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my thoughts – La Gourmandista

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Etiqueta: my thoughts

Should All Restaurants Be Kid-Friendly?

I feel like this is will be like opening a can of worms, but I have to write about it. Yes, many of you dear readers are going to think that being parents to young children should not exclude you of going ANYWHERE you fancy. And I have to say on the one side I don’t agree, but on the other side, yes you should.

Just yesterday, I was talking about this blog post with a group of lady friends where there are some who are mothers, and others who are not, and even though I was made aware of how difficult it is to arrive to a restaurant with a baby or a toddler, a stroller, the diaper bag, toys, and tons of other whatnot that the Love of Your Life might request while you’re just trying to peacefully enjoy a delicious meal, and that is without taking into consideration that once you’re served with the dish you’ve been dreaming for God knows how long the Little One is going to start exercising his/her lungs and cry like there’s no tomorrow. So, yes, I get it, IT IS VERY DIFFICULT, but this didn’t change my point of view, there are some restaurants where the little people should not go dine.

As a youngster I have very special memories about two specific restaurants in my native Mexico City. The first one was a Spanish restaurant owned by a Spaniard, an old lady serving really good food from the Iberian Peninsula. Now, what makes me remember the place more than the food itself, is that the lady would ‘recommend’ you what to eat just by observing you, and quite surprisingly she would always nail it. The people would love her choice for them. The other aspect of this place was that there was a sign by the entrance of the restaurant which read no children younger than 8 years old were welcome. Now, the other restaurant I keep close to my heart was a franchise of the French house Maxim’s de Paris, where no children younger than 12 years old were welcome. In both cases, I was very lucky, since my parents were strong enough to fight for me to enter the premises and be able to enjoy their food. However, it was not just as easy as it sounds, since my parents had given their word to the management at Maxim’s, as well as to the old lady of Babieca -the Spanish restaurant- that both, my sister and I would be on our best behavior and that they wouldn’t regret hosting us. They were both hesitant, but gave us a chance with a warning: Should we disturb their guests, we would be asked to leave. My parents explained the situation to us, and they didn’t need to do anything else, we knew what we had to do.

To make the long story short, we became regulars at Babieca, and at Maxim’s the manager invited us to see the kitchen by the end of our meal, and I was given an ashtray and some matches as a gift. Oh my God, I’m sure that would be considered nowadays as totally wrong, haha! Back then, I felt so proud of it.

In time, I have seen children behave marvelously at some fine dining restaurants and terribly at casual spots. I always appreciate well-behaved little people and even mention it to their parents when I walk by their table, and yes, I DO NOT appreciate screams, tears, or videos at a high volume coming from smartphones at the nearby tables. I try to ignore those, quite honestly.

In summary, yes, I think you should take your children to nice restaurants, not just to Chuck-e-Cheese and McDonald’s. It will allow them to try new flavors and develop their palates, but as a parent you have to teach them how to behave without needing a special menu or special noisy entertainment; what happened to good old crayons and coloring books? I love the way the French call their children wise rather than well-behaved. I feel it makes them BE wiser. Of course, this is not intended to be a lecture on education, and I excuse myself if any of you reading my text today feel I’m overstepping because I have not lived through any of these parenting challenges, but know that what I truly believe in is that age should not limit anybody to go anywhere or taste anything, just keep in mind other guests, maybe? We might not all be used to having little ones around.

Paris Attacks: The Aftermath of the Deadly Shootings

I have been working on quite a few texts to share with you, however, my dear Readers, it is of utmost importance that I make a stop and talk about all that has been happening in my beautiful and lately not so calm Paris, especially since it has taken me three weeks to share my thoughts and experience.

It was Friday the 13th, for some it means good luck, for others, it is exactly the opposite. For me, it was a day I had circled in my calendar for I was going on a weekend to Scandinavia to meet up with three very good friends with whom I chat all the time and who I had actually never met in person. We were all very excited even though we had had not a lot of time to plan what we were going to do during our “Girls’ Weekend”.

I had planned to finish my activities around 3:00 p.m., go home and take a shower, grab my suitcase, and take the suburban train to the Roissy Airport. I had calculated to leave home at around 5:00 pm in order to have plenty of time and not be neither nervous nor in a rush. In the end, I decided to not take the train, but to take a Uber car and leave at the same time. Someone told me to leave with plenty of time, since there would be a soccer match at the Stade de France –which is on the way to the Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport.

Right on time I requested my private chauffeur service, grabbed my luggage, and went down the stairs. As customary, the service was cordial and the driver and I had a pleasant conversation on the way. We saw the stadium’s surroundings and he reassured me that once we were out of there, he thought there would be no more traffic jams. And so it was. I entered the terminal, printed the label for my luggage, dropped it off, and passed security. I sat down on the gate which had already been assigned for the flight, and thought it would be a good moment to have a chat with my better half as well as with my father. Thank God I did, I think now.

The Vigil in front of the the French Embassy in Copenhagen

The flight boarded and took off on time. The weekend promised a lot of fun, laughs, and not a lot of sleep, but no one actually cared. We just wanted to have a weekend full of good food, a bit of junk food, chick flicks, you know, kind of a weekend long slumber party. We had agreed that all of us traveling would be meeting up in a Starbucks located by the exit of the Copenhagen airport terminal. Evidently, to notify Lovey and my friends who were supposed to be waiting for me, I immediately logged on the free wifi service offered by the CPH airport. To my astonishment, I started receiving message notifications from every app one could imagine… WhatsApp, Facebook, iMessage, even Twitter. All of them asked me if I was doing alright, if I was safe and sound, but mostly what the effing had happened in Paris. I had been flying for almost two hours, and when I had left the City of Lights, all was calm. So, I answered I had no idea, that I was not in town, and that yes, I was fine. I answered as many messages as I could. Then, someone explained to me through one of these messaging services what had happened, sort of… all, while I was waiting for my luggage. To make the long story short, my evening, even though I was in total safety and very happy to finally meet with my friends, turned bittersweet.

The morning after the attacks I posted this on my social networks: “You know, I am not French, but in any case, I am a Parisian, for Paris has been the place I call home for some years now. Tonight, even when I am completely safe, and even though I know I will leave the city soon, I am crying, I can’t sleep, because my Paris, my home has been hurt once more.” All my friends posted something similar to let their loved ones know they were fine even though Paris looked almost like a ghost town that day. Everything was closed, even the parks. It was almost like a lockdown. The authorities, though not demanding people to stay in, they were strongly suggesting it.

My friends and I participated in the vigil before the French Embassy in Denmark that evening. I had goose bumps; I cried almost silently, and I say it silently because actual tears started to run down my cheeks. We held each other and paid respects.

Participating in the Vigil in Copenhagen

On Sunday, people started to step out of their homes. They needed the air, but I think mostly they needed to turn off their television sets and connect back with their city. Now, almost a month has passed by, and the bruise still hurts. Nonetheless, life goes on, and Parisians do their lives as normally as possible. People are out having fun in the Christmas Markets already, and terraces all around the city are getting busier and busier every day. We have to, the weather is beautiful. Security checks are much more common and thorough these days. The shopping center I prefer now demands that one opens jackets and coats, just to be sure you’re not a kamikaze and a patrol from the National Police is there, attentive that all of us remain safe while we go look for a book, make up, or just to have a cup of coffee. People look at each other in the metro wagons and on buses. We are being more cautious. We need to be.

The first piece of news I had was that there had been a shooting at a restaurant. I now have friends working in restaurants. I felt scared and just wanted to know which restaurant. When I was able to know the name I have to say I was partially relieved, for it was not where any of my friends worked, however, as I started reading the information I had access to –which was a lot- I had shivers. This sounded serious, scary serious, and even though I was miles away from my home, I stood awake until almost the sun rose, for it was 6:00 am Saturday morning when I finally turned off my light and decided to go to sleep. All through the weekend my mind was very near my beloved Paris and my friends. I tried to be as informed as possible. I contacted everyone in my book. I watched the local French news over the Internet to understand it all and mainly because should we have turned on the news, neither Swedish nor Danish are languages that I master.

On Monday, I came back, and I found a city grieving more than 100 deaths. My friends were scared. I didn’t know what to expect. Children were asking very difficult questions which challenged parents to answer. But, how the hell do you explain a terrorist attack to a 6 year-old who has been fortunate enough to live his life in a place where he can walk on the sidewalk and doesn’t need to be holding his parents’ hands or who can freely run around a public park? What do you tell them to reassure them and to make them feel safe if you, yourself are not at ease?

Just last week I met a dear friend also from Mexico, and we concurred that one of the main reasons for liking life in Paris was the feeling of being safe. And that is exactly what these mad people are trying to steal from us, and this doesn’t mean I have no sympathy for what happens elsewhere, however, what is hurting me, what makes me ill, is knowing that people around me have been touched in one way or another by such terrible events. The girl who sells a baguette for my meals every day missed the concert because she couldn’t find tickets for the show, and therefore is alive, and all she wanted to do was celebrate her boyfriend’s birthday. One of the girls from the administration office in my school was supposed to be at the Petit Cambodge and didn’t go there for last minute change of plans, not to mention so many people who have expressed being there over and over to have an aperitif or dine with friends and family, and evidently, last but not least, that shouldn’t I had not planned the weekend escapade, I might have decided to go watch a soccer game at the Stade de France, because I’m going to leave Paris and will actually manage to have never been there, and no one would have thought I would put myself in an  unsafe situation should I have planned such outing. So, the story, the pain, the grief changes. Perception changes. All those who are close to my heart in one or another way are safe and sound. However, others, not so close to me, but who I know, have lost friends and family members. And then, it makes me grief, for them, for their loved ones.

A week ago, a very formal ceremony took place at Invalides. It is the first one to be held there and not be for members of the armed forces in the history of France. Also, I read something about people wanting for November 13 to be an official holiday to not forget about these terrible attacks, but none of that is going to bring back parents, couples, family members, friends…

Dog Poop: A Shitty issue in Paris

When one moves to Paris, most of us become pedestrians. It is said that 40% of the city population does not own a car and either walk or use public transport (bus, metro, or city bicycles) to get from one place to another. Among the reasons for said high percentage of pedestrians is that there is a metro station approximately every 300 meters. Also, the bus and bicycle services are very reliable, whereas finding a parking spot within the city limits can become not just a headache but mostly a migraine in many cases, and the traffic can be nightmare at peak hours like in most major capitals of the world. Therefore, one prefers to walk, even those who have a car.

However, I have to say that when I first came to visit the City of Lights as a tourist, one of the biggest surprises I had was to see how dirty the streets were. Here the mass media refers to the Champs-Elysèes as the Most Beautiful Avenue of the World (La plus belle avenue du Monde, Les Champs-Elysèes), but locals don’t seem to think the same way but on holidays or during special events… It is something pretty difficult to explain, but they hate going because it’s full of tourists, but want to be there for the parade on the morning of July 14, or upon arrival of the Tour de France. For me, the image of a dirty city came specifically from said beautiful avenue. I remembered having to be extremely careful or I would step on dog’s poop every step of the way.

Now, almost 15 years have passed, and although cleanliness has gotten better, there’s still an enormous amount of work to be done in such a sense, and the city authorities make a great effort in it. I have seen free poop bags be available at parks, billboards on the garbage trucks referring specifically to cleaning after dogs, but I also wonder if it has to do with the fact that there are many old people with pets who are no more capable of cleaning after Belle or Lady, or even Spike. Then, I also think about my fellow nationals and their lack of courtesy to clean after their doggies when they walk them even in the nice Mexican suburbs…

Can we be THAT lazy? Don’t know… food for thought, I guess.

A poster commonly found around Paris to promote cleaning after pets (Source: paris.fr)

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