What a change the smoking ban in public places has made to our enjoyment of restaurant meals. Eating out used to be such a lottery: even when seated at ‘non-smoking’ tables you could never be sure of avoiding passing clouds (reminds me of the old days, flying Iberia. When it introduced segregation it was ‘Smoking on the left, non-smoking on the right.’ Truly.)
In France we thought things would get better when they decreed restaurants must have a smoke-free seating area. Net result: it was always a dingy back room, never the good part of the establishment.
All that changed on January 1 this year when smoking in restaurants was outlawed completely, both in France and England. (In France, reluctantly, after a year’s grace for the last-gasp brigade.) We travel between the two countries so much we now take it for granted — so it came as a shock yesterday to find someone next to us lighting up, exhaling like a steam engine, and nobody batting a blind eye to this blatant breach of the law.
Worse, the cigarette in question was actually being shared by a couple: a drag by monsieur — pass — a drag by madame — pass . . . with the effect of a chimney fire. All this, at the upscale Café de Paris, Monaco, to which we had repaired for a late lunch. This, I hasten to add, is not our usual habitat: we were visiting the principality in our quest to find support for the idea of publishing Arabic and Hebrew editions of Memories of Eden.
The suitably snooty head waiter seemed surprised when we called his attention to this outrage. There is no such smoking ban in Monaco, apparently. I guess it helps account for the nicotine effect on the Belle Epoque stained glass that surrounded us. – Tony