That's Viry-Châtillon off my holiday destination list

Viry-Châtillon (south Greater Paris, pop: 30,000) isn’t bad actually as southern or northern Greater Paris communes go, it’s not wealthy but not dirt poor either (its poverty rate is 17% vs a national rate of 14%), the cadre de vie is actually quite good, attracts quite a few middle-income families and even a few “CSP+” couples as the French say. But, like many places, it’s a very divided town socio-economically speaking, one of these places where the “fracture sociale” is fairly stark.

The major problem here though (in what led to this horrendous attack) is more with the next door town, Grigny (same size), France’s poorest commune with nearly half of its population below the poverty line – = a disposable income of < €1,000 a month for a single person and < €2,500 for a couple with 2 children), more on which later (That horrendous murder attempts on those 4 police officers happened on Viry territory but right at the Viry-Grigny limit and the attack was perpetrated by a Grigny gang of about 10-15 young people from the nationally notorious neighbouring cité of La Grande Borne, see below, the result of a violent turf war between local gangs fighting for the control of the lucrative drugs trade, not just locally but beyond as Grigny is a well-known drugs hub).

So yeah, as I was saying, Viry really isn’t that bad, it’s quite a green place for a banlieue town. Within its north east limits, there’s a vast plan d’eau, 3 large-ish interconnected lakes/étangs with outdoors & water sports centres, and a networks of cycling tracks and footpaths running alongside them. The Seine flows through the north east side of Viry, with the Orge river cutting through the town on the other side, through parks and woodlands, Parc du Château etc.

Good shopping facilities and plenty of amenities – ice rink, water sports facilities with even a scuba diving club based in the Lakes area, several sports halls, skating/urban sports parks, there’s a theatre, a cinema complex + 2 libraries, 1 multimedia library, an arts centre, an MJC (Maison des Jeunes et de la Cutlure) etc. not bad for a mid-sized town. You’ve also got the 3,000 hectare Forêt de Sénart 500 yards away on the other side of the Seine with miles and miles of trails, lots of activities, 2 golf courses etc.

So you see John, if you want to visit, there’s plenty to do and see, you don’t even have to bother going to Paris 12 miles away! Pfff, silly idea, why would you frankly?!

You can even land at Orly Airport 3 miles away and Bob’s your uncle… There’s a couple of cool things to visit, there’s a “Grotte aux coquillages”, you’ll see, it pisses on Lascaux…

I bet you’re already packing up your cozzies & bags and can’t wait to tell us about your week there. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it! And don’t forget to send us a postcard…


More seriously, I wouldn’t say that families necessarily make a beeline to live there but it’s not a bad place at all. Location:

Connections with central Paris (only 13 miles away) are good: RER C & D lines – which will whizz you to central Paris in 15 mns –, buses and even the tramway) and the A6 motorway + the N7.

The town centre is pleasant, pretty villagey, with all around it residential areas with average-sized properties going for €400K-€1m and pricey flats & houses by the lake.

However, like many towns/cities, it is very polarised and increasingly so.

Hardly 1 km away from the town centre it’s a different story, there are a couple of dodgy estates (north and south of the town), esp. the notorious Cité de la Grande Borne to the south (photo below), a “ZSP” (Zone de Sécurité Prioritaire), regularly ranked as one of the worst cités in the whole of Greater Paris and generally considered as a “zone de non-droit” (or “sous-droit”, in other words a no-go zone, esp. since the 2005 three-week long riots, police – municipale and nationale – and the CRS are under strict orders to only enter for extreme incidents, the authorities are frightened of any incident sparking mass-scale violence like in 2005 and sporadic incidents since then, so they’ve adopted a “pasdevaguisme” approach - pas de vagues -, avoiding any problems at all costs).

So the various police forces have basically stopped going there, they operate on the fringes of this big Cité de la Grande-Borne (pop: 12,000), like in the case of that attack which happened just outside the Cité, thus letting a minority of criminals run their business, they kind of turn a blind it to it all, it’s called “acheter la paix sociale” in French and it happens daily in dozens of estates across France.

Of course the vast majority of that cité are law-abiding citizens and workers etc. The people you see in the RER at 5 or 6am going to Central Paris or La Défense (one of Europe’s largest business districts, west of Paris) to clean offices and stuff, well, they’re often immigrants or of immigrant extraction, they come from these estates.

Very soft verdicts tonight given the horrid nature of the incident:

This was the second trial, in appeal, the first trial took place in Dec. 2019, sentences given were much harsher), I totally understand the anger of the police unions.

Investigations were tricky as all the assailants had face coverings and, as you can imagine, witnesses, fringe participants and people who knew the names of the scumbags who did it weren’t exactly keen to come forward (plenty of death threats were issued). However, after over 2 years of investigation, the PJ (Police Judiciaire, CID), managed to establish who’d done it (although of course no-one admitted to it while in police custody), mainly through tapping phones and trawling social media, possibly the dark Web too I’m not sure. The Parquet (CPS) had more or less confirmed the stiff sentences of the first trial but the judges didn’t follow their recommendations.

The police established that the culprits were all members of the “Bande S” (S Crew), named as such because most of its young members live in the Rue Serpente area of Grigny. The police also managed to persuade a few youths to grass on them, which they did, but the later didn’t turn up in court which weakened the accusation.

Most of that Cité de la Grande-Borne is located in the town next door to Viry (to the south), Grigny, officially France’s most deprived town with a poverty rate of 45%.

This horrendous attack (Oct. 2016) took place at the limit between Viry and very-deprived Grigny, a couple of police cars had been put in surveillance there (street CCTV regularly vandalised) as there’d been a spate of “attaques à la portière” and car-jacking.

As I wrote in a post on here, in the last 30 years or so (cf the film La Haine, 1995) the State has gradually pulled out from these deprived areas in terms of services across the board (police, community police, social workers, social services, courts, youth workers/centres, employers, well-resourced schools etc.), many of these deprived cités have been totally hollowed out and many youths, as young as 10-12, see crime as a natural progression after primary school or the lower collège years. They often start as couriers or “choufs” (lookouts), working for €50-80 a day and “progress” through the ranks from there, often trying to impress their elders (hence the ) and protecting the cité against other gangs. They use social medias to boast, in a sort of competition between cités and neighbourhoods, but also to impress and try to scare off other gangs wanting to seize their (usually lucrative) patch.

It looks like a fortress Fred. Thanks for all the background info. I know Paris well but the banlieues not at all.

The EMEA headquarters of the firm I worked for used to be in La Defense. I first started going there in 1985 and over the following twenty-five years I visited it, and other locations we had in Paris, probably a couple of hundred times. I watched the Grand Arche being built and the roof being taken off the CNIT and a Sofitel being built inside, then the roof plonked back on. I stayed there a few times but La Defense in the evening isn’t the liveliest. My favourite hotel was the Hotel Scribe which was only a few minutes away on the RER. I’m very fond of Paris, as I am of London and Berlin. But the countryside suits me better these days :slightly_smiling_face:

BTW, I’d never come across CSP+, it seems it’s the equivalent of ABC1.

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[quote=“Fred1, post:3, topic:34688, full:true”]
The Parquet (CPS) had more or less confirmed the stiff sentences of the first trial but the judges didn’t follow their recommendations. [/quote]

A little clarification is needed: the case was judged (à huit clos, in camera) by a Cour d’assises (des mineurs) therefore the verdict was given by a jury (comprising 9 jurors) and not just by a three judge panel as I erroneously wrote. Somehow I thought that this high-profile trial had been held in this new-ish jury-free Cour Criminelle (created in 2019 to ease court congestion) but nope, it was indeed a standard Cour d’assises, albeit one for 16-18 youths.

Hôtel Scribe in the Opera neighbourhood, nice. I’m not a great fan of the Opéra area though in the evening, a bit too staid for my liking, although one of my favourite Parisian restaurants is located in that neighbourhood, it’s called Chez Léon and it’s a proper Routiers! (yep, there are a few Routiers in central Paris!). Chez Léon, which opened in the early 1950s, is located Rue de L’Isly, so about 300 yrds from Rue Scribe, walking towards Gare St-Lazare.

Mind, that evening the normally dead quiet Rue de l’Isly wasn’t staid at all!
: Ambiance rue de l’Isly 🇫🇷🇫🇷🇫🇷🇫🇷🇫🇷 | By Restaurant Léon | Facebook

W(C French victory, July 2018).

Chez Léon is a wonderful Routiers which still very much “baigne dans son jus”, it hasn’t changed one bit in decades, they’ve tweaked a few things but I don’t think they’ve touched much since the 1950s, it still has the original 1950s “vintage” decor and the WC à la Turque! (pics below)

They don’t have a website but they have a Facebook page.

Chez Léon was also recently reviewed by The Guardian and included in their Top 10 of some resto ranking or other… God, reviews in The Guardian, Timeout or Lonely Planet, hmm, do I not like that! as Graham Taylor used to say, I hope the place doesn’t turn into some hipster joint. Probably not as while hipsters are keen on formica and vintage chichi stuff not sure they’ll like the traditional Routiers’ fare, i.e pâté-cornichons, œufs mayo, steaks-frites au poivre, frisée salad with lardons & poached eggs etc but also more sophisticated dishes, such as omelette aux girolles, petit salé aux lentilles, quenelles de brochet, lamb gigot, tête de veau/calf’s head, mackerel poached in white wine, herrings with onion and boiled potatoes or even fish and chips sauce tartare.

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Nice one. Yes, the Grande Arche de la Défense was part of the Grands Travaux initiated in Paris by the Socialists in the 1980s, the main one IMO being the complete transformation of Le Louvre, both inside and outside with the then-controversial Louvre Pyramid, the large glass and metal pyramid created by the Sino-American architect Pei in the main courtyard (Cour Napoléon), which became the new main entrance. Christ, that large courtyard was minging and so uninviting up to then, the Louvre metamorphosis was more than needed, that main courtyard was actually a car park with sorry looking bushes and overfilled bins around it…

La Défense, which is spread over 4 communes, is not terribly lively at night or at weekends you’re not wrong on that one! Which is a shame as there are 20,000 permanent residents there (in 10,000 flats, so many couples or singles, many of them work there) and probably as many students if not more, people forget that La Défense isn’t just offices and CAC40 company HQs, there is a little beating heart underneath all that corporate pomp!

There are a few bistrots and stuff but they usually shut at 6pm as you’ll know. In the last few years, a couple of “after-work” bars have opened (let’s hope they’ll survive the pandemic). The population is actually growing, they’re building another 8,000 habitation units.

Gets livelier on rugby days I suppose, or concert evenings, that is, with that fancy €400 million indoors rugby arena financed by the wealthy owner of Racing 92, Jacky Lorenzetti, top-flight rugby has always done pretty well in Paris (Racing 92 and Le Stade Français) which might seem a bit counter-intuitive but in reality makes perfect sense as there is a large southern diaspora in the capital (south-west France and Auvergne/Massif Central, Cantal, Aveyron etc. the Aveyronnais community is particularly big in Paris, they’ve traditionally owned a huge chunk of the café/restaurant industry, although that’s starting to be a thing of the past as they started to sell them [to Asians in the last 20 years, Chinese people/French Chinese in particular, big Chinese community in France, esp. in Paris ](Aveyron - Les bougnats cèdent leurs cafés-tabacs parisiens -, as that’s what many immigrants do or used to anyhow on arriving in Paris like the Aveyronnais, they worked in the café-resto trade and then set up their own if they could. So anyway, all these people are naturally keen on rugby and have provided the bulk of the supportariat in Paris & area).

Adding a comment, see if this allows you to reply now @Fred1

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Thanks Kirstea, my saviour! :grinning:

Yes, it’s similar to ABC1 except that the CSP categorisation is used far more routinely than the ABC one in common parlance. It was coined by INSEE 40 years ago and I’d say it’s been widely used for a good 20 years.

Originally, in the 1980s or even 1990s, it was niche, it was a socioprofessional & socioeconomic term used mainly in academia, particularly in sociology, demographics and social demography, in analyses and stats about social & demo classification. Then it naturally seeped into the business and marketing jargon.

At the turn of the 21st century, when themes such as “la mixité” (mixité sociale, ethnique, culturelle etc.) or the now-ubiquitous “vivre-ensemble” (social cohesion) started to be topical and coincided with the advent of social media, CSP began to be used much more widely, it basically served as a crude indicator of social categorisation, of class identity, to indicate or “measure” diversity in neighbourhoods for instance (eg one of my rellies who works in property frequently uses it).

As its use turned increasingly informal, its meaning widened and therefore loosened, the whole CSP cohort – CSP+, CSP++, CSP– (CSP moins) etc. – effectively became a raw and convenient way to pigeonhole people. For instance, CSP+ and CSP++ = a shorthand for the middle & upper classes; CSP moins = the working class, the lower classes, the underprivileged. Eg, from the Net (about cinema-goers): "Les non-spectateurs se recrutent principalement chez les femmes, les seniors, les CSP moins et les retraités”.

CSP moins moins = the left behind, the more disadvantaged communities, eg Le Parisien daily, 2016: "C’est la merde à Villeneuve-Saint-Georges [a deprived town south of Paris], balance sans ambages Claude, venue acheter de la viande au petit marché des HBM, mardi. Le boucher hoche la tête, lui qui a vu fondre, avec le pouvoir d’achat des habitants, le marché. « Il faut faire revenir les classes moyennes », assène-t-il. « Il n’y a que des CSP moins moins »).

In this regard, it’s a bit like “Bac +” or “Bac –“, (eg Bac +5) with for instance deliberately exaggerated versions, say Bac +15 or conversely Bac – 12, used for emphatic or dramatic or comedic effect, people sometimes like to décliner these phrases ad infinitum.

As CSP now embraces all these dimensions (socioprofessional, marketing, social stratification) it can feel vague, just like “middle-class” does now, as our natural propensity to evaluate most things in terms of social hierarchy, often “au doigt mouillé” (guesswork) as the French say, has overstretched and skewed the core meaning of the CSP original grading system.

The fact that it’s widely used of course doesn’t mean that everyone uses it or understands it, far from it, but it’s now routinely used (on the Net, in the media, in fora etc.).

For instance, “des CSP+” returns 170,000 Google occurrences, and its use covers a wide spectrum from ordinary fora and social media platforms (Twitter etc.) to mainstream media such as BFMTV (eg here:“La plupart des activités culturelles reste toujours réservée aux plus diplômés et aux CSP+, catégories socio-professionnelles supérieures”) or (“Selon l’analyse des Notaires du Grand Paris, 86% des acquéreurs de logements anciens à Paris faisaient partie des CSP+”) or (“Aujourd’hui, il faut etre deux CSP+ pour acheter à Paris”) to more niche areas.

As an aside, the nomenclatural term “PCS” is also used but far less so than CSP, PCS is used in some official forms I believe, eg in the new-ish Parcoursup forms, the Higher education access/orientation platform set up in 2018 (cf this interesting convo on about this).

While CSP is by no means high-brow it’s still a demographic/social term, albeit a commonly-used one, so its use or understanding betokens a modicum of awareness/interest in those disciplines, so in practice a number of people (French-speaking natives I mean) wouldn’t necessarily be aware of its existence or only peripherally.

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Brilliant. I wish I’d known.

I remember them well. Less of a problem for us than the girls, though my wife never seemed phased by them.

BTW just saw your “Nice formica units!” request :+1: That’ll keep 'em guessing :smile:

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I actually know all the Routiers in Paris for having “visiting” them, all 4 of them! (the latest one opened in 2017). I’m a bit of a Routier saddo I’m afraid… I’ve even given (informal) talks on them to members of the Alliance Française in Newcastle and two other Francophile Tyneside-based groups (not just on the Routiers I hasten to add, I’ve given presentations on the Routiers organisation and on Parisian restaurants). I can expand on the Paris Routiers if you wish so, it is a tad niche but interesting IMO. I’m also a bit of a buff (or a “crashing bore” depending on who you ask, like my wife…) on the Paris Bouillons should you be interested.

On the other hand, sorry to disappoint but if you’re in the market for illuminating insights on the old Turkish bogs I’m sorry to say that I don’t know much about these Turkish delights :disappointed:

I like Routiers too. There’s a couple of them near us on the RN7 just off exit 13 of the A57 (and the A8 interchange). I love their take it or leave it authenticity.
I’ve a couple of very close friends, old school pals, who borrowed one of their Mum’s car and headed off on a camping tour of France back in the early seventies. Being on a tight budget they mostly ate in Routiers. The first one they hit the serveuse plonked down an enormous platter of salade de tomates. The idea, of course, was that they take a portion each and then platter moved on to the next table. Unaware of the protocol my pals, to the amazement of all present, scoffed the lot. This meant they couldn’t manage any of the main course nor desert.

Ha ha!

Oh well, I’ll have to take you on a virtual tour of the Paris Routiers then…

One thing has changed in the Routiers in the last few years, you must have noticed the subtle change as a Routier aficionado: the historic tradition of “the wine fountain” (“vin à volonté”) in Routiers, going back to the first Routiers in the 1930s, has gone, basta, finito, no more free wine with the fixed-price menu, verbotten.

Blame Marisol Touraine for that, the health minister in the two gvts in the François Hollande era, she finally managed to trump the wine industry lobbies and get things moving on that front (end of 2015), but she had to battle bloody hard for that, I tell you those lobbies and their Senator mates didn’t take the threat of the disappearing vin à bloody volonté fountain lying down, it was part of “long-standing French traditions” they bellowed.

I remember listening to her recounting her pitch battles with the Senators between 2012 and 2015, to get the law passed, it was epic, she really had to battle hard with the Senators (who would pester her on the blower at ungodly hours, like 3am etc.), who are traditionally staunch defenders of the terroirs, French bouffe and wine producers (and they have some nifty cafés & restaurants inside the Palais du Luxembourg in Paris, where the Sénat is located, within the Jardins du Luxembourg in Central Paris. I’m lucky enough to know the Sénat reasonably well as my uncle worked there for nearly 40 years - in the rather big catering dpt, his son works there too, pistonné of course - but you can visit the place anytime, either via your local senator or on Journées du Patrimoine in September. The Sénat staff have stonkingly good employment contracts and & working conditions).

Today, with your fixed-priced menu, you can only legally be offered a “small pitcher” of wine (no quantity specified).

I mean, have you seen the boss of the Sénat, Gérard Larcher, un bon vivant… Rather scarily, Gégé Larcher, as president of the Senate, is also Number 3 in the protocol order, the French order of precedence - Wikipedia, so after Macron and the prime minister! So when Macron had Covid a year ago and had to isolate, and that for a few days it was thought that maybe the PM Édouard Philippe would have to do the same, there was a bit of a “vent de panique” at L’Élysée and Matignon (the PM’s gaff) at the prospect of our Gégé Larcher suddenly being left in charge of the country! Macron must have feared for his Élysée Palace wine cellar, Gégé is famously into his bonne bouffe, his gueuletons (blow-out meals), his chasse, and he’s known for not being much cop for owt else…

The “drink as much wine as you want” custom in Routiers was starting to jar with the rest of the “repression routière” policies in France, so it had to go but it certainly didn’t go quietly as the Sénat opposition from the “anti-hygiénistes” was fierce.

As you will know, wine has a special status in France (in terms of legislation and fiscality I mean), lobbies and the Senators in particular have always made sure of that, the latter are always ready to defend to death la veuve et l’orphelin du pinard… Even the previous Agriculture & Food minister, Didier Guillaume, almost considered wine to be harmless and said so in interviews, eg here. So changing those mindsets was always going to be an uphill struggle.

Christ, wine was only scrapped from school canteens in 1981, my older sister and I remember those halcyon days well! Ce n’est qu’en 1981 que l’alcool est également banni pour les plus de 14 dans les lycées.

And my family had wine on their canteen table aged 10 at school! (often watered down it has to be said. In addition to wine in lycée canteens up until 1981, there was beer too, and also cider in some areas, Normandy, Brittany in particular.

[Quand les enfants buvaient du pinard à la cantine

Il n’y a pas si longtemps, les écoles françaises proposaient encore des carafes de vin aux élèves pour le déjeuner.](Quand les enfants buvaient du vin à la cantine)

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Continuing our exotic Les Routiers Parisian odyssey, after Chez Léon last week today a wee review of Aux Bons Crus in the 11th arrondissement, about 10 mns’ walk from the Marais. It is the only other Routier (apart from Chez Léon) located in central-ish Paris. Only been there twice but it’s a great place IMO and Les Marches (16th).

Aux Bons Crus is much younger than 70-year old Chez Léon as it opened in 2017, Margot et Félix Dumand run it, they’re a young brother & sister duo.

That couple also owns another Routier in Paris called Les Marches (in the 16th), which is conveniently adjacent to the Art Deco Palais de Tokyo - Wikipedia, which houses the Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris, which I recommend (5 mns’ walk from the Eiffel Tower, free entrance too as it’s one of the 15 or so museums run by the Paris municipality so it’s gratos). A good option IMO next time you’re in the vicinity of la Tour Eiffel, or even of course the Palais de Tokyo. You can reach the Palais de Tokyo by bateau-mouche too as it’s by the Seine (I think the nearest the stopover is Eiffel Tower), or by the Batobus shuttle, a much more laidback and romantic option than the métro, bus or taxi/Uber.

Here’s a YT presentation:

Unlike Chez Léon, which is delightfully stuck in a timewarp (!), not only do they have a website but it’s also in English!

However, just like at Chez Léon, don’t expect to find a sub-€15 fixed-priced 4-course menu with a quart de vin at €2 there as is the rule for the 700 Routiers restos. The Routiers organisation has made an allowance for them on the price, being in Paris and all (they do have a fixed-price menu though, about €20 for 2 courses, à la carte is very reasonable; €16 for 2 courses at Aux Bons Crus). Mix of traditional Routier fare and more innovative modern dishes.

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You should cut and paste these into a thread of their own Fred. I’m cutting and pasting them into a Word document for my next trip to Paris :slightly_smiling_face: Thanks.


Too late now I’m afraid, bugger! It’d be too “chronophage” (time-consuming) for me to recreate all the hyperlinks and so on, there’s only one more Parisian Routier to mention anyway, next weekend hopefully, so I’ll leave it as it is but you’re right, I should have created a specific thread (I didn’t think I’d go off on a Paris Routiers tangent though when I started!).

Anyway, this thread is likely to be solely of interest to the few Greater Paris readers on here as the vast majority of people on here have a “proper” Routier near their home (there are only 4 Routiers in Paris, out of 700 in total - vs 4,500 in the Routier organisation’s heyday in the 1960s). It might be exotic for (Greater) Parisians but not so much for provinciaux like yourself…

That said, all the 4 Routiers in Paris are good IMO (with Chez Léon the pick of the bunch, hence the glowing reviews in The Guardian, Timeout etc.) but that’s not always the case of provincial Routiers, some owners are not always delivering, for a number of reasons, lots of competition (increasingly so, with the chains and so on), rural desertification in some areas, rerouting of traffic, hefty overheads, lorry drivers (French and international) are under more pressure, have less and less time to stop for 1-2 hrs like in the past (the lunchbox/sandwich option had gained ground, cheaper, quicker to have a quick “pause casse-croûte” than a proper stop), motorways and their handy service-stations & cafeterias have muscled in and taken away from Routiers a lot of that market, breaks are far more regulated (meaning that lorry drivers don’t always stop where they’d ideally want) etc.

In a nutshell, times are hard for many Routiers so corners are sometimes cut in Relais Routiers and the traditional “cuisine familiale” approach has gone for a Burton in some of them who favour pre-prepared oven/microwave meals and so on (quite a few sites specifically review Routiers. The short reviews are done, with grades, by lorry drivers themselves, such as the popular [](Truckfly | Les meilleures adresses de la communauté poids-lourds or Un resto pour les routiers Facebook page, over 30K members etc.). The USP for many Routiers is now the (usually) free showers but that’s not always enough to entice them to make a detour.

Interesting what the young owner Margot was saying in the YT clip about her Les Marches Routier next to the Palais de Tokyo, basically that if there’s a Routier resto there it’s mainly to service the many lorry drivers who deliver all sorts of stuff to the Palais de Tokyo, for exhibitions, galas, functions etc. That’s how she convinced the Routiers organisation to give her the Routiers accreditation (who after studying her application were happy to bent the pricing rule - supposed to be under €15 for a 4-course meal - because of the Parisian location).