Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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Olympics taster: Paris race celebrates the waiters and waitresses who nourish city’s life and soul

PARIS, March 24: Usain Bolt’s sprint world records were never in danger. Then again, even the world’s fastest-ever human likely wouldn’t have been so quick while balancing a tray with a croissant, a coffee cup and a glass of water through the streets of Paris, and without spilling it everywhere.
France’s capital resurrected a 110-year-old race for its waiters and waitresses Sunday. The dash through central Paris celebrated the dexterous and, yes, by their own admittance, sometimes famously moody men and women without whom France wouldn’t be France.
Why? Because they make France’s cafés and restaurants tick. Without them, where would the French gather to put the world to rights over drinks and food? Where would they quarrel and fall in (and out of) love? And where else could they simply sit and let their minds wander? They have penned songs and poems about their “bistrots,” so attached are they to their unpretentious watering holes that for generations have nourished their bodies and souls.
“That is where you will find the population’s fine flowers,” sang songwriter-poet Georges Brassens, but also “all the miserable, the down on their luck.”
So drum roll, please, for Pauline Van Wymeersch and Samy Lamrous — Paris’ newly crowned fastest waitress and waiter and, as such, ambassadors for an essential French profession.
And one which has a big job ahead: Taking the food orders and quenching the thirsts of millions of visitors who will flock to the Paris Olympics this July.
The resurrection of the waitering race after a 13-year hiatus is part of Paris’ efforts to bask in the Olympic spotlight and put its best foot forward for its first Summer Games in 100 years.
The first waiters’ race was run in 1914. This time, a couple of hundred of waiters and waitresses dressed up in their uniforms — with the finest sporting bow ties — and loaded up their trays with the regulation pastry, small (but empty) coffee cup and full glass of water for the 2-kilometer (1 1/4-mile) loop starting and finishing at City Hall. (AP)

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