Monday, May 31, 2010


A well known branded chain of coffee shop. For a person who professes to prefer independent cafes, and, indeed, tries to seek them out, you certainly carry a lot of coffee-chain loyalty cards.

It is the first day of the year when sitting outside to eat has felt like a realistic option. But you don't take it, instead opting for the halfway-house of the table closest to the propped open double doors, facing the street.

You haven't had a coffee since breakfast, but you are giving yourself a proper lunch break - in order to do some work on your laptop - so you opt for double espresso, followed by lunch and a cold drink, followed by another double espresso. Catching up, as it were.

After trying to entice you with pastries, the girl on the till asks you if you would like to buy just the extra shot in your doppio using your loyalty card - as that's all you can afford in points. You decline. You're saving up for a whole one.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

A Cafe in Bruxelles

You know that you could just speak English and be understood, but the girl calls "Bonjour" to you as you walk in, and so you commit, to yourself, to trying to speak French.

The girl tells you something in French, pointing. You nod, planning to take a look at whatever she is pointing at just as soon as you have taken your coat off. She tells you again, more insistent this time, as you are putting your coat over your chosen chair. She is pointing, you see when you look up, at a row of coat hooks on the wall. You stutter a "Merci" and hang your coat up.

You look at the menu and plan the task of ordering an espresso and a bagel in French. Simple. But when it comes to carrying out the task it seems that the few words of French that you do have are now all mixed up with the even fewer words of German and Portuguese that you've got, in a single compartment in your brain marked 'Ordering in Foreign Cafes'. You start by thanking her (very much) in German, then asking her for an espresso and er, where am I, please, in French. She smiles at you. Or is it a gentle laugh?

Look back at the menu. "Bagel." "Nature." OK. Cream Cheese is written "Cream Cheese" on the menu. What is "with" in French again?

She asks you, in French, if you would like more time to look at the menu. You really wouldn't. Come on. Avec.

"Bagel, nature, avec, Cream Cheese."

"Just?" she asks.

"Yes, just," you sigh.

When the espresso arrives it is pretty extravagantly presented. And the bagel, the simple, humble bagel, is heavenly.

Your friend arrives.