Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Paris cafes: musings on coffee and breakfast

There are two types of cafes in Paris: the famous touristy ones where you pay $10 for a cup of coffee and the local ones on the average corner where you can get coffee for the bargain price of $5 a cup. Both are fun options for people-watching and getting a decent cup of coffee, but real Parisians do not usually hang out at Les Deux Magots (St. Germain) or Cafe de la Paix (Place de l'Opera).

I really fell in love with the local cafe by our hotel just at the corner of rue St. Lazare by the Trinite metro stop. The coffee was great, not $10, and the proprietor started to recognize us as regulars. So, if you go to Paris, find a cafe near your hotel and go every day. When you are finished with a day of shopping or site seeing stop back by your local cafe for a kir royale which is champagne and creme de cassis.

A note on breakfasts: most Parisian hotels seem to offer a continental breakfast for around 10 euros. Skip the hotel breakfast and go to your local cafe instead and pick up a croissant or pain au chocolat on the way. In addition there are plenty of vegetable and fruit stands outside of local grocery shops. Pick up some fruit. We got some GREAT peaches and apricots from one of these little shops.

Besides there being two types of cafes, there are also two types of coffee: cafe noir and cafe creme (or au lait). Noir is basically espresso. Cafe au lait or creme is noir with steamed milk kind of like a latte. Don't embarrass yourself and asked for skim milk, soy milk, and other such travesties. Most places seem to have decaf as an option nowadays, unlike 20 years ago when I went to France for the first time.

But seriously, if you have a problem with caffeine, order a "tisane" instead. Tisane is herbal tea.

I was in coffee heaven. I have mentioned before that I prefer my coffee as black as sin, as strong as death and as hot as hell. My poor father, on the other hand, likes what I consider lukewarm brown water. French coffee required him to put both suger and milk in his cup to make it palatable. Poor guy was glad to get home to have a cup of weak, American brew.

At one point he made me ask for American style coffee. The young French woman had no idea what I was talking about, but she was very eagar to accomodate whatever we needed. So I ordered a pot of hot water so he could dilute his coffee.

I love my parents, but we really part ways when it comes to java.

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