo placed in the top ten out of 6,000 entries!
I received a great deal of attention due to that one photo — that one photo that I would not have entered if not for Turn Your Pictures into Cash. I had just finished reading the lesson that encouraged students of the program to enter contests. When I got home from work the day my photo appeared in the paper, a message on my answering machine awaited me from the editor of the Columbus Metro Parks magazine requesting permission to use that photo in the spring issue of Parkscope.
I also had a fall color photo published through a lead in your newsletter for Tom Schueneman’s online travel newsletter. I finally feel both competent and validated. I attribute both of these feelings to the AWAI program and the constant stream of newsletters that inspire me to reach for what I deserve — success.” — Debbie Steinhausser