It is for a reason that there are so many “Cafes” in France. The word that means both the beverage and the place to drink it is seriously part of french culture. During the last weeks I was in the North of France for holidays and I did enjoy the coffee together with the baguettes, pains-au-chocolat, quiche lorraine and many other wonders of French cuisine. And to compensate all those calories I walked a section of the European route E2 or GR5 (after its French name Grande Randonnée) that goes from Hoek-van-Holland (NL) to Nice (France). I started walking it with my husband in 2013 and this summer we continued in Lorraine and Alsace in the North of France.
I may have been on holidays but coffee is part of my life so while camping we prepare first thing in the morning a cup of coffee with our beloved Bialetti.
But then, without a fridge in our tent to store milk, I could not have my morning lactose intake that i so much need and I mentioned in a previous blog (http://www.engrano.nl/blog/2015/07/10/italy-the-coffee-paradise/). Every now and then, we walked to the local cafe for me to get some morning cappuccino. The problem is that I keep forgetting what cappuccino implies in France. In case you have not made the same mistake that I have, this is what they serve as cappuccino: black coffee (not necessary an espresso) and whipped cream!
Ok. The bill said cappuccino Chantilly. Thus, I should just ask for a cappuccino sans Chantilly (without whipped cream), easy solution. So I did the next time and then I got this:
A cafe-au-lait, cafe con leche in Spanish, Koffie verkeerd in Dutch, you got it: black coffee and milk and a bit of milk foam on top. It was warm but too milky, not so nice.
I learned my lesson and didnt ask for more coffee with milk. Coffee is the heart of breakfast in France. The big cup in the center of your place mat is enough indication. They usually prepare it as filter coffee but in many places in the north of France we had espressos. And in the morning they do like milk with coffee. But it was just too much milk for my taste. The Cafe as a meeting place is especially in small towns as the once we visited a strong french tradition. In many towns it may be the only economical activity we saw. Cafes open early and were usually packed from 6 to 8. After that they got less and less customers and around 14:00 they are closed. People enjoy their drink without hurry. Neighbours great each other, they discuss the news, the weather, politics.
I didn’t really got my lactose intake every morning the way I like it but I truly enjoyed being part of this relaxed Cafe tradition!