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Back Buzz - December 6, 1999

[pumping heart] Le Royal Cafe, 71 Rue Nationale, Boulogne, France

What can I say about French coffee? Only that it is always a pleasure, even when it's not the best. I am perfectly qualified to say this after having spent so much time in a coffee-poor place like Kent.

And so was my experience when my mother and I took the SeaCat to Boulogne from Folkestone recently. It was a dark drippy day and we'd never been to Boulogne before. So this is why I can't tell you exactly where Le Royal is located. Suffice it to say you walk straight down the main road, turn right at maybe the second street, and there it is in a half block or so on the right. And there you are, in French Coffee Heaven.

Le Royal Cafe, "Un Grand Cafe de Boulogne" as it says on the cash receipt, is your typical coastal-town brasserie. In the late afternoon I ordered un café noir, petit, avec un sucre, a quel perfect pick-me-up on such a rainy afternoon. And what a fine coffee it was, too, here on the coast of France in the most nonquaint seaside sprawling town of Boulogne. Just an hour earlier -- and a mere block away -- we'd enjoyed an exquisite lunch of moules marinière and saumon. We still had an hour and a half before 5:45, when the SeaCat would take us back to Folkestone. So it was a perfect moment for an afternoon espresso.

Le Royal is a typical French brasserie, well-lit and inviting, with pleasant bartenders and waiters dressed in black and white, elegant chandeliers, and an enticing little elevated table area in the back. The coffee was strong and black, just sweet enough, and perfect. Yes, I realize I haven't really had a bad cup of coffee in France, except perhaps at Hotel Albert Ier in Paris. But isn't this proof that even in a nonpopular border city like Boulogne one can find a perfect cup of coffee? And why is this, I wonder? Well, I'll tell you why: because this is France! And, without being a hardcore Francophile, I can honestly say that the French know how to make one damn fine cup of coffee.

C'est un miracle, non?

Speaking of miracles, here's an e-mail exchange with my Bay Area friend from two years ago:

Why hasn't someone capitalized on Jesus-in-tortilla sightings? We have spaghetti shaped like dinosaurs; why not manufacture Milagro brand tortillas with subtle images of Jesus and Mary branded in place? With modern lasers and digital image processing, they could create infinite variations. Or leave most of them blank and award huge monetary prizes to the lucky souls who find a Virgin or Savior tortilla in the pack. (They'd probably start selling like -- lottery tickets!)

The Milagro tortillas is a great idea! Yes, I like the idea of including a random tortilla in a package here and there with a Virgin or Savior image. Perhaps they could make several different designs -- the Virgin Mary, Madonna and Baby, Jesus with Halo, Jesus on the Cross, and perhaps a few saints -- maybe even a Princess Diana thrown in here and there. And then people could collect and trade whole sets of tortillas!