If taking your little kids to other countries feels daunting, try the route Cultural Heritage TravelingMom traveled – French dining at Epcot World Showcase to practice Parisian table manners.
Wish I had invited my mother to dinner at the Epcot World Showcase before I took her to Paris. French dining at Disney would have provided much-needed cultural understanding.
Instead, decades later I took her great-granddaughter to Les Chefs de France at Walt Disney World for an evening of French dining immersion.
Mother was 80 when we went to Paris for her birthday. My granddaughter was five for our 2017 adventure.
I’ve learned a lot about international travel in the intervening 35 years.
Call Forth All Your Senses
Disney demands sensory overload. Who can overlook the abundance of sights and sounds? That means families better intentionally notice French details in Chefs de France.
You could just take a seat and bury your nose in the menu. Don’t.
I recommend sniffing instead. Play an olfactory I Spy game with the children to notice specific spice and seasoning smells.
If you’re lucky like I was, the person at the next oh-so-close table will be eating French onion soup. Or some very garlicky escargots.
Listen. Practicing for that trip to Paris means sharpening our ears for language. Best I could tell, all the servers at Les Chefs de France really grew up in France, and return home periodically.
That means authentic speaking styles. Since they’re Disney cast members too, that also means friendly, cheerful, helpful – and ready to help families at dinner learn some words.
My kindergartener wanted fish for dinner and learned to order sa/mon instead of the USA-style pronunciation — sam/en.
I had to practice longer to properly order my dinner: fruits de mer a la provencale. Saying fruits properly was tricky. Sure, I could have ordered in a clunky, careless way, but what a pleasure to have authentic linguistic guidance.
By the way, those seared scallops, shrimp, mahi-mahi and clams were divine.
Did Julia Child guide an earlier generation to taste French food? Does abundant access to foodie info in today’s media expand that?
Little children and their parents or grandparents could just eat American fast-food style, but practicing French dining at Disney calls for savoring and lingering.
Green beans arrived with the salmon. Haricots verts. Sure, a five-year-old is likely to have eaten them before but her parents encouraged her to take a bite and see how French haricots verts differed from Grandfather’s salty Southern climbing bean cooking.
My white wine broth in which the fruits de mer floated surely benefited from a bouquet of seasonings way more complex than I could identify. Wondering about them, and dipping a bit of crusty French bread gave everyone at the table a chance to savor, not rush.
Tearing a bit of bread from its crusty wholeness with your fingers is quite French, quite acceptable. After all, wouldn’t you carry a long loaf home from the bakery under your arm in Paris?
The food is pretty at Chefs de France, as is true in many restaurants. Enjoy culinary artistry, sure. I also recommend looking every which way and inviting the children to do the same.
They’ve been spotting hidden Mickeys. Now branch out noticing design and décor.
“Very French,” my son and daughter-in-law said of the handsome tile floors. Same for the globe ceiling lights and the patina mirrors.
Fluent in the language and frequent visitors to Paris, both said they felt very much as if in a restaurant anywhere in France.
A French bar is sparse, quite a different look from the braggadocio USA-style of displaying every colorful bottle of spirits ever distilled.
It’s also a fine spot to order a Shirley Temple for a preschooler.
Big bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau accented a separate display, with precision rows of St. Germain – orderly, enticing, sparkling as they reflected light from the traditional ceiling globes.
An early release every Nov. 15, the Beaujolais Nouveau is a big deal in America for people who’ve experienced the early wine in Canada or France. To the French, it’s quite fine but not so celebratory. Think routine pleasure.
Heading to the bathroom isn’t one of the classic five senses, but do go, and take the kids for another language lesson. Toilette sounds and looks more genteel than toilet, don’t you think?
Have you experienced other Epcot World Showcase international restaurants where kids could practice travel-the-globe skills?
For actually traveling, Philadelphia TravelingMom Sarah Ricks suggests a river cruise.
Luxe Loving TravelingMom Amy Tara Koch recommends 10 Things To Do In Paris With Kids.