If you want to read my previous day’s adventures, here is Day 1.
Days 2 and 3 were my work days. Prior to meeting my three comrades (not in the Communist sense) at 10 a.m. on Friday, I had breakfast at one of the many corner cafes. I ordered two eggs with ham, orange juice, and black coffee (kaffe noir). This was a bit larger than my normal breakfast, but I figured I’d walk it off. I was not wrong. Cafe service in Paris is very fast because they are basically serving about a dozen or so tables at a time instead of 30 or 40 like in a typical American restaurant. The tip and tax is built into the price of the meal. The price you see on the menu is all you pay. I thought the prices very comparable to American meals, unless you build in the foreign exchange rate (about 1.4%). But that only applies to tourists, not the native French diner.
I met my business friends at 10, and we walked back to the group leader’s apartment. I’ve been working with them online for about 8 months but had not met them in person, except for Lori who had met me the day before at my train. We toured the leader’s apartment, which took all of 20 seconds. The typical Paris apartment is small. For instance, my family of seven lives in a 1600 square foot house with a front and back yard. By American standards, we are pretty tight on space. By Paris standards, we live in the Hearst mansion. Shelley’s whole apartment would probably fit in my living room and dining room. She has three rooms of roughly equal size. One is a living room, one a bedroom, and one a multi-purpose room she uses as an office (she works from home)/pantry/library/guest bedroom. The kitchen is about the size of a walk-in closet with an oven big enough for two loaves of bread, a refrigerator shorter than me (that’s short, people), and a combination washer/dryer that is smaller than my dishwasher. It takes an hour and a half to wash and dry one load of clothes. I would have to wash clothes 24 hours a day or restrict the children to two changes of clothes a week. The toilet (water closet) is on one side of the hall and the shower is at the end of the hall. More convenient than my apartment which had the toilet and shower on opposite ends of the apartment with the living room in the middle.
We sat around for an hour or so and got to know each other, talking about how our trips had been, our plans for outside our work time together and, of course, the business things we wanted to accomplish. After all, I didn’t jet set off to Paris just for the heck of it. We had a rough agenda of what we wanted to do over the next couple of days. We walked to lunch at another cafe where Shelley ordered for us. We shared four dishes in order to get a taste of several typical French meals. One was a hamburger and French fries. Didn’t look drastically different than here, but the meat was rare. Ask for a well-done meat and you might be thrown out of the restaurant. Another was a curry pork dish, then a steak kabob, and steak tartar. Lori and I kind of did a double gulp over the steak tartar, but we both tried it and pronounced it not only edible, but tasty. I can’t say I would order it again, but it wasn’t gross. I eat sushi, after all.
Now, if you don’t know what steak tartar is, let me give you the redneck version. You take a hunk of steak and grind it up, mix it with seasonings and onions, slap it on a plate, and serve it. It is the ultimate fast food, especially for summer when you don’t want to heat up the kitchen. If you need to read that sentence again, I’ll make it easy for you. It’s raw, baby. Shelley was telling us that meat in France is just meat. No fillers or additives or bones or gristle. The cows are not shot up with antibiotics or fed mounds of corn to fatten them up. Therefore, the raw meat is very healthy and lean. The restaurant, itself, buys the meat and grinds it fresh daily. That slab of steak was likely mooing a few days ago. If you think we do that in America, think again. Try reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and you will never look at meat the same way again.
After lunch, we walked back to Shelley’s and started working. One of our objectives was to do a videotaping session on each of our businesses, discuss techniques, and strategize how to use videos as a marketing tool. We took a break late afternoon and then met for dinner at Shelley’s apartment. Her husband, Andre, joined us along with Lori’s two sons. Andre speaks very little English, and I so appreciated him trying to hold a conversation. He did better in English than I did in French. Lori’s teenage sons were a delight to be with, as well. It was a great way to end the day.