Day 5: An American in Paris


OK. I admit it. We ate McDonalds while in Paris.

What, you’re screaming? Who would eat McDonalds in the U.S., much less in one of the great food cities of the world? Well, the answer today is the Owen family and several million French people. Don’t believe me, just Google “McDonalds popularity in France.” Even the storied Wharton business school at the University of Pennsylvania has written a study on how the most famous American of restaurant chains has been overwhelmingly successful in France.

Now as I’ve chronicled in this blog, we have eaten some fine French cooking this week. In fact, I start every morning by walking down to the local boulangerie and picking up fresh croissants and pain au chocolat for breakfast. We’ve feasted on paté, brie and baguettes here in our apartment at lunch. Dinner times have been filled with classic French dishes. But today, Le Royal Cheese™ (as Pulp Fiction fans will know) was calling our name.

And why not? Garrett and I had climbed the towers of Notre Dame shortly after eating our authentic French breakfast. We huffed and puffed our way up the towers (422 steps!) and photographed the gargoyles up close. I went completely kid-like as we entered the belfry because it resembled Quasimodo’s quarters in the Disney animated film.

Garrett - Not the bell ringer!

“Oh my gosh… OH MY GOSH,” I gushed before spotting a young lady from Canada who we had met in line.

“It’s OK,” she said. “I watched the Disney movie before I came on the trip. I totally get where you’re coming from.”

With the towers of Notre Dame conquered, Garrett and I took the short walk over to the Pompidou Centre for Modern Art where we met my wife Grainne and youngest son Finn. I realize that modern art is not for everybody but the Pompidou has an amazing collection. From Matisse to Dali to Warhol to Pollock, there’s a lot to take in. I don’t pretend to understand much of it, but if you want to be challenged by art, then this is the place to go.

Detail of PIcasso

And that’s when McDonalds comes in to the story. Following two hours of modern art, we had a delicious, relaxing, inexpensive lunch at McDo’s (as the French refer to it). So hate me food snobs. As I always tell people, you might not have the best meal at McDonalds, but you may have the safest meal because of their strict supply chain and procedures for handling food. (I can feel the hate. It’s OK.)

And our blatant “American in Paris” day didn’t end there. Instead of having a rest – as originally planned - Pierce, our oldest, suggested we go see “Captain America: Civil War.” It was raining, so that’s exactly what we did. Hey – get off my back – I’m on vacation!

Following the movie, we caught the metro over to Sainte Chapelle, a 13th Century royal chapel built to house the relics of the passion. While Notre Dame and Sacré Couer get most of the publicity and the tourists – Sainte Chapelle is a gem.

The chapel, with its amazing stained glass should not be missed. In fact, I would go so far to say if you’re on a tight timetable in Paris, then walk past Notre Dame – pausing just long enough to get a picture outside. Then head straight for Sainte Chapelle. It is a feast for the eyes.

Sainte Chapelle Chapel - Not to be missed!

The rain had cleared by the time we finished at the church and Pierce took us on a lovely walk through the St. Germain neighborhood, up past the Pantheon to our restaurant – Perraudin.

For €19.50 (just over $20), this little neighborhood restaurant serves a killer three course meal. For me, it was fresh vegetable soup, steak au poivre and rice pudding and a glass or two of vin rouge.

Hey – you can’t eat McDonalds all the time…


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