My top rated two ‘things to do’ in Burgundy are:
- take a cycle ride through the vines and villages such as Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet, and
- sip on a coffee at a pavement table outside Café Baltard or Dix Carnot in Beaune.
Drinking coffee in France is an experience that typifies so many aspects of the social culture of the French.
It cannot be rushed so it is relaxing. You are forced to relax, as it will be several minutes before your order is taken.
While you may seem invisible to the waiting staff, be assured that you have been noticed, and he/she will get to you in good time. Well, his or her time.
At a sidewalk table you pay extra for your coffee, but you have the benefit of being able to amuse yourself with that time honoured occupation, ‘people watching’.
A kaleidoscope of French images will pass by your table within a few minutes.
It may be an 90 yr old, neatly groomed, well dressed, pulling their chariot (shopping cart) behind them. If it is ‘une dame’ she is probably off to the hairdressers.
Or it may be a group of adolescents, fashionably dressed, all chatting merrily to the point you wonder who, if anyone, is listening.
Then of course there will be a myriad of tourists in all shapes and sizes. The game to play is ‘ guess their nationality’. Before they begin to talk of course.
But at one of the close by tables there are bound to be ‘locals’. Even an elementary grasp of the French language, and a small dose of courage, can often result in making ‘30 minute’ friends.
But what of the coffee itself? Well, it is helpful to know what you are ordering.
The most commonly drunk coffee is an expresso, a small concentrated shot that is served more warm than hot with or without sugar (sucre). If you ask for un café, by default it will be an expresso.
Be careful if ordering a cappuccino. You can be served with authentic Italian style frothy creamed cappuccino, but some cafes will merely squirt Chantilly, a style of whipped cream, from an aerosol can on top of an expresso.
A common request from tourists is ‘café au lait’ usually made with brewed coffee (instead of expresso) accompanied with warm steamed milk. It is sometimes referred to as café anglais.
A variation to an expresso is a ‘noisette’ which gets its name from the color resembling hazelnut. It consists of a large expresso with a top half of hot milk.
While it is useful to receive the café of your choice, it is more important to sip slowly and soak up the sights and scenes around you.
You are on holiday, so be patient when your server is slow to take your payment (l`addition),and it is courteous to leave a few centimes on the table as a tip.