Peter and I are in Greece. Finally. When I booked our tix on Air France, I blithely made the “Air Chance” joke, completely forgetting that I had gotten screwed by them before. Instead, all I remembered was really good coffee, wine and buttery biscuits.
But then I had plenty of time to recall my previous mishap, after a couple of hours into our “flight.” I use the quotes because in fact, around 9:30pm, we had not gone anywhere, not even pulled away from the gate at JFK. Due to alleged “congestion” and then a thunderstorm, we didn’t leave for another four hours, which more than doubled our time in our plane seat. Luckily, we had been given earplugs and eye shades (I carry them anyway, but it was a nice gesture), and we had back-of-seat movies. And there was none of that tedious turbulence one gets when one actually travels through the air. And the wine was OK. Also, the captain was almost comically dismayed every time he came on the PA, and would always heave a huge sigh after saying, “Je suis tres desole, mais….”
So we got to Paris, eventually, and AF had the decency to put us up in a hotel and give us meal vouchers. And being stuck in Paris is not the worst thing that could happen. Peter and I had great ambitions about zipping into the city for dinner, and sent a text message to Tamara asking for advice, but when she hadn’t replied, it was about time for the free hotel dinner, so we thought we’d at least check it out.
Three plates of terrine, camembert, shrimp, sea snails, white anchovies, curried pickled veggies, rare slabs of beef and artichoke hearts later, we guessed we weren’t really up to another dinner. As Peter said, “If we were in the States, our room would be bigger and our dinner would be a hell of a lot crappier.” He also said he’d be perfectly happy to eat cheese, surrender and act like a monkey, or something along those lines.
After accidentally gorging ourselves, Peter and I zipped into the city and had a few drinks at a bar recommended by our friend Rod, via text message from Amsterdam. Savvy. Peter and I sat in the grotto-y basement of Chez Georges marveling at how people (just pairs of people, in fact) were ordering whole bottles of wine in a bar. I didn’t realize until I saw it that nobody does this in the US. Is there some law against it?
And then the next day, Air France once again managed to brainwash me, just by feeding me well. As I ate my cold roast beef, vinegar-y lentils, and ratatouille, and swabbed fluffy white cheese on my bread, all my rage over the previous day’s flight just evaporated. And I wasn’t even drinking wine this time.
Everyone who cares about food seems to have had a revelatory experience in France, but it’s usually out in the countryside, at the market, or along the coast fishing oysters out of the water or some bucolic crap like that. I’m here to tell you that French food is remarkable even at the level of cheap-hotel-by-the-airport-buffet. I mean, I could easily come back and plan a Sunday night dinner inspired by what I ate at the Hotel Campanile in Roissy–which sounds glamorous but isn’t at all. Comparing it to the States, it really makes me want to cry. How have we set the bar for food so damn low?