A great contrast between the habits of the people of London and Paris is shown by their eating and drinking. Paris is brilliant with cafes: all the world frequents them to sip coffee (and too often absinthe), read the papers, and gossip over the news; take them away, as all travelers know, and Paris would not know itself. There is not a cafe in London: instead of cafes, there are gin-mills; instead of light wine, there is heavy beer. The restaurants and restaurant life are as different as can be. You can get anything you wish in Paris: you can live very cheaply or very dearly, as you like. The range is more limited in London. I do not fancy the usual run of Paris restaurants. You get a great deal for your money, in variety and quantity; but you don’t exactly know what it is: and in time you tire of odds and ends, which destroy your hunger without exactly satisfying you. For myself, after a pretty good run of French cookery (and it beats the world for making the most out of little), when I sat down again to what the eminently respectable waiter in white and black calls “a dinner off the Joint, sir,” with what belongs to it, and ended up with an attack on a section of a cheese as big as a bass-drum, not to forget a pewter mug of amber liquid, I felt as if I had touched bottom again,—got something substantial, had what you call a square meal. The English give you the substantials, and better, I believe, than any other people. Thackeray used to come over to Paris to get a good dinner now and then. I have tried his favorite restaurant here, the cuisine of which is famous far beyond the banks of the Seine; but I think if he, hearty trencher-man that he was, had lived in Paris, he would have gone to London for a dinner oftener than he came here.
And as for a lunch,—this eating is a fascinating theme,—commend me to a quiet inn of England. We happened to be out at Kew Gardens the other afternoon. You ought to go to Kew, even if the Duchess of Cambridge is not at home. There is not such a park out of England, considering how beautiful the Thames is there. What splendid trees it has! the horse-chestnut, now a mass of pink-and-white blossoms, from its broad base, which rests on the ground, to its high rounded dome; the hawthorns, white and red, in full flower;