I went to a boarding school for high school. Every Wednesday, we were free to leave the premises after lunch until five o’clock. There were cinemas in abundance surrounding our school, and our first order of business was to peruse all the movie theaters, inspect the posters, choose one and sit down to watch.
Every film that caught our eye might not necessarily have provided the same satisfaction. Sometimes we exited the theater in high spirits, sometimes in disappointment, wolfing down a sausage sandwich and gulping down an ayran at the fast-food stall before returning to school.
Film posters and book covers sometimes provide a reliable idea about the relevant contents, but not always. The film that you choose based on the poster and the book you choose based on its cover might not turn out as you expect.
The same goes for restaurants.
You might take a chance on a place after thinking it looks like a good bet from the outside, but bemoan the fact that you ever entered upon exiting.
Le Perroquet in Juan Les Pins is a place like that.
It’s a restaurant located at the very center of the town, overlooking a park and sporting elegant-looking tables. Until the weather starts to cool down, its front windows stay open, and there are also tables outside. The owner greets diners at the door, circulates among the tables and occasionally takes up residence on the sidewalk, adopting an inviting demeanor in the hopes of enticing passersby to enter.
After we sat down, a waiter came:
“Would Madame and Monsieur like an aperitif?”
“Naturally… A glass of local red wine each, please.”
It’s natural to see and sample everything that is local when you’re in a touristic area. Some of it you might enjoy, some of it you might not.
But our wine was almost hot… One supposes that they gave it to us from a bottle that had been left out in the sun.
“The wine is hot!” we complained.
He commenced his sentence with the inevitable “Monsieur, the wine was certainly at room temperature…” but I wouldn’t let him finish.
“If it’s at room temperature, do you take it at 25 degrees, heat it up and then bring it? Take them away!”
Without wasting a second, they took the glasses away, returning with two glasses of rosé chilled to just the right temperature.
Following our minor wine crisis, the owner, who was dropping by the tables, came by in an effort to sympathize with our plight and make some chit-chat.
I didn’t leave his overtures unrequited: “It’s fine here now, but it must be unbearable in the summer during festival time. You wouldn’t even be able to turn around with all the crowds!”
“But monsieur, that’s when we make our living. By the time it’s October, it’s almost time to go home and rest. By November, the hotels close, and we can’t make a cent!”
“Well, you might be right on your front, but I’m a veteran of the generation of ’68. When I was young, the cheap, bohemian neighborhoods and restaurants of Paris were my favorite, but I just want the peace of Eden Roc now!”
The nearby Eden Roc is a summertime hotel billed in many places as “Europe’s best.” Like the other places, it shuts its doors come November. Between the palatial main building and the wonderful beach, there’s a large and magnificent garden that resembles the gardens of Versailles or the Summer Palace in St. Petersburg. It’s a place where a person in search of serenity finds the cure for his ailment. We had eaten there just the day before.
The owner gushed forth at the mention of the hotel. Acting as though to make up for the warm wine, he called out to the waiter so that the other customers would hear:
“Pascal, did you get that? Monsieur is spending his retirement at the Eden Roc!”
All the eyes in the restaurant turned to us. I couldn’t even blurt out, “We’re just staying there,” and that I had just given the peace and tranquility there as an example, but I went along with flow, lest I disappoint the owner. After all, he too was from the generation of ’68, so I opened up the floodgates of conversation.
Even if my wife said, “When you soon get the bill, you’ll learn the price of your ‘stay’ at the Eden Roc,” I paid it no heed, as we continued on some new wine and our food.
When we finally got the bill, there was no exaggeration; mind you, there was nothing to enjoy about what we had to drink or eat! It was impossible to discern what kind of lamb the lamb chops were supposed to have come from, as it was so tough that it was a Herculean task to even cut it with a steak knife. There wasn’t must difference in terms of the filet mignon either, but after the incident with the wine, I didn’t wish to make another scene, so I stayed mum.
But I did get a chance to realize once more that a good-looking poster outside the theater doesn’t mean the film inside is any good!