Monday Miam-Miam: Dining in a Parisian Train Station

 

In his remarkable latest novel Exit West Mohsin Hamid writes, “We are all migrants through time.”

I finished his book on the night I wrote my post about my French train experiences in 2006.

What the author wrote about the ineluctable changes due to the unstoppable passing of time and about our temporary lives, the universal truth that ties all humans, is profound and echoes so many of my own thoughts.

******

Away from France I can only envision the France of my most recent visit but more often the France I knew until 1990. Which went through natural inevitable and also necessary changes.

But some things never completely change.

For a few years when we lived in Paris, my husband and I both worked full time and had no children. So we had the luxury of money and time. Not that we went out every night. In fact, we worked long hours and loved quiet late dinners at home or low-key meals in one of the countless neighborhood cafés/restaurants that surrounded our apartment.

Once in a while, however, we splurged and ate in one of those mythic Parisian places. As much a pleasure for the taste buds as for the eyes.

Le Train Bleu was one of them. And without any doubt my very favorite when it came to traditional French food and decor.

Next Friday you’ll understand why my husband already knew this particular restaurant before we met.

Created in the heart of the Gare de Lyon, one of the several train stations located in the heart of Paris, Le Train Bleu started as a buffet launched originally for the 1900 Exposition Universelle or World’s Fair. It was named Le Train Bleu in 1963 to honor the mythic Paris-Vintimille train that took travelers from the French capital to the Côte d’Azur. Since 1972 Le Train Bleu is registered as a French Historic Monument.

When we ate there, we had no iPhones, of course. My husband had bought his bulky first-generation pager and Macintosh, which triggered mockery and perhaps envy too, but neither one of us would have considered going out with a camera to record our dinner experiences. The French are now as extraverted as we are in the US when it comes to selfies and photos in general. But shooting the portrait of food plates was for years considered tacky in France. Translation: tourist.

So I don’t have a single personal photo to illustrate this post.

But the Train Bleu’s website is spectacular. You cand find the English version here. The French version is here if you prefer. It won’t take you long to understand why this particular place remains extremely vivid in my memories.

Yesterday, however, I found two photos online. The novel I had just read was very fresh on my mind. “We are all migrants through time.” I had indeed to pinch myself to remember that I was no longer crossing this plaza on my way back from the tiny grocery store run by an old man coming from Algeria and no longer buying bread at that bakery for our dinner, both places only steps away from Le Train Bleu.

 

Enjoy your week! See you on Friday!

Comments

  1. My husband was in Germany for a couple of years, back in the 50s, and he’s always talking about how things “are” in Europe. Then he remembers that he’s talking about quite a different Europe. I hope that many of his best memories are still true. 🙂

    • I can’t comment on how Germany or even France was in the 1950s 🙂
      But the huge changes in France happened in the early 2000s. Mostly when so many American big names, such as Starbucks, arrived. Nothing against them in particular, but I loved it when each country kept its signature businesses. It felt much more surprising to eat brownies and cupcakes in the USA than in France. And macaroons in France rather than everywhere now in the States 🙂
      On the other side, the deep cultural differences remain. And as long as they don’t limit our acceptance I think this is valuable to all of us to see things differently. These differences allow discussions. Traveling and if possible spending time with local residents is a great way to realize that humans want basically the same kind of things to live safe joyful lives. Looks like your husband was fortunate to have this experience. Thank you so much for stopping by again Marian.

  2. Ah, for simpler times. Your post has me remembering evenings and dinners without phones or other distractions.

    Even in this country, things have really changed. I grew up in a neighborhood that was largely various immigrant groups. We had numerous ethnic delis, bakeries and groceries. All these years later, that is gone, replaced by the generic versions we live with today.

    • I like the convenience of my iPhone for sure. But I try to keep it away when eating. Except for a couple of photos and only when no one eats nearby, neither my husband not I have our phones on the table.
      I traveled much more when I lived in France and now I wish I had more photos of Africa and Russia, for example. On the other side I remember that the people who kept taking pictures back then missed a few spectacular scenes or events. We don’t ways need photos to remember the emotion and sensory details.
      And yes, I love the small ethnic delis and shops which have a hard time surviving the larger stores.
      I can envision this America you’ve known through movies. And the memories of my first ever trip in the mid 1980s.
      Thanks for your visit, Dan.

  3. Sounds DELIGHTFUL! And what a beautiful building!

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