A Memorable Place Americans in Paris -- how amusing By...


October 06, 2002|By Special to the Sun

A Memorable Place

Americans in Paris -- how amusing

By Brenda E. Sartoris


Everyone who has been to Paris probably has a favorite Parisian cafe, favored for its ambience, its food, perhaps for its prices.

The Cafe La Bucherie, at 41 rue de la Bucherie, is notable for all of these qualities. It has a lovely view of Notre Dame just across the river, the food is delicious and the prices are reasonable. But what makes it memorable for me is the wit of one of its waiters.

On a damp April Tuesday in 2001, I ducked into the cafe to have lunch and to escape a brief shower. Recognizing me as a tourist, no doubt because of the map of Paris and the cameras that I carried, the hostess was careful to seat me so that I had an excellent view of the spires of Notre Dame gleaming above the cherry trees, which were in full bloom, just across the River Seine. The waiter recommended the tuna sauteed in olive oil with sea salt and black pepper. It was the most delicious piece of fish I have ever tasted.

But the charm of the place was the waiter himself. After he took my order, an American couple with a young child about 2 years old and a small dog on a leash also slipped in to escape the rain.

As the waiter approached with a basket of bread, the little dog, who had taken up residence under the table, yapped noisily at him. When he set the bread on the table, the little boy immediately grabbed a piece, began to tear it into bits and toss them into the air.

Each time the waiter approached their table, the scene was repeated -- the dog yapped and the little boy tossed bread. The parents were oblivious.

Setting my plate in front of me, the waiter turned his body so that the family across the way could not see and pulled his hand from inside his vest, with his fingers shaped like a pistol. Pointing in the direction of the next table, he asked softly, with a grim smile, "Madame, le chien ou l'enfant?" -- "the dog or the baby?"

When I replied by laughing, "Oh, Monsieur, s'il vous plait, le chien et l'enfant" -- "the dog and the baby" -- he cracked up.

In Paris again last April, I stopped at La Bucherie for an espresso and the view. Across the way at another table, the same waiter was joking with a young American woman trying to order cafe au lait. She kept pronouncing the au lait as ole -- and he was whipping his apron about as if he were a bullfighter, shouting "ole! ole!" much to the amusement of all, including the young woman.

When he came to take my order, I reminded him of the previous year's incident, and when I jokingly accused him of picking on Americans, he laughed, patted me on the shoulder and said, "Perhaps, Madame, but you are all so amusing."

Now, no trip to Paris is complete for me until I have visited La Bucherie.

Brenda E. Sartoris lives in Forest, Va.

My Best Shot

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Sybil White, Baltimore

"My husband and I spent a week in London and took a trip to Windsor. While there, we came upon a group of young schoolchildren. I stopped to stare at them in delight and said: 'It's Madeline!' Being a former educator, I was referring to the delightful book Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans. There they were, all the girls in a row, with their straw bonnets and long dresses. My favorite story had really come to life in England."

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