Today my friend Blythe and I braved a trip out to la campagne to meet with our choir director for some coaching on Brahms’ German Requiem. But that’s not what this post is about.
This post is mostly about Starbucks.
I have only been to Starbucks in France once before today–last week, mostly to use the bathroom. It really does smell, look and sound just like an American Starbucks, with a couple of subtle differences.
1. The accent. What’s hilarious is that all of the drinks have the same names here as they do in the States, but as Blythe pointed out, you have to order with a French accent or they won’t understand you. I realized as soon as I got up to the counter that I had no idea how to say skim milk in French, and sure enough, when I said, “Chai latte avec…er…skim?”, the guy behind the counter was like, “Skim? Skinny?” He was so flustered that he almost ordered me a grande caramel macchiato instead of a tall chai latte. I also find it funny that instead of just calling out your order, they ask for your name. Luckily, my name is the same in French as it is in English (indeed, every Western language has some equivalent of Anne). They almost got the pronunciation right for Blythe, but completely mangled the spelling. I don’t know why they bother–are they trying to debunk the myth that the French are not very nice by personalizing your drink?
2. The muffins. I don’t usually eat muffins. They are a colossal waste of calories. But today I woke up a little late and didn’t have much in the way of breakfast (an apple so I wouldn’t get woozy on the train to St. Lazare), so I decided to have a muffin and a chai tea latte (as previously noted) for brunch. (I also threw a couple of clementines in my bag just in case!) The muffin options cracked me up–I wish I had thought to take a picture. In the States, Starbucks and other purveyors of muffins try to trick their customers into believing that muffins are good for them by putting fruit and nuts in them, and calling them things like “Morning Glory Muffin.” However, the Starbucks at the corner of Rue de la Pépinière and Rue de Rome in Paris, across the street from Gare St. Lazare, makes no such efforts. They had a number of muffin varieties, and only one had no chocolate. Chocolate chip, double chocolate chip, cranberry and white chocolate chip, chocolate chip and hazelnuts…and blueberry. Which was what I had because I didn’t want to be plagued by guilt for the rest of the day. Although I did have my chai latte with skim milk–lait écrémé. The milk I buy for my tea is demi-écrémé. You do the math.
3. The prices. As Sir Anthony Strallen on Downton Abbey said when he ate a dessert that had accidentally been made with salt instead of sugar, “OH GOOD GOD.” If I thought that Starbucks was expensive in the States, I have been forced to think again by the utter ridiculousness of the prices at French Starbucks–especially when translated from euro into dollars. And yet, as at home, people continue to frequent it. It’s mind boggling.
In other news, it was really lovely to get off the train in Mantes-la-Jolie, hop in Philippe’s car (that’s our choir director), and drive into the middle of nowhere. Amazingly enough, half an hour outside of Paris and ten minutes by car lies a village of 400 people surrounded by wide-open green spaces. It looked, well, exactly as you might expect the French countryside to look.
We got out of the car at Philippe’s (gorgeous and utterly freezing) house and I just breathed in the country air for a few minutes. I like Paris, but sometimes I just need to get out of the hustle and bustle and breathe air that smells good.