Thursday, December 5, 2013

McDonald's and Cyborgs on the Champs Élysées

Did you know that the opening round of the classic sci-fi Man versus Machine battle scenario has already occurred in the real world? And that it happened at, of all places, the McDonald's on Paris's famed Avenue des Champs Élysées? Call it "Terminator 5: I'll be Back... and I Want Fries with That."

Let me start at the beginning.

When my family was in Paris last summer, we did the quintessential tourist experience of taking a stroll along what's been called "one of the most expensive strips of real estate in the world." After being accustomed to dodging cars and having to walk single file along Penang's narrow streets, it was a joy to safely saunter 5-people-across down the wide sidewalks lining the boulevard.

Our first photo stop was the Arc de Triomphe. After having climbed the tower at Notre Dame that morning and taking the stairs up the Eiffel Tower the previous day, we had absolutely zero interest in attacking the 284 steps to the top of the Arc.

Paris, Champ Elysees, Arc de Triomphe
Yes, I am standing smack dab in the middle of the Champs Élysées taking a photo.

We also headed over to Ladurée, the luxe bakery where the now trendy macaron was first invented back in 1930. As it was getting late in the day, the line was not too bad. I hear that it sometimes stretches out the door and on to the sidewalk.

Laduree, Paris, Champs Elysees, macaron, bakery

Laduree, macarons, Paris, Champ Elysees, bakery
Ladurée's Macarons: Feather light meringue shells with a smooth and rich buttercream filling

We had a chance to squeeze in a little window shopping for automobiles, too.

concept car, Renault, Paris, Champ Elysees
Concept car at Renault
In the future, rear row passengers do not get seat backs.

All that walking around and staring at macarons makes a family hungry. Where to eat? Perhaps down a side street at Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée for haute couture dining starting at US$108 for an entree? With the youngsters? I don't think so. We wanted some cheap eats on the Champs Élysées. Since the kids had been good about seeing all the bucket list sights on Mom and Dad's list, we thought we'd go somewhere that they'd enjoy. As long as it had a pastry case, I was sure I'd be satisfied, too.

Vanilla-rum cakelets covered with a delicious caramelized crust for US$1.40 each
Choice of tartlets: Lemon or Milk chocolate and hazelnuts for US$3.50 each

Oh yeah, this place would suit us just fine. What's this classy cafe called? Here's a picture to help you find it... you know, in case if you don't understand French.

The Golden Ivory Arches

If you want to be like the French, call it "McDo." (If you want to be like the Australians, call it "Macca's.") When we walked up to it and asked the kids if they wanted to eat here, they were practically jumping with joy. We'd been feeding them Steak au Poivre and Croque Monsieurs all week, poor them. With all our international travels, they always like to find a little gastronomical refuge at a McDonald's. Hubby liked that the entire dinner bill came out to US$46 for the five of us, even after I included an order for six more macarons.

Menu board at McDo.

Do some people watching along the Champs Élysées from the 2nd floor of McDo.

One of our favorite aspects of the restaurant experience was the Easy Order computer stations. Located just in front of the counters, they were a welcome respite from our sometimes unsuccessful attempts to order food in French. (We didn't realize that the mystery French word of a brasserie's veal dish translated into "kidneys" until after the dish was set down on the table.) After swiping a credit card, we used the touch screen menu to place our order in English. My teen who always belatedly realizes he doesn't know how to indicate "no cheese" in foreign languages was glad to see that he could customize his Big Mac. Not wanting to be left out of making extra selections, my younger son customized his drink as "Without Ice." Other visitors were intrigued enough by the computers that total strangers were taking photos of our screens. A receipt with an order number printed out, and all we needed to do was wait for our number to be called at the Pick Up counter.

The Easy Order computers lived up to their name.

How was the food? I'm going to have to give it a thumbs up. It wasn't the best food I had in Paris of course, but it's coming out on top for the family's worldwide McDonald's survey. The kids got their usual chicken nuggets and burgers, but hubby and I ordered the exclusively French items. My Salade Poulet Moutarde (Salad with Chicken and Mustard Sauce) was composed of fresh greens, crispy chicken, croutons, diced tomatoes, and fried onions topped with a creamy mustard vinaigrette. I thought that the slivers of tasty beets added a pleasant dimension to the meal and were something unlikely to be found in a mass market salad in America. Overall, it's one of the best fast food salads I've had anywhere. However, this judgement may be clouded by my unsatisfied, constant craving for convenient salad in Penang. Hubby munched on a Casse Croute Poulet Curry (Chicken Curry Sandwich). Breaded chicken, potato cakes, lettuce and curry sauce were layered inside a baguette.

French McDo's Big Mac, Chicken Salad with Mustard Sauce, Curry Chicken Sandwich and Happy Meal

What about the Cyborg attack?  The cyborg came out on the losing end. I'm glad that the McDo's employees didn't mind me taking all these photographs. Steve Mann, a University of Toronto professor, was not quite as lucky. He also decided to take his kids to the Champs Élysées McDo back in July 2012. What sets Steve apart from the average person is that he has EyeTap Glasses, a wearable computer, surgically attached to his skull. It's kind of like if he had Google Glasses but couldn't take them off without special tools, so he has to wear them 24/7. Some people have classified him as a cyborg  part man, part machine. Apparently, the McDo employees had a BIG problem with being photographed and video recorded by his device. Despite a doctor's note and documentation stating that he could not remove the glasses, they tried to rip it off his head and literally tossed him out on the street. The incident has been called "the world's first cybernetic hate crime."

Who knew so much excitement has happened on the Champ Élysées?

This post is part of Travel Photo Thursday on Budget Travelers Sandbox. Check it out for more around-the-world travel inspiration.


  1. that's an expensive lunch, I guess that's why the golden arch is really golden there...nice splurge getting macaroons and all the pastries...that would be my downfall walking down the champs!

  2. I love finding a Maccas with a good view. In Seville we were practically melting on the footpath, it was soooo hot. Then we found an air-conditioned Maccas. We looked at each other and practically ran up the steps. We found a second floor seat and looked out toward/over the river. Perfection. We did not want to leave :)

  3. I can totally relate to this...when we were in Venice and saw a McDonald's, my son AND my husband were ecstatic! After 10 days of pasta and gelato, they were ready for a Big Mac! That's quite a story about the Cyborg attack.

  4. I dreamed of taking a shot like that, but I chickened out
    That's one expensive lunch -- but it's McDonalds. On the Champs Elysees no less!

  5. We were just there a month ago. I love walking along there...Christine

  6. You visited all the places that I've wanted to see, except McDo's and their ivory arches. Glad your kids could have a long awaited Happy Meal. Very daring pic of the Champs Elysees.

  7. Ooh, Laduree... I spy some delicious macarons! Just had these in Hong Kong last weekend and they were the perfect texture.

  8. Great story and who can resist a macaroon from Paris? I feel your pain trying to feed a family of 5 on one of the most expensive streets in the world. McDonalds seems quite progressive with their computer ordering system.

  9. Interesting cyborg story and poor guy! Glad to hear McDo's had some pretty decent food. We went in to use the restrooms and they didn't have those computer kiosks yet. The line was too long for us to order. You're killing me with the Laduree macarons! Yum! I have that same shot of the Arc from the middle of the street :) One at night too (that was the trip without kids). The Champ Élysées is such a great place to walk around.

  10. Who knew that McDonald's could make such beautiful desserts? Talk about massive temptation!

  11. Keith and I went to McDo in Champ Elysee - not to eat but to use the restroom. We were surprised how chic it was. It was very loungy. I didn't know that they have a lot of Frenchy items. It's great that your kids are easy to please - give them McD and they're jumping for joy. Interesting story about the cyborg.


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