Category Archives: Tdf trip planning

Information on seeing the Tour de France in person, including the process I go through myself each year- figuring out the TdF route, finding places to stay, rental cars, trains & more.

Ugly American orders steak well-done in France- funny, not sad!

Le Relais de l’Entrecote

First, let’s get something straight. My son & daughter are getting tired of hearing my France stories, especially this one. What they don’t seem to get is that France is very special to me, and re-living it helps it last well beyond the 10 days I’m there. I should point out it’s not really France per se, but the mountains, Alps & Pyrenees. If I were a person of means, I could easily see myself spending a month or two each summer in the Pyrenees, maybe having a small house, somewhere at the foot of the mountains. It’s a dream that will never be realized, except in my recollection of trips past. And this past trip was one of the best, and this story, even though it’s Paris, was the icing on the cake.

It’s after the finale in Paris, we’ll be heading home the next morning, and Lee, our friend who spent the last 4 days with us (a first-timer for visiting the Tour de France), took us to his favorite restaurant. Le Relais de l’Entrecote, in the Montparnasse section of Paris. It’s a bit different from your normal restaurant, in that there is no menu, because there’s only one thing they serve. Steak & fries. That’s it. You get a walnut salad, plus steak & fries. Yes, you can order wine or water and there are some really great desert options, but people walk in, hearing about this great place but not knowing the, what, gimmick? And they get confused. But we knew ahead of time, because Lee comes here, and to one of their sister restaurants in Geneva, often.

You are asked one thing. How would you like your steak cooked? Lee asked for rare, my son went for medium and me? Well, I could blame this on the time I ordered a hamburger in France that could have been sucked through a straw, but truth is, I like meat really overcooked. So I asked for well-done. The waitress took the orders and in very short order came back with our steaks (and why not; if you only have one item on the menu, it’s not like you have to prepare anything special). The steaks were very, very good. An interesting green sauce with an herb that I had had before but none of us could place, but wow, great steak. The fries were OK but I’m always kinda scared of the whole fries & mayonnaise thing in France and didn’t want to be “that guy” who has to have catsup to eat fries.

So she comes back, asking how our food was, and I told her it was excellent.

“No, it wasn’t. Yours was well-done.”

Complete deadpan delivery. No hint of either rancor or sarcasm. It was delivered in a matter-of-fact way that was absolutely hilarious. And that wasn’t the end of it.

After desert (which you can see an example of in the far-right photo), she comes back and asks if we’d like coffee. I explain no, had to get to sleep because we’re flying out in the morning. And suggest that the only thing worse than well-done steak is decaf coffee.

“No, it’s not. Well-done steak is worse.”

I cannot imagine what a better final meal in Paris could have offered. Friends, family, great food and an awesome waitress (who talked about her journey from Romania and what she liked about Paris, and was in fact very friendly). It is going to be very tough convincing me that I should take a year off from my every-July TdF routine, when the memories of this past one are so good.

How can you be in two places at once, when you’re not anywhere at all?

Interesting final full day of this trip, to say the least! Today we were supposed to be taking the train from Lourdes to Paris, giving us a change to take a nap or review photos and at the very least update the diary entries here a lot better! But when the train was cancelled we were left scrambling for alternative means to get to Paris, settling on a 145 Euro cab ride to the Pau airport and three $300 each one-way tickets to Paris. That cost will be partially offset by the expected refund of $125 each for the cancelled train; sure wish I could get something more from the train cancellation because it would have been a lot less expensive had we made plans to fly earlier!

No problem arriving in Paris and taking a cab to our hotel except our driver decides that 4 or 5 blocks is close enough when he encounters a bit of construction work. Really? This was a new one for me. Still, we got to the hotel before 2pm, at least an hour earlier than we would have had we actually arrived by train. And, good news, our room had been upgraded! Bad news, it had just one large bed. Umm… no, Kevin needs as much distance as he can get from me, to mute the sound of my snoring. Not a big deal, Lee, our friend traveling with us, had no similar issues with his room so we stored out luggage there and headed off to see the race!

If you haven’t done a Trek Travel gig, let me tell you, they do it in style. For $525 for the day you have the Paris Auto Club at your disposal with food to die for, anything you might want, probably the sort of thing that someone might spend $100+ for at a restaurant. But what you really get is behind-the-lines access to the final stage of the Tour de France! No standing for hours 5 deep behind barriers, wishing you had a ladder. You are literally on the tarmac!