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Ubuntu Developers Summit Paris, Day 1

  • 29th Jun, 2006 at 5:32 PM

Raindrops upon leaves
Originally uploaded by sfllaw.

19 June 2006

I soon discovered that I was not actually in Paris. Instead, we were in a small town called Le Mesnil Amelot, just outside of Terminal 2. This distinct fact is important, because no French taxi driver knows there is a Radisson SAS attached to Charles-de-Gaulle. When you ask for them to take you there, and show them the brochure, they're awfully confused. Some of them even suggest the Sheraton, which is actually inside Terminal 2.

What this meant was that to get to town, I had to take quite a bit of transit to get there. So the first night at the summit, I spent sitting in the hotel hot tub. Oh, and then going for a brief swim in the frigid pool. But the hot tub was much nicer. Then I did a token amount of exercise, because I knew I was going to get lazy at this conference. As I always do.

A continuing theme in this travelogue will be about food. And why not? France is a country renowned for its food. I was determined to try some of its best. But my early hopes were quite dashed.

Originally uploaded by sfllaw.

The hotel was not living up to my standards. Or any standards, really. The breakfasts consisted of the tiniest of baked goods. I managed to eat one of their so-called croissants in one bite. And it wasn't even flakey. Their pain au chocolat was equally disappointing, with merely a smidgen of chocolate. As for the coffee, it was unmentionably bad. I had to make my own café au lait to make up for the fact that it was awfully bitter.

Lunch was a cold buffet that was exactly the same every day. They had smoked trout, smoked salmon, and boiled prawns. Oh yes, and fish terrine and pâté galore. But the main dish, the pièce de la resistance was always broiled salmon, garnished with sliced cucumber, in apsic. That's right, dishes that come straight from The Gallery of Regrettable Food. Why were these people serving food that was out of vogue in the seventies?

Supper was a three course affair that was absolutely terrible. We'd start off with some sort of insipid starter like salmon terrine in aspic. Then we'd have thinly pounded steak that was mostly fat and gristle. It would be flavourless while the accompanying vegetables would be limp and over-salted. Dessert was the saving grace, but that's only because they were bought in.

Another conference-goer, who was a professional cook in a previous life, was just appalled by the state of the food. And we were being charged large sums of money for essentially slop. Not only that, the kitchen consistently failed to serve meaningful vegetarian or vegan dishes. They were all missing protein, let alone flavour.

After the first day of such treatment, I resolved not to eat supper there again. I would take my chances with the town.


( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
29th Jun, 2006 21:58 (UTC)
No pictures of the aspic? I've actually never tried it, although it certainly looks questionable.
30th Jun, 2006 13:21 (UTC)
Sadly none. I was too shocked to remember to take photographs.
29th Jun, 2006 22:16 (UTC)
That's utterly disappointing.

I hope the next update you make is:
"The next day, I found the best food in the world. It was so delicious."
6th Jul, 2006 20:31 (UTC)
It was actually the post after. I hope that's OK. ;)
29th Jun, 2006 23:58 (UTC)
Hmmm. Shades of Oaxtepec...
30th Jun, 2006 13:23 (UTC)
Exactly. It's as if there's an unspoken rule among restauranteurs to charge for terrible meals as part of your conference package.

If you don't eat, they've already got your money.

If you do eat, they're laughing all the way to the bank.

How could they lose?
30th Jun, 2006 00:46 (UTC)
Escape the drab and dreary! Look toward, nay, reach for the light! Find good food so you don't regret it and remember your drab visit to Le Mesnil Amelot when you want to remember Paris!
30th Jun, 2006 13:29 (UTC)
Oh, don't worry, I did. Something like this can't keep me down.
30th Jun, 2006 09:57 (UTC)
american are priceless

because it's FRance did not mean "good food everywhere with excellent chef as in your last hollywood movie"

but if you want I know to do a fine "omelette" :)

hope you did have a good meal in a GOOD restaurant in Paris.
30th Jun, 2006 13:25 (UTC)
I'm not sure exactly what point you're trying to get across. I'm not assuming that France has uninformly good food. But I did expect that people had standards.
30th Jun, 2006 10:39 (UTC)
I could still remember the pounds of bread rolls being forced to us!
30th Jun, 2006 13:26 (UTC)
Stale bread, no less!
30th Jun, 2006 13:56 (UTC)
There's an amazing restaurant on the Champs Elysées, up near the the Arc de Triomphe... I think it's across from the Moulin Rouge.
30th Jun, 2006 13:59 (UTC)
I thought I'd add that apart from that restaurant, the only other good meal I had in Paris was at a tiny Italian Pizzeria run by an Algerian immigrant.
30th Jun, 2006 14:15 (UTC)
From what I can tell, you can find decent restaurants by looking at the menu. This is what I did, and I had some very good meals in town.
2nd Jul, 2006 08:56 (UTC)
as a Parisian, i was really surprised by the chosen location of the UDS.
Staying in a hotel at the airport is convenient for 24h but can't be fun for a week... more a nightmare !!
and thinking you will discover french food in an airport overpriced hotel chain... well it can't make sense.
Anyway next time, I suggest the person in charge for this kind of Paris summit contact locals/Parisians at www.ubuntu-fr.org to get cool addresses...
Porte Maillot is a good business address for such meetings... and people can enjoy a lot more Paris.
And finding a good chinese restaurant in Paris is a difficult quest ;-)
6th Jul, 2006 15:35 (UTC)
Ah yes, I remember eating cafeteria food in France. You could always identify the vegetarians as the ones wandering around forlornly with a small pile of shredded carrots on their plates. The French are insanely good at hiding things like raw fish in otherwise innocuous salads.

Thank you for your posts about Paris, they made me happy.
6th Jul, 2006 15:39 (UTC)
You're quite welcome!

It does seem like the French really revel in their meat. So much that they'll blanch vegetables in chicken stock, which is admittedly rather tasty.
6th Jul, 2006 19:20 (UTC)
Yeah, the vegetarians around here, they look pretty sad. And I think the vegans are all dead.
6th Jul, 2006 19:21 (UTC)
Baked goods here are fine, at least of a nominal level.

But coffee, eurgh. I found a place that has tolerable coffee. Tolerable. Isn't that fantastic?
6th Jul, 2006 20:32 (UTC)
How can this be?

France is known for its baking and coffee. How can it be just tolerable? For goodness sakes, they brought good coffee to other countries. That's why French imperialism was slightly redeemable.
7th Jul, 2006 06:08 (UTC)
The baked goods are just fine, even those from the local Tim Horton's equivalent are quite decent, I find.

But the coffee, it's like I told you when I came back from my trip last February, it was terrible. We get "café crème" all the time instead of espresso, to try to save it a little bit... And even then, it often doesn't so it, and you end up pouring sugar like mad.

To give you an idea, at the tolerable place I told you about, I can drink the café crème without adding sugar. But I'll put some anyway, as I'd like my coffee-drinking to be enjoyable. :-)
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )