We love the café scene in Paris. Sitting at a sidewalk café sipping a rosé and maybe enjoying a “croque” while watching the world go by – it’s relaxing and exciting at the same time.
But, there seems to be a million cafés to choose from. How do you know you are finding a good one, and not a tourist trap? Here are 3 quick tips:
1. Get away from the busy tourist spots. Sometimes we want to sit with a front-and-center view of the Eiffel Tower. But, just know that you are over-paying for that glass of wine, and the atmosphere & service may not be top-notch.
So, when you find yourself on a busy square surrounded by tourist sights, walk around the corner, or just down the street. Or, better yet, find a quiet alley nearby. You will be sitting with the locals, rather than other tourists. The service will probably be better and prices will not be inflated.
2. Look for a busy spot. This may seem to go against tip #1, but if you can get away from the busy tourist area, and find a busy café that means that you found a good spot. If the locals are flocking there, you want to be there, too. It could be that the café has great happy hour specials, or it means the food, drinks & service are great. Either way, it’s a win for you!
Now, it can be a little uncomfortable — you will probably feel like you are sitting on the lap of a Parisian. But, it will be worth the effort.
3. Sit outside, facing out. Many cafés have cute interiors, but when in Paris, sit outside. If it’s cool, don your scarf and sit by a heater. If it’s warm, find a table under the awning, or just bask in the French sunshine! Outside is the place to be!
Our favorite cafés have all the chairs facing out to the street. Sometimes, you just can’t find that setup, but when you do, grab a spot! People-watching is a favorite Parisian pastime, so a table with both seats facing out means that everyone get’s to take part. Sit back and watch the action of Paris.
Please note: European (and, Parisian) restaurant etiquette and procedures are a little different than how it works in the U.S. Keep an eye out in the next week for our post on tips to make you seem like a local.
We are in Alsace, France right now, and we are enjoying the Crémant d’Alsace! What is “Crémant d’Alsace,” you ask?
We first need to start with a little wine education. Many people often use the word “Champagne” for any sparkling wine, but that is not correct! If you are a wine-geek, you already know this, but the word “Champagne” can only be used for sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France. So, you can get sparkling wine from California, Italy, Spain and from a bunch of wine regions in France — almost anywhere in the world where wine is produced. But, it’s only called “Champagne” when it comes from a certain small area of France.
So, Crémant d’Alsace is the sparkling wine of Alsace — the wine-producing region in Eastern France right along the German border. They make some great wines here – lots of Rieslings, Gewurztraminers and Pinot Blancs. But, they also make great sparkling wine. Crémant d’Alsace is generally a bit less expensive than Champagne, but the taste is outstanding. (The fancy name “Champagne” can often add a few bucks – or more – to your wine bill.)
We love to drink local and our taste buds are thanking us for Crémant d’Alsace this week. (It’s a scorcher and it sure is refreshing!) But, even between tours to Europe, we look for wines to remind us of our adventures – so, check your local wine shop for a Crémant d’Alsace and give it a try.
Back in 2005, Anthony Bourdain’s first episode of “No Reservations” was entitled “Why the French Don’t Suck.” (You can watch the late, great chef & TV personality here.) Anthony’s first episode was a little strange at times, but we connected with his love of travel, his passion for food & drink, and his dark sense of humor. And, we 100% agree that the French don’t suck!
The French Aren’t Rude
This is the first thing we hear from Americans who have traveled to France, or who are contemplating it. But, it is a myth!
First, we need to pause and realize that the American culture & French culture are very different. Things that we accept as the norm (like free public toilets, a waiter checking on our table every five minutes, smiling at strangers) are strange to the French. So, the #1 thing to do when you think someone is being rude to you in France (or, any foreign country for that matter), is to pause and ask yourself if you are expecting something to be exactly the same as home.
A couple quick tips:
- It would be rude for a waiter or waitress to interrupt your meal every five minutes asking you if everything is ok.
- You can sit at that dinner table all night nursing a coffee or a glass of wine. The wait-person will not bring your bill to get you to move along. Just give him or her a wave when you want your bill.
- If you are at a very busy restaurant in a touristy area, your server will be busy – curt service is expected. (And, in these touristy areas you may actually find some rude people – that’s why we frequent establishments with a more “local” vibe.)
- Politeness begets politeness. The French always greet each other – when entering a shop or café, say “Bonjour” and when you leave, pause for a second and say, “Merci” – even if you are saying it into the void of a busy establishment – someone will respond back and appreciate your politeness, as it is expected in French culture.
- Not everyone speaks English. And, even if they do, they may not speak English to you. Our French friends have told us that this is another part of French culture – self-consciousness. If they don’t feel that they can present perfect English to you, they will stick with speaking French. They are NOT being rude! They are just as nervous to try and speak English as you are to try to say something in French! (By the way, all of our guides, drivers, hotel personnel & recommended restaurants speak English! And we speak a little French ourselves.) However, the French are extremely tolerant of your attempts to speak French and extremely appreciative as well. We’ve been able to get a smile from strangers just from our attempts to go beyond what is expected and to actually speak French!
We have had some great experiences that completely dispel the myth of rude French – random people stopping in Paris and asking if we need help finding our way… Waiters speaking very slowly to us so we can practice our French… and, so many more.
The French Food & Wine is the Best
That first episode of “No Reservations” is a great introduction to French food & wine. The French take their food and wine very seriously. Can you say “non-pasteurized cheese?” Can’t get that in the US! How many cheeses are there in France? There’s an old saying that there are as many cheeses as there are days in the year, but, truth be told, there are so many more. We like cheese in this house, so we want to be anywhere that loves cheese that much!
Wine…need we say more? French wine is amazing and our favorite. Whether it’s a First Growth red or a house glass of rosé at a café, enjoying French wine is always delightful and a voyage for your senses.
Pastries, that’s what Jess goes for. She always brings money with her on her morning runs, so she can head straight to her favorite patisserie. The options are astounding and range from basic and delicious to elegant and mind blowing. And the baguette…any place that has reverence for something as simple as the baguette, we want to be there. Did you know that French law states that traditional baguettes have to be made on the premises they’re sold and can only be made with four ingredients: wheat flour, water, salt and yeast. They can’t be frozen at any stage or contain additives or preservatives, which also means they go stale within 24 hours. As if they’d last 24 hours in our hands!
There is so much more to French food: steak frites, boeuf bourguignon, croque monsieur, the list goes on, but you get the idea. You’re going to want to eat when you’re in France!
The French Have Life Figured Out
We Americans are always “go! go! go!” And, when we only have a limited amount of time for a European vacation, we definitely want to see all the sights. But, don’t miss out on the relaxation. Be like the French and sit for hours at a sidewalk café with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and watch the world pass by. Or, stroll leisurely along the Seine (and, maybe stop for a glass of rosé at a riverside bar.) Linger for a few of hours over a four-course dinner — and, finish it off with an espresso, like the French always do. Then follow up dinner by window shopping and taking in the Eiffel Tower twinkling on your way back to your hotel. Take your time & see the real France.
Experience all the amazing experiences that France has to offer – check out our running tours in France here!
We are so excited about our D-Day Landings Marathon & Half Tour (plus Paris!) and we are can’t wait for you to experience it with us. (June 14 – 21, 2019 or June 14 – 23, 2019 – click here to learn more.)
We’ll cut straight to the chase – we love France! I mean, really love it, and we love this race. And, we know that you will love this tour. Whether you’ve been to France before or it’s your first time, this will be an experience that will always stay with you.
Normandy is beyond amazing. Not only will you see the beauty and hear about the history, but you will feel so much more. You will feel how much the French appreciate the sacrifices that American men and women made in the fight for freedom. You will feel what it must have been like to live or fight in this place during that time as your guide transports you back to 1944.
The race just adds to this experience by running through the French countryside with so many villagers cheering you on with “Allez!” and “Bravo!” Not to mention being able to start on Pegasus Bridge for the half marathon – the first bridge liberated by the Allies or running along the beaches for the full marathon. The cobblestone streets then lead you to the finish line to a roaring and enthusiastic crowd and French-inspired post-race snacks and Normandy delights.
Speaking of delights, in addition to igniting all of these senses, you will certainly ignite your sense of taste! Normandy, known for butter, Camembert, cider and Calvados, will have you reaping the rewards of your run. And moving on to Paris, you will, of course, enjoy the rest of what France has to offer with wine, more cheese, and pastries that are almost as religious of an experience as visiting Notre Dame.
And your time in Paris will not only offer you all the tourist things you’ve always wanted to see, but private experiences that you haven’t even considered. You will experience the capital city on a personal level with your local guide, eat at friendly, quaint restaurants and get to know what Paris is below the surface and beyond just a big city.
Questions? We’d love to answer all of them. Feel free to call or message us. Call Jessica at 970-445-0968 or Dan at 970-368-2326.
Check out the itinerary of this tour and get the specifics of all of the amazing experiences you will have. Or, watch our video chat about the D-Day Marathon & Half Tour (plus Paris).
I speak French. Not nearly as well as I would like, however. Duolingo tells me that I’m 48% fluent. My conversations with Parisians tell me otherwise. (My tutor is helping me with this!)
It’s a foggy morning, a Normandy foggy morning. You need a knife and fork to cut the air (un couteau et une forchette). Dan and I walk to the Caen Parc des Expositions where I catch the bus to Pegasus Bridge, the start of Les Courants de la Liberte half marathon (it also happens to be the first bridge liberated by the Allies in Normandy.) It also happens to be just a few days after D-Day. It’s always fun to see and feel the excitement of race day. Even in another country, it’s the same. Some are dressed in goofy outfits, some are stretching, some look really serious, some are cool and joking around. I say goodbye to Dan and get on the bus. I’m surrounded by people, but can’t follow any conversation. So, I kinda feel alone, on a bus, in France to go run 13.1 miles in a foggy abyss. I’m refusing to text Dan as my battery is running down and I need it for my running tunes! Thanks to those of you who chimed in on Facebook and gave me suggestions for good running songs.
Here We Go…
We arrive at the start about an hour before the race. Great, I’ve got loads of time. There’s a lot of chatter, again, too fast for me to understand anything. But, there are loads of lines at the porta potties. There’s a universal language! One woman walks out of the porta potty and is mortified as she only then sees the line and realizes that she just budged in front of all of us. I wonder what the word for “budge” is en francais? She gets a lot of chuckles. It’s all good lady.
10 minutes to the start and as I’m in line, the announcer is trying to jack everybody up with clapping and high fives. I can barely see much of Pegasus Bridge. Did I mention the fog?? The gun goes off and away we go. It’s a bit of an incline at the start, so I can see everyone in front of me. Yeah, I’m slow, so there’s plenty of people in front of me. I’m taking it all in. Spectators cheering us on. Check. Little kids with posters with messages to Daddy, “Papa, tu es très vite!” This I understand! (In English, “Daddy, you are very fast!) Check. Quintessential stone buildings that tell you, “Hey, you’re running a half marathon in France.” Check. Feeling like you are part of something really cool. Definitely, Check. At that moment, there’s a shift and I have this moment of clarity…runner’s high already?! My thought, “we’re all the same.” (Relatively speaking, of course.) We’ve all trained for this day on some level, no matter how easy or hard this may be for any of us. Spectators flock to support those cruising through their little village. Yep, we have this at home. Oh, look, cute kids wanting high fives, yep, done this before. Love it! I ran all over the course to make sure I slapped every hand of every little kid and that one adult looking for a high five.
People are splitting off into twosomes, lots of singles. Some are walking already. Some listening to music, some chatting, giggling. I’m running this alone, but with each step, I don’t feel that way at all. This race prints the name of your country on your bib if you aren’t from France. I’m the only one from the USA as far as I can tell. Still don’t feel alone though. We run through more villages with more spectators, more kids, more inspiring posters… there are even bands at a few villages. Amid the constant sprinkling of spectators whether it be in villages or on a dirt path in what seemed like the middle of nowhere, I experienced my favorite memory…picture this, a driveway that appears out of the woods, hosting a cute little old Frenchman with his wool cardigan and cap, calmly yet continuously clapping his hands and saying, “Bravo! Bravo!” I’ve never received an authentic, “Bravo!” before…you know, doing something actually “Bravo!” worthy while I was in France. Definitely did not feel alone. And then I see an older gentleman go out of his way to make a fellow runner not feel alone. He takes a quick zig to the right, pats a guy on the back who is walking and just zags back to his spot. Heart melts.
And now I’m 10 miles in and I think, “oh, I got this”, now it gets fun because I’m feeling good. The long downhill stretch didn’t hurt either. We’re back in town, leaving the poppy fields and cute Frenchman behind. Hello, cobblestone. You are super fun to run on. Ha! But the energy is awesome. In Europe, they often print your name on your bib, so people are yelling your name. Your name! “Allez, Jessica!” So cool. I slap some more 5-year-old hands. I make eye contact with a few people as I have a huge grin on my face and I see the same spread across their face. I come around the corner and it’s almost over…”What? No! This has been so fun!” I’m trying to look at all of the spectators lining the very packed last third mile of the race. Everyone is so into it…and so am I.
We Are One
The thought never left me that how ironic it is to do something that is just you, it’s all you. This isn’t a team sport, running (at least not always). Yet, here we are, people from the US, France, Poland, the UK. We are all here for the same thing, our love of putting one foot in front of the other. The love of where those feet will lead us. The love of how they got us here in the first place. And all the fun along the way. We might be from different places, with different political views, different colors, but we are all there to do the same thing. Despite my need to work on my French, I never felt alone. If you don’t want to feel alone, try a race in another country.