Vive La France

It has been a busy couple of weeks, including a 3 day business trip to Paris. Whilst I love spending time there, I do not enjoy the early morning wake up call … especially when the heating had not come on and I still had to get undressed for a shower in minus degrees. I was, to put it mildly, in a strop. Then when I got to St Pancras the business lounge was full, which made it very difficult to make my usual raid on the magazine counter – I did manage to pick up 4 magazines and a pile of newspapers, but I have done better in the past …

Breakfast on the train was rubbish as usual, but I had been invited to lunch by our Accessibility agency so I wasn’t too bothered. I left the house at 6am and was sitting at my desk in Paris by 11am local time, and certainly ready for lunch by midday. We decided on a couscous restaurant (which in Paris means the whole mean, not just the grain of couscous), and the experience reinforced every Parisian waiter stereotype (rude, unfriendly, stroppy), which was a kind of pleasure in itself. One small example: waiter to my boss: “why didn’t you eat your meatballs?”; boss to waiter (slightly apologetically): “well, they were a little dry”; waiter to boss (incredulously, shouting and nearly prepared to beat her): “they are not dry, look!” (slashes them open with knife, then stabs at meatballs with knife) “see, not dry!”. Okay, put the knife down Monsieur!

Anyway, I ordered meatballs (they were dry, and monstrously large for a light lunch), which came with couscous (massive platters of it – enough for 12 and there were just six of us) and tureens of vegetables in broth. It was tasty but not the best meal I have ever had … 

After an afternoon back at the office I went back to Odile’s for dinner and a pit stop for the night (very kind of her and her family to invite me). Her husband kicked off the night with gin cocktails, and after some little apero, she cooked a delicious courgette dish where the courgettes had been cooked with garlic and olive oil until very soft (but not coloured at all) and then finished with shrimps. It was lovely to dip the baguette into, and followed by more bread with cheese: Mont d’or, Comte and another one which I did not catch the name of. For pudding she had made lemon meringue pie (cue English lesson to explain the difference between a pie and a tart – in my view a pie has a lid … even if the lid is meringue, it makes it a pie in my book). It was such a pleasurable evening and I felt like a member of the family for the night. I hope to return the favour some time.

After my favourite fromage blanc for breakfast, another morning in the office was jam packed with meetings. Lunch at the canteen (always excellent quality in my view, for just a few euros) was roasted duck leg with braised puy lentils and baked figs. Absolutely delicious and a dish I will try and replicate … although the mixture of lentils and figs did enhance my digestion more than I had expected (how to put it delicately!). For dinner that evening I just had a simple omelette from room service, along with several pieces of bread which came on the tray. I am such a pig.

The hotel knows me well (it’s scary when they greet you by name when you have just walked through the door) and at breakfast the next morning the woman there came to chat and wish me a merry christmas. I had my usual fromage blanc and spelt cereal, and some bread and honey as there was no cut fruit (such a diva!) and then after another morning of meetings I had lunch back at the canteen. This time what I would call poussin but which my colleagues said was a small male chicken, with peas cooked with onion. A bit lighter than the day before, and followed by more fromage blanc.

I had to scarper pretty sharpish after the lunch to catch an early train so that I could rush home, get changed, and be back out for the Christmas party. That was a nice night overlooking the Thames (in the Oxo tower) and the chorizo sausage rolls and mini cheeseburgers which I chose were extremely successful! I didn’t think I had drunk so much but felt awful the next day and ended up eating a sausage bap for breakfast, chicken pho from Eat for lunch (disgusting – like chicken covered with dishwater) and pizza for dinner. I was so greedy to eat the pizza that I burnt the roof of my mouth. It still hurts, but has not taught me a lesson. I am still a pig.

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