Day 3 What a Meal

Following the…less than stellar choices I made at the last dinner I nonetheless looked forward to another try at French cuisine. Tonight I was the fifth wheel to two couples (two of our happy travelers troupe had brought their wives). We picked a restaurant from the map provided by the conference organizers that was within walking distance from our hotels. Our inability to notice the three stars next to the “word” budget led us to believe that this was a budget restaurant. As it turns out it had three stars out of four on the budget scale so the Euros flowed freely. This was not really a surprise since we were asked if we had a reservation when we came to the door. Luckily she took us in anyway.

Let me take a moment to talk about Euros. It is impossible to think of them as anything but dollars. Unfortunately, they aren’t, they are about $1.56. So when you are shopping for trinkets to bring home to the fam and you find a nice bit of jewelry for say $25, you say “Self, that’s not too bad,” then, as you ride home on the metro you realize you have actually spent closer to $40. By far the hardest to get used to is that the little quarter looking things, which come in one and two Euro flavors are actually worth $1.55 or $3.10. They are very pretty money though with a silver center and a gold band around the outside. Every country in the EU has a different back and it’s fun to guess where they have come from.

So it was much easier to tell myself that we had an excellent meal for $40 instead of 40 Euros and I am happy in my delusion.

This most excellent meal started with a round of truffles on toast. These are the special mushrooms that they hunt with specially trained pigs. I love mushrooms and I heartily enjoyed them. I felt guilty about not being overwhelmed by the awesome taste though. I have read about truffles my whole life and I expected something, I don’t know, remarkable. They were good mushrooms but…maybe part of what makes one appreciate the overwhelming worth of truffles is to have a hand in the training and handling of the hunting pigs.

There was a salad with a wonderful mix of different greens, the bitter and the sweet made a subtle blend of tastes. This was followed but excellent salmon, (ok I was playing a little safe).

We had the house wine and I discovered something that I personally found no exception to throughout the trip, even the house wine in France is better than most of the wine I buy at home.

For dessert, a caramel flan, simple but nicely done.

In France you will never get the bill until you ask for it. If you sit there for 3 hours no one will be leaning on you to leave. So you have to ask for the check, but never, never, never ask them to hurry. We did this once later in the week when we wanted to catch the last bus. That waiter took a good 40 minutes to get the check. Anyway this check came with a shot of aperitif, we had melon or apple to chose from. A little booze always makes a bill taste better. Our waiter, and I suspect our cook, helped us tourists with our menu throughout the meal because he spoke the best English in the place, and even had a shot with us.

In my whole trip the only place I saw the legendary French surliness was at the bank. Maybe what some American tourists see as surliness is really that the French don’t suffer jerks, and they don’t take if for granted that you not a jerk until you prove otherwise.


We arrived having breezed through customs. Via bus, and metro (subway) we got to our hotels. Our first big surprise is that Marseille pretty much rolls up its sidewalks on Sunday. There were a few sidewalk cafés open but most everything was closed. As luck would have it, one of the open cafés was just outside of one of our hotels. We sat down to an good meal and mostly stared into space. We were majorly jet lagged. Once fed, it was time for a nap, exciting times!

A couple of hours later we went met up again and decided to walk down to the Mediterranean Sea. I can vouch for the fact that it is indeed there. So, our geography verified we were hungry again. We headed back.

Standing on a corner we took turns saying, “I don’t know, where do you want to eat?” Right in front of me one of the ubiquitous mopeds wrecked into the curb and another moped. I lifted the bike off of this kid and tried to do the first aid thing, but he didn’t understand a word. “Stay down, stay down, don’t get up, well at least don’t get up fast, are you hurt, you’re laughing at me, so I guess not.” He gathered up the pieces of his moped and left, apparently unscathed.

After much deferential discussion, “you decide, no you decide,” we went to the same café where we ate lunch. Now at lunch I learned the French word for lamb, which I have since forgotten. But at this meal I was destined to learn a French word that I will never forget. I asked the waiter what andouillete was. He answered “pork,” so I, with visions of a pork chop, or roast pork, said, exercising the full extent of my French language skills, “andouillette por favor.” In the fullness of time it arrived. I was a little disappointed to see that it was a sausage, but I like pork sausage so it was still all good. As a rule, I TRY not to pay too much attention to what’s in exotic food till after I taste it. Without looking too close I cut off a piece of the sausage and popped it into my mouth. This sausage rates as one of the worst tasting, worst smelling things I have ever seen passed as food. It’s made from parts of a pig that never should be eaten. I had unsuspectingly stumbled upon the French “betcha can’t eat this food.” All societies have one of these, Mexican menudo, Scottish haggis, and French andouillete. (

So I did the only thing I could, I offered some to everyone else, I had 3 takers. One even managed to put a little in his mouth, but not for long.