I’m pretty sure I’d been to other pizza places between Romanos and Pizza Hut on the Boulevard des Italiens. Come to think of it Romanos probably came after PHBdesI, since I met my wife after Christmas and we went to Paris for my birthday in March. In fact, we’d probably been to other Pizza Huts in those few months. But not being in Paris they don’t really stick in the memory.
Funds were limited in this early stage of our relationship, certainly on my side, so the sequence of events that led to me 1) being in Paris at all and 2) more improbably still, with a woman and 3) this within two months of meeting her, seem bizarre in hindsight. This showed a level of determination that I wasn’t particularly known for in those days. But this was before the age of the internet, before even the age of Eurostar, and if you wanted something you had to make it happen in real time or it wouldn’t happen at all. You couldn’t just order it all from your laptop.
And thus we found ourselves sitting in a travel agent in Sheffield selecting the Hotel de Liège (?) from a glossy brochure, a bijou residence run by a M. Tibi behind the Gare St Lazare which probably once featured in a Simenon novel, and not in a good way. Which is to say that we were on a tight budget.
Those of you under the age of 40 who have seen Murder on the Orient Express would imagine that any travel to Paris in pre-Eurostar days involved personalised leather suitcases, glamorous travelling companions and silver service dining on a sleek machine-missile headed straight to the heart of lovetown. And murder.
Well, the reality was murder of sorts. A four hour wait in a customs shed in Dover was followed by two hours on a churning ferry drinking Guiness in the company of a blur of Five Nations fans. We made it as romantic as we could by staring into the teeth of a gale on deck, waiting for that first glimpse of France, and pretending that that guy with the red corduroy trousers and the beer belly a few yards away wasn’t throwing up into the wind.
I’ll pass over events after our arrival in Paris and cut to Pizza Hut. My only previous experience of speaking French to natives had been while playing babyfoot against matelots in Cherbourg on a booze crooze from uni. Otherwise my whole grasp of the language was based on Mrs Nelson’s exasperated attempts to get us sixth formers to move beyond expressing our admiration for Emmanuel Béart’s swimming skills in Manon des Sources and a season of nouvelle vague films on Channel 4 over Christmas 1991. (A life-changing event that led me to the NFT (as it then was), Ronet, Moreau and Malle.)
But you don’t need much French to get a pizza for two, unlimited trips to the salad bar and a bottle of Soave in the centre of Paris so we got by. It was one of the best meals of my life.
Few people can say that about a trip to Pizza Hut.
To see other restaurants I’ve been to (possibly near you!) go to the GoogleMap …
Blue Badge guide to London and academic specialising in early twentieth century history. Blogging on history, academia, and food and culture in the capital (and occasionally elsewhere).