On the way out he spied a woman on her way in and, without even thinking about it, he held the door open so that she could walk through. She shot him a filthy look, and before he could close the door behind her she looked back over her shoulder.
He was brought up, like the huge majority of French men, to treat women with a little bit of extra attention and gallantry. It is simply understood over here – I’m still mulling over the thesis that maybe it has something to do with the Catholic veneration of Virgin Mary – that women; old or young, ugly or beautiful, deserve special treatment.
The café was busy, and she installed herself at one of the only remaining tables on the terrace, one that hadn’t been cleared off yet. The waiter, who was run off his feet, must have thought she had already ordered, or that she had already drunk her coffee, because she waited for a long time and no-one came to ask what she wanted.
She finally leaned over to the handsome French gentleman sitting beside her and in her basic French asked if the waiter had been by to take his order yet.
The man eventually went inside to pay his bill. When he reemerged, he said that he unfortunately had to get to work, but that he had very much enjoyed their conversation. My guest glanced at her watch and realized that she had to be off too, and opened her wallet to pay her bill.
“Non, non,” the man said. “I have paid for your café already. Je vous invite.”
When my guest began to politely protest he waved his hand and said, “It is my pleasure. You are a visitor to my ville and I am sorry that you had such a problème being served. I desire that you enjoy your time in Beaune.” And then with a charming smile, off he went on his elegant way.
My guest was pleasantly surprised, yet a little concerned about the propriety of it all. I assured her that such random acts of gallantry were simply a wonderful part of life here for women, and were meant to be savoured.