The first thing the stranger does in Paris, is of course to find temporary lodging, and the next is to select a good restaurant. Paris without its restaurants, cafes, estaminets, and cercles, would be shorn of half its glory. They are one of its most distinguished and peculiar features. Between the hours of five and eight, in the evening of course, all Paris is in those restaurants. The scene at such times is enlivening in the highest degree. The Boulevards contain the finest in the city, for there nearly all the first-class saloons are kept. There are retired streets in which are kept houses on the same plan, but with prices moderate in the extreme. You can go on the Boulevards and pay for a breakfast, if you choose, fifty or even sixty francs, or you can retire to some quiet spot and pay one franc for your frugal meal. It is of course not common for any one to pay the largest sum named, but there are persons in Paris who do it, young men who with us are vulgarly denominated “swells,” and who like to astonish their friends by their extravagance.
[Illustration: PARIS & ARCH OF TRIUMPH.]
Out of curiosity I went one day with a friend to one of the most gorgeous of the restaurants on the Boulevards. Notwithstanding the descriptions I had read and listened to from the lips of friends, I was surprised at the splendor and style of the place. We sat down before a fine window which was raised, looking into the street. Indeed, so close sat we to it that the fashionable promenaders could each, if he liked, have peeped into our dishes. But Parisians never trouble strangers with their inquisitiveness. We sat down before a table of exquisite marble, and a waiter dressed as neatly, and indeed gracefully, as a gentleman, handed us a bill of fare. It was long enough in itself to make a man a dinner, if the material were only palatable. Including dessert and wines, there were one hundred specifications! There were ten kinds of meat, and fourteen varieties of poultry. Of course there were many varieties of game, and there were eight kinds of pastry. Of fish there were fourteen kinds, there were ten side dishes, a dozen sweet dishes, and a dozen kinds of wine.
The elegance of the apartment can scarcely be imagined, and the savory smell which arose from neighboring tables occupied by fashionable men and women, invited us to a repast. We called, however, but for a dish or two, and after we had eaten them, we had coffee, and over our cups gazed out upon the gay scene before us. It was novel, indeed, to the American eye, and we sat long and discussed it. In this restaurant there were private rooms, called Cabinets de Societe, and into them go men and women at all hours, by day and night. It is also a common sight to see the public apartments of the restaurants filled with people of both sexes. Ladies sit down even in the street with gentlemen, to sup chocolate or lemonade. There is not much eaves-dropping in Paris, and you can do as you please, nor fear curious eyes nor scandal-loving tongues. This is very different from London. There, if you do any thing out of the common way, you will be stared at and talked about. There, if you take a lady into a public eating-house, her position, at least, will not be a very pleasant one.