Eating Fajitas in the Land of Snails

Travel Blog  •  Jim Benning  •  12.19.05 | 1:37 PM ET

I was powerless in the face of my addiction. The moment I saw the Mexican restaurant in Lyon, France, I knew I had to eat there. I also knew the food would be awful. My story about it, Worlds Collide, appears in Sunday’s South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Here’s a taste:

One doesn’t see many cacti in France, let alone cowboy hats. Which is why, as I strolled down Rue Pizay, a narrow, well-lit street in central Lyon, I stopped dead in my tracks. There, painted on a large restaurant window, a prickly cactus stood tall, a 10-gallon hat dangling over one of its arms.

“El Sombrero,” the sign announced. “Tex-Mex.”

I was stunned. Since leaving California nearly two weeks earlier, my wife, Leslie, and I hadn’t come across a single restaurant offering Mexican or Tex-Mex food, and we weren’t expecting to find one. We’d been making our way from the Alps through Provence and up toward Burgundy, confining our diets to all delicacies French: cheesy tartiflette in Chamonix, soupe au pistou in Avignon. Awaiting us in Beaune were coq au vin and the delicate red wines of the Cote d’Or.

On this, our second night in the city, we had planned on another tasty Lyonnaise meal. But as soon as I saw the sign for El Sombrero, I knew exactly where we would be dining.

“It will be awful,” I said.

“I know,” said Leslie.

“We could try that little bouchon near the hotel,” I said. “It’s probably very good.”

“We absolutely could,” said Leslie.

Then in we walked, powerless.

I am a Mexican food addict.


2 Comments for Eating Fajitas in the Land of Snails

Amy 12.19.05 | 6:45 PM ET

Great story, Jim! I suffer from the same ailment, I’m afraid. In Delhi, I went to a place called Rodeo where the waiters were similarly dressed in cowboy garb. They managed to pull off a chicken chimichanga fairly well, but the cornbread tasted vaguely of soap, and the refried beans tasted more like pork’n'beans. I needed another fix by the time I hit Chiang Mai, and actually had a few decent Mexican meals there. Pure heaven!

Jim 12.19.05 | 7:08 PM ET

Thanks, Amy. I’m glad you’ve had better luck than I’ve had out there—in Delhi, no less. Perhaps if more restaurateurs were aware of the seriousness of the addiction, they would find ways to develop more potent fixes. The first step is to talk about it and acknowledge the problem, right? So perhaps this is a good start.

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