After those long trips from Philadelphia to London and then from London to Paris, we were thirsty!
We Learned that drinking habits are different in both of those places, as compared to the US. Of course, we think of London as everyone drinking pints of beer (particularly Guinness), and we think of the French as so many million wine drinkers. Yes, that is all true, but there is more to it.
It is true that the Brits appear to be very beer-centric, and we found the pubs to have quite a good selection. There appeared to be a substantial brew-pub culture going on there not unlike what has taken off in the US over the past ten years or more. We stuck mostly with wine though, and had no trouble finding good wines by the glass, carafe, or bottle. Regarding wines by the glass, one thing we saw almost everywhere we went in both cities, was that you would ask for a glass of wine and they would ask you what size you wanted. Menus listed sizes also. A small might be listed as 175 ml and a large might be listed as 250 ml. (That’s about 6 oz. and about 8.5 oz.) We found those sizes to vary slightly and sometimes to be listed in centiliters instead. We got used to that, soon learning to ask for the larger glass.
In neither city did we notice much of a cocktail culture. Overwhelmingly it was all about beer and wine. I know that, at least for the French, it would not be a normal habit to drink hard liquor before dinner, as we might have a martini or a whisky on the rocks during our “cocktail hour”. We did see that most bars had some small basic collection of gin, vodka, or brown liquors, but people didn’t pay much attention to them.
Another thing that both cities had in common was that we found it almost impossible to find a “bar” as we know it on this side of the Atlantic. This was especially the case in Paris. The signs outside would say “Bar / Restaurant”, but there really wasn’t more than a tiny service bar inside, and with zero barstools! Even when there was a long bar, there wouldn’t be any stools, nor would anybody be standing there. Sitting at the bar to be waited on by a bartender just isn’t something they do there.
Now, that doesn’t mean that you were always required to order food, it’s just that you would be expected to sit at a table. The tables, of which there were very many, being tiny bistro tables. Exactly like you see in all the movies. And when you have a table, it is yours for as long as you like. It is normal to see a big burly man sipping a micro-cup of espresso and reading the paper for an hour. How do they make that cup of coffee last so long? That is a European mystery. I have an espresso machine at home and it generates about 5 sips!
One of the pictures for today’s entry is of a beautiful bar in Paris that, alas, we only stumbled upon on our last full day. It was a long and lovely zinc bar that actually had stools all along it!
The title picture today leads me to a small sub-story. It seems that there is no such thing as club soda in Paris. Whether it is against some old NATO treaty or just hasn’t been discovered yet is something we were not able to determine. Mrs. Working Stiff occasionally likes to have a Gin & Club soda for a cocktail. Like a G & T but with fewer calories. We looked in stores all over Paris, finding nothing like it. I googled it and found a whole discussion about how you can’t get club soda (aka – soda, or seltzer) in Paris. A strange part of it is that there was all manner of soft drinks as we know them, and there were varieties of Schweppes products. It seemed to us that the seltzer water was missing from all the shelves. We bought a selection of “fizzy” waters and found the can of Perrier to be the fizziest approximation of the forbidden club soda. So, if you find yourself in Paris and wishing for a club soda, you are probably SOL, but try the Perrier.
More soon and good to be home –
The Working Stiff