Where to start? Well, this was actually the question hubby and I had to answer when it came to organising our overseas trip. We knew we were going to Sweden, we knew we were going to EuroDisney …and if my mum was coming along then going to Ireland was probably on the cards as well, but that was about it. 4 weeks grew to 6 weeks, and then 8, and with a considerable amount of money about to be spent on passports, tickets and insurance we needed to get some sort of plan organised and make the most of our time. “I’ve got it…” I exclaimed one day “…Our birthday in Paris”. Hubby and I share a birthday, September 11 no less, so that was our starting point. Whilst originally we had plans to go to Disney early in the trip and appease Miss 8 (who we suspected would be counting down every day until we got there) this would put it at the end. No matter, I’m sure she’ll cope. We added on some time to get home, then worked backwards to find our arrival time in London – around the end of July – the start of the Olympics!!!! Whilst to many that would have sounded perfect, to me it was a complete nightmare. Crowds, terrorism potential – yikes! I’m just not that keen a sports fan. We didn’t want to be arriving home any later so that was it, we just needed to make the trip longer, 9 weeks!
Anyway, back to France. Doesn’t it sound perfect? The Eiffel Tower on an early Autumn Day, dining and overlooking the city of Paris. It was definitely a highlight I was very much looking forward to. We asked our travel agent to organise the day for us, a tour of the city and a special lunch at their top restaurant, and finishing at the Moulin Rouge. What is it they say about not having high expectations so you don’t get disappointed? This probably would have been great advice.
We awoke to an overcast and drizzly day, whilst some late summer sun might have been nicer we didn’t mind too much. We had our private tour and enjoyed a couple of hours driving around the city. Our guide took us to the tower and arranged our tickets, we were all so very excited. There was a great crowd but our booking sped up our entry. We crowded into the lift ready to go up to the second level and have a look around. The Eiffel Tower has 3 levels for tourists, the first two containing restaurants and a shop and the third is for sight-seeing. We stopped at the first and waited for folks to disembark. This was the level for Le 58 tour Eiffel, one of the 2 restaurants. We didn’t need to get off here, as we had tickets to the second level for a quick look around first (tickets for the third need to be purchased there), and here is where it all went downhill.
“You must get off” <insert French accent there>. “What?”…. “Get Out”.
Hmmm, we had tickets to the second level, even showed them to the French ‘gentleman’, but no, as far as he was concerned we had a booking pass for the restaurant and we were made to get off. Quite put out, we went into the restaurant anyway and Miss 8 headed for the restroom, “No no no, come back here!!!” yelled one of the service staff. What??? Within 5 minutes we had staff argue with us and now yell at our child. Wow, I’ve always been told the French were rude but up until this point we had spent 10 days in France with most people being quite friendly and helpful. I should probably point out now that further to our poor treatment we also weren’t at the restaurant of choice. We had asked for the restaurant at the higher level, an a la carte Michelin Star restaurant, but somehow, no doubt as part of the tour deal organised by our travel agent, we were at the other.
When I think of Paris I think of The Eiffel Tower …this place is an international icon, tourists come from all over the world to see it, so surely the standards here are high? How wrong we were.
Onto the food. Expectations as I said were reasonably high, we were at the Eiffel Tower after all. Apparently that means very little. After abusing our child we were taken to a table and given our ‘Menu’ …well, something to that effect. We were handed a shabby A6 size piece of paper (for the record, that is a quarter the size of a standard A4 sheet of paper) with the food choices printed on it, it hardly gave the impression of great things to follow.
But wait …where’s the waiter? Oh that’s right, there isn’t one. Take your piece of paper over to the counter and tell them what you want, they’ll hand you a basket and your entree and dessert are given to you to take back to your table. The staff will organise for your ‘main’ to come a little later, but that’s about all. Someone did come and take the basket away, I did have to wonder how much more effort it would have been simply to bring our meals to the table? After all, they had to come over anyway, a little extra effort could make all the difference.
So, basket unpacked, desserts on the table with a possible 1 hour wait before you actually got around to eating them …impressed? Hardly.
For my entree I ordered the ‘Caesar Salad’. Over the last 10-15 years this has been a popular favourite everywhere with innovative ideas taking it to a whole other level.
Still, when you order one you can usually count on the traditional base recipe being there: Cos Lettuce, bacon, parmesan, croutons, a coddled egg and Caesar dressing. What was before me, on my small plastic dish, was iceburg, cherry tomatoes, shaved parmesan and some soggy green bits of bread, together with the small disposable dressing pot of Caesar dressing. Excuse me???? This barely resembled an ordinary garden salad, let alone a Caesar. I was in complete shock, was I at the wrong Eiffel Tower???
Two courses to go, can it get worse? My main was grilled chicken with risotto. At least they got this right, although it couldn’t be more simple and I’m not entirely sure what mushrooms had to do with it. We need to remember here that at home I teach teenagers, and once a year we run an a la carte restaurant. With very little experience they churn out some amazing meals, they put these guys to shame.
Dessert was a very basic chocolate tart, it tasted good, but again I doubt there was any serious chef skills being put to work here.
To be honest, I couldn’t wait to get out of the place, whilst he view was good, we knew we were heading up the Tower for an even better one. Between the rude staff and the rather average food, even at €24 (over AU$30) we couldn’t help but feel disappointed at our special birthday occasion ….Le Sigh.