Six hours later we were sitting
down to dinner at the Trafalgar Hotel at Greenwich. The management of organised
pleasure trips invites the excursionists to a banquet there on the eve of their
departure. As one cannot when one is alone witness the sight of such a spread
served in the English fashion, I joined those of my compatriots who were still
in London as a guest of the "Voyages Parisiens," These touristic organisations
obtain special permits for visiting places of interest, which are not always
open to the public, a convenient arrangement, which saves much personal trouble.
I easily obtained an invitation for this Homeric repast, famous for its thirty
fish courses. This culinary experience is most interesting for us as any museum.
As with Aesop's tongues, fish is disguised in a variety of ways. Turbot, salmon,
sole, sturgeon are served with incendiary sauces that stagger and parch one.
These peppery concoctions left me unmoved if not cold - but a friture of
whitebait is really a dish to set before a king. As those microscopic gudgeons
are only to be found in the Thames, it was a novelty for us and one we are not
likely to forget. The meal was served in a verandah overlooking the river,
which shimmered in the rays of the setting sun. Numerous small craft glided to
and fro, their sails sharply outlined against the flaming sky. When dessert came
toasts were drunk to all political parties urbi et orbi, and a few
English people attracted by the shouts of revelry joined in with hearty hurrahs.
Even the naval cadets out at practice in rowing boats cheered enthusiastically
in their childish treble.
Francis Wey, A Frenchman Sees the English in the Fifties, 1935