"I did not come 6000 miles to eat at McDonald's!" I said in protest during my first visit to France, when someone suggested it would be the easiest thing to do after the long day of touring. It was also a longstanding joke with friends before I left that I would end up eating at Mickey D's while in the gastronomic capital of the world.
I finally acquiesced during the 3rd and final week of our vacation. My consolation prize? I was able to substitute the Coke in my Value Meal for a BEER! At that moment, I decided McDo (as the French affectionately call it, pronounced mack-doe) needed to be given a second look.
I don't care who you are or how much you detest Big Macs, everyone is interested in the foreign Golden Arches (ok, ok, everyone I know.) McDonald's is such an American icon, it's funny to see how it translates in other lands. Even Hawaii and Georgia (USA) have local specialties on the menu; Portuguese sausage for Hawaii and grits for Georgia.
But McDo in France has the ultimate hopped up beverage! Even if you don't like your food, you can drown your disappointment in Kronenberg while the kiddos are munching an "Appy Meal" (French people don't pronounce the "h").
And do not let any French person tell you that they resent McDo being in France. Because, um, have you ever happen to see one at lunchtime in France? It's like a grand opening at Krispy Creme, or the incessant line at an In -N-Out Burger. I've never seen so many people crammed into every square inch of a fast food joint, day after day after day! The McDrive is packed with cars, the lobby is filled with hungry Frenchies and the cashiers even hop over the counter and start taking orders down the line with a notepad!
Now for the fun part; ordering. One would think that since most of the food items are spelled exactly the same way as here in the US, that native English speakers would have the home court advantage in this place. So, I ordered a Cheeseburger Happy Meal and a Big Mac Value Meal. And the girl at the register said, "J'ai pas compris." I tried again. "Madame, j'ai pas compris!"
Ahem...clearing throat, getting out my phlegmy French "R", I decided to say, "Un Beeg Mak et un Appy Meel". And voila! I was understood, rung up and handed the correct items. I felt like a real idiot, speaking my own language with a faux French accent. But that's how ya gotta do it! Mac Floohree, Shezz-boorg-air, Om-bourg-air, Meelk-Shek...you get the idea.
Now the really interesting part of the whole experience, as if that wasn't, is watching how the French eat their McDo. Since most French like to eat a complete meal with side dishes, it was not uncommon to see one person eating a burger, fries, yogurt parfait, salad and a drink. IN ONE SITTING. I became obsessed with watching people's trays and how much one little thin Frenchie girl could put down the hatch at this chain they insist is ruining their country and gastronomy laws.
But this concept of eating all available side dishes was not lost on me. Though I tolerated our trips to McDo during lunch (and to tell you the truth, the food is way better at French Mickey D's), I was delighted to go their for breakfast when we could. Because unlike here, where you get the breakfast sandwich, hash browns and choice of coffee or juice, in France you get the whole sha-bang! In their own French words, translated by moi, "Because breakfast is a time of 100 percent pleasure, at McDonald's you have a choice!"
You can customize your breakfast by choosing the main dish, the hot beverage, the cold beverage, and the yogurt.
If you want to have a virtual McDo breakfast and see the items I'm about to describe, click here.
Now then, let's examine Breakfast Meal #2, or otherwise known as Brunch 2: You get a Bacon Egg McMuffin, and pancakes with Nutella, and a Fruit and Yogurt Parfait, and an orange juice and a coffee! Plus, they always give you a cute little chocolate bar with your coffee.
Brunch 3 gets even more ridiculous, with a pancake packed with ham and cheese and three pastries (along with all drinks and yogurt.) Do you see why I'm totally in love with P'tit Dej' a la McDo? C'est tout que j'aime!
And saving the best for last....les desserts! The last time I was there and ordered an apple pie, it was deep fried, just like the old days here! But I don't see it on the menu now. I do see, however, a seasonal menu item that looks mighty good. Pomme Façon Tatin Sundae, which looks an awful lot like an apple crisp sundae to me. McMiam!*
Three-story McDonald's in Toulouse, France at Capitole (the main square in the city).
*miam means "yum" in French.