But we passed this sign on the way back to our hotel in the 13th--Résidence les Gobelins-- from dinner at L'Avant-Goût on Rue Bobillot, also in the 13th (which means that I could wear my heels since the return trip only required a few kilometres walking).
That first evening, we got squeezed in, French-restaurant-style, by the windows against a table of engineers or mathematicians, apparently here for a conference. What I most remember from the evening was the arch humour of our server, very patient with our French. At one point, when I was apologizing for not knowing a word or mis-pronouncing another, he assured me that my French was very good (see? polite!). Later, when he asked us how we had enjoyed our appetizers, Paul said, in French, that he had only one word for his: merveilleux, or étonnant or délicieux, I can't remember. With the straightest face possible, the waiter said, "Mais monsieur, votre français est excellent aussi!" managing to imply that Paul had been waiting to hear these magic words, already doled out to his wife -- me too! me too! (which is so far from Paul's character) -- I think he had a tough time keeping that straight face while I choked on my mouthful of wine! And all was forgiven when he brought Paul the wonderful house specialty, pot au feu du cochon. (I've just seen that this recette is offered on their website -- Paul will be working on this one, for sure!)
We've been back each May, holding our breath that our holiday doesn't coincide with the closure they seem to schedule in spring. The chef and/or his wife are usually there, we see the same staff, and sometimes we like to imagine a glimmer of recognition. We've sat at tables pushed close to other diners (we had a lovely conversation the visit before last with an elderly couple, almost all in French, although the man, who had immigrated from Italy long ago, tried out his few words of English), and we've twice been seated at a table separated by a bit more distance -- I prefer the former, just for the chance to absorb more language (altho' this needs to be done discreetly, gradually, and with a careful attentiveness to one's neighbours' boundaries). While French seems to be spoken at most tables, many also feature a mix of French and English, and we were even offered an English menu on this last visit. (In such situations, we generally decline gratefully, asking for the opportunity to practise our French -- and then we try our best to be efficient enough that we don't let our language challenges slow anyone down.) But more than the language, we've finally got over that last hurdle that was marking us as tourists, and we've stopped arriving before 8. This year, we were there right at 8 (Paul would actually prefer to dine later, but I'm always starving by then!), so within seconds the other diners were filling up the room. Other years, arriving before 8, we were lonely and gauche for some time before the orange room livened up with other patrons.