France Archives

September 4, 2011

Epcot's France Pavilion - Part Two

Yesterday I posted Part One of my review of the France Pavilion. Today I'll continue the story.

Knowing that France is famous for its outstanding cuisine, the Imagineers knew that fine dining needed to be a part of the France Pavilion. In the early years, there were three table service restaurants here, Les Chefs de France, Bistro de Paris, and Au Petit Café. Au Petit Café was a sidewalk cafe situated adjacent to Les Chefs de France. This canopy covered eatery featured small round tables and offered light meals and snacks. Reservations were not accepted. This was a charming spot to grab a bite and watch people stroll the promenade. However, it was eventually decided to enclose (and air condition) this eatery and merge it with Les Chefs de France. Au Petit Café closed on June 9, 1997. Here is a picture of this area I took in October, 1983.

Au Petit Café

Disney sought out and engaged three of France's most highly acclaimed chefs to operate Les Chefs de France and Bistro de Paris. Paul Bocuse, Roger Vergé, and Gaston Lenôtre design menus around Florida foodstuffs so that only the freshest ingredients could be used and the menu updated often. And although pastry chef Gaston Lenôtre has passed on, his skills are still evident here.

Paul Bocuse, Roger Vergé, and Gaston Lenôtre

Chefs' Name Plates

When facing the France Pavilion from the "Pont des Arts" bridge, Les Chefs de France is located on the ground floor of the large building to the left. The menu here is inspired by nouvelle cuisine. This is a method of preparing food using lighter and more delicate fare and an increased emphasis on presentation. Whenever I eat here, I usually order Bisque de Homard (lobster bisque) for an appetizer and Profiteroles au Chocolat (Puff choux with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce) for dessert. I'm in heaven.

The décor of Les Chefs de France is elegant. Large windows allow sunlight to bathe the restaurant in soft light and offer wonderful views of the pedestrian traffic outside. The mosaic tile floor is a work of art and the ceiling is equally stylish. The tables and chairs are stained dark red and are set simply with a placemat, bread-and-butter plate, and a crisp, white napkin. This is a beautiful restaurant in which to break bread. Les Chefs de France also features a smaller dining room which faces out onto the pavilion's courtyard and fountain. This glass enclosed room has the feel of a solarium or greenhouse.

Les Chefs de France Building

Les Chefs de France Entrance

Les Chefs de France Interior

Les Chefs de France Solarium

Les Chefs de France Solarium Interior

The three founding chefs of this establishment were recently joined by a fourth epicurean prodigy. Chef Remy (from the Disney-Pixar film "Ratatouille") now helps out in the kitchen six days a week. He can often be coaxed out of the kitchen four times a day to mingle with the patrons. He is accompanied by one of the restaurant employees who helps translate his squeaky voice. And just for the record, he's more than happy to say "cheese" when posing for a photograph.

Remy Poster

Remy at a Table

Les Chefs de France is open for lunch and dinner. Reservations are strongly recommended, but if you arrive at opening (currently noon), you can often secure a lunchtime table.

The second table service restaurant at the France Pavilion is Bistro de Paris. Its entrance is located off of a courtyard behind Les Chefs de France. This eatery is on the second floor of this same building and offers outstanding views of World Showcase.

Bistro de Paris Entrance

Bistro de Paris Staircase

Bistro de Paris is elegantly decorated without being pretentious. Its style captures the sophistication and romance of turn-of-the-20th century Paris. Cream colored walls and maroon upholstery are accented by mirrors, brass sconces, and milk-glass chandeliers. And unlike its downstairs counterpart, Les Chefs de France, the tables at the Bistro de Paris are spaciously arranged allowing diners a more intimate atmosphere.

Bistro de Paris Dining Room

Bistro de Paris Dining Room

Bistro de Paris offers À la Carte and Prix Fixe dining. If you opt for the Prix Fixe option, you'll be served four courses with or without wine pairing. Bistro de Paris boasts a magnificent wine list that features French wines from the famed regions of Alsace, Loire Valley, Southern France, Bourgogne and Bordeaux. Please note, although children are welcome to dine here, no children's menus are available.

In my opinion, Bistro de Paris is the finest "theme park" restaurant at Walt Disney World. It is comparable in every way to Flying Fish, Citricos, and California Grill. Not only is the food and wine outstanding, so is the service. This is not an establishment you want to "get in and get out" of. You want, no, you need to savor every minute you spend here. Plan on at least an hour and a half. Reservations are strongly recommended.

Bistro de Paris Wait Staff

Bistro de Paris Wait Staff

Bistro de Paris Wait Staff

The last eatery in the France Pavilion is possibly the most popular of the three. Boulangerie Patisserie is the spot to satisfy your sweet tooth with artistic culinary delights. Pastries, fruit tarts, puddings, cakes, cookies, éclairs, and cream puffs beckon. What better place is there to indulge in such decadence? After you've made up your mind, all you have to do is point and a charming French cast member will be happy to place your selection on a paper plate and tray. The Napoleon is my favorite, but I always get powdered sugar all over myself. And if you're in the mood for something a little more substantial, cheese plates and sandwiches are also on hand.

Be forewarned, this eatery becomes busy early in the day and remains so until closing. Either arrive at opening, or be prepared to wait in line.

Boulangerie Patisserie Entrance

Boulangerie Patisserie Interior

Boulangerie Patisserie Pastries

Boulangerie Patisserie Pastries

There are numerous tables right outside the Boulangerie Patisserie. On a pleasant day, it doesn't take too much imagination to make believe you're actually in Paris enjoying your taste treat on a quiet street. However, these tables fill up quickly and sometimes it's difficult to secure one. If you discover that all of them are occupied, don't despair, more are available just inside the Souvenirs de France shop. Actually, on a hot day, these inside tables are a better choice than their outside counterparts as you'll find air conditioning waiting for you here.

Boulangerie Patisserie Seating

Boulangerie Patisserie Seating

I have to believe that 95% of you have already experienced Boulangerie Patisserie and these pictures are nothing more than a pleasant reminder of a lovely spot. But for that other 5%, this needs to be a "must see" on your next visit to Epcot. I can pretty much guarantee that once you try it, you'll become a regular customer.

There are several shopping options in the France Pavilion. Three stores line the right side of the pavilion near the Seine. First is Plume et Palette (Feather and Pallet). This Art Nouveau shop sells French fragrances, soaps, and a small selection of handbags.

Plume et Palette Exterior

Plume et Palette Interior

Plume et Palette Interior

In the early years, the second floor of this lovely shop was open to the public. Guests could wander this area, viewing works of art and browse through prints by French impressionists which were for sale. In addition, wonderful views were afforded from here. Unfortunately, this area is no longer open to guests.

Plume et Palette Upstairs

Plume et Palette Upstairs

The entranceway to the Arcade is styled to look like an entry to the Paris Metro. Through this gateway, are more shops.

Arcase Entrance

Metro Entrance

The newest mercantile to open in the France Pavilion is Givenchy. This 400 square foot shop offers the entire line of Givenchy fragrances, cosmetics and skincare products including a specially created fragrance exclusive to Epcot, eaudemoiselle de Givenchy.

Givenchy Entrance

eaudemoiselle de Givenchy

Another feature of Epcot's Givenchy shop is a complete makeup counter, complete with experts to help you select and apply the appropriate product. As a learning tool, the associate will be happy to apply the makeup to only half of your face then allow you to take over under his or her guidance for the second half. If you decide to purchase their products, you will be provided with a complete, step-by-step chart so you'll know exactly what to do once you return home.

Givenchy Makeover

La Signature shop features Guerlain products. In 2007, this shop was remodeled as a Haute Perfumery patterned after the original La Maison Guerlain flagship boutique on the Champs-Elysees in Paris. La Signature carries exclusive and limited-edition specialty fragrances for men and women.

La Signature Entrance

La Signature Interior

La Signature Interior

Les Vins de France offers a selection of French wines. Beginner connoisseurs can find relatively inexpensive selections and experts will be delighted with rare vintages. Wine tasting is also offered in this shop. Prices range from about $5 per tasting to $12.

Les Vins de France Exterior

Les Vins de France Wine Room

Les Vins de France Wine Tasting

Adjacent to Les Vins de France is L'Esprit de Provence. This wonderful emporium sells kitchen accessories, dinnerware, some foodstuffs, and Disney cookbooks.

L'Esprit de Provence Exterior

L'Esprit de Provence Interior

The last shop found in the France Pavilion is Souvenirs de France. As the name implies, this is the place to pick up the stereotypical remembrance to take back home from your trip abroad. Models of the Eiffel Tower, guide books, berets, posters, mugs, and other Parisian memorabilia are available here. This is also the spot to pick up a Remy plush. And if you're looking to get your Epcot passport stamped, a Kidcot Fun Spot can be found in this shop.

Souvenirs de France Exterior

Souvenirs de France Interior

Plush Remy

When the France Pavilion first opened, Souvenirs de France was called Galerie des Halles. This emporium was modeled after Les Halles, which was the predominant marketplace of Paris for centuries. In the 1850's, architect Victor Baltard designed an elegant iron and glass structure to protect the merchants from the elements. Les Halles became known as the "belly of Paris." Unfortunately, changing economics and age would bring an end to this marketplace and it was dismantled in 1971.

Souvenirs de France / Galerie des Halles

Les Halles

Perhaps the biggest draw at the France Pavilion is the movie, Impressions de France. This 18 minute travelogue is breathtaking. Outstanding cinematography is expertly blended with the classical music of French composers and takes viewers from one end of France to the other. Famous landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe are shown as well as lesser known locales in the countryside. The movie is projected onto five screens, each measuring 21 feet high and 27½ feet in width for a total of 200 degrees. And unlike the CircleVision films shown in the Canada and China Pavilions, this theatre provides seating for the audience -- a welcome respite when touring World Showcase. I'm sure I've seen this film at least 50 times and I could easily see it that many times again. This film is usually shown on the hour and on the half-hour.

Impressions de France is shown in the Palais du Cinema. The exterior of this building was inspired by a theatre in Fontainebleau. When waiting for the next presentation to begin, be sure to take a look at the gargoyle in the lobby. Known as the Spitting Gargoyle, this is the most famous of the hideous creatures that guard the Cathedral of Notre Dame and is the most photographed. The reproduction was made from a direct casting of the original.

Palais du Cinema

Theatre in Fontainebleau

Spitting Gargoyle

For those of you curious as to what locations you're seeing in Impressions de France, here is a complete listing in order of appearance. It's interesting to note, the film editor wheedled the movie down to 46 locations out of the 140 originally shot.

1. Cliffs at Étretat in Normandy
2. Marais Poitvin, a swamp near La Rochelle
3. Château Chenonceau, shot from the Loire Valley and the gardens
4. Horsemen and hunting dogs in the Cheverny Forest, with Château Cheverny in the background
5. Chambord in the Loire Valley
6. Vézelay Village and church interior
7. Horsecart riding through Riquewihr Village in Alsace
8. Marketplace in Bouvron in Normandy
9. Wine harvest at Monbazillac Vineyard
10. Cognac cave near city of Cognac
11. Fountain of Apollo, gardens, west face and Hall of Mirrors at Versailles
12. Castle Beynac in Dordogne Valley
13. Forest near Château Montpoupon
14. Bicyclists at La Rogue-Gaceac in Dordogne Valley
15. Bicyclists at Château Montpoupon
16. Bugatti race cars in Cannes
17. Hot air balloons near Chaumont Castle on the Loire River and in cliff city of Rocamadour
18. French Alps in spring
19. Mont Blanc in winter
20. Skiers on rocky peaks in the French Alps at Chamonix
21. La Rochelle harbor
22. Brittany fishing boat at sea
23. Rocky beach in Normandy
24. Mont St.-Michel
25. Small church in Brittany
26. Wedding reception at a Brittany farmyard
27. Cliffs at Normandy in Étretat
28. Cliff city of Bonifacio in Corsica
29. Villefranche near Nice
30. Cove at Calanque Cliffs near Cassis
31. Pier in front of Carlton Hotel in Cannes
32. Rooftop restaurant overlooking Cannes harbor at night
33. Railway tracks in hills of Chaporoux
34. Gare du Nord rail station in Paris
35. Champs-Élysées and Arc de Triomphe
36. Boat on Seine River in Paris, under the Pont Neuf
37. Balloon release at Notre-Dame Cathedral
38. Garde Republicaine rides through the archways at the Louvre
39. La Concierge in Paris
40. Garde Republicaine Stables in Paris
41. Eiffel Tower
42. Étretat Cliffs
43. Alps near Chamonix
44. Château Chambord
45. French Alps near Mont Blanc
46. Eiffel Tower

As with the other World Showcase nations, street entertainers are a part of the experience at the France Pavilion. All too often we only see these "impromptu" shows if we happen to be in the area when they begin. But the times of these presentations are listed in the Times Guide and some attention should be paid. These performances are a lot of fun and often good for a laugh.

Currently, "Serveur Amusant!" (which translates to Amusing Waiter) is playing at the France Pavilion five times a week. These acrobats/comedians use wine bottles and a table and chairs to amuse and delight as they build a tower that teeters over the onlookers below.

Serveur Amusant

That's it for the France Pavilion. As I always tell you, slow down and notice the details. Each of the World Showcase countries was designed and created from painstaking research and work. Nothing happened here by accident. Every color, texture, plant, and element was selected for a reason.

I'll end this blog with my now traditional video. It's approximately 9 minutes in length. Enjoy.

September 3, 2011

Epcot's France Pavilion - Part One

I would never say that one World Showcase pavilion is more beautiful than another. Each is picturesque and captivating in its own way. But I would certainly be willing to use different adjectives to describe each pavilion. For example, I would call Morocco mysterious. Serene would work well to describe Japan. And one might use rugged to express feelings about the Canada Pavilion. But when it comes to the France Pavilion, enchanting is the word that comes to mind for me.

Visiting the France Pavilion is like taking a step back in time. The years between the Franco-Prussian War and World War I (1871-1914) were characterized by unusual political and financial stability in western and central Europe. Modern inventions like the motor-car, railroad, aeroplane, cinema, gramophone, and telephone began to emerge and become common place. Art Nouveau was in fashion and impressionist such as Renoir and Matisse were making names for themselves. During this time, the designs of Baron Georges Eugène-Haussman to modernize Paris, came to fruition. Boulevards were widened and a seven story height limit on buildings was adopted. This era would later become to be known as the Belle Epoque (beautiful age). It's this time period in French history that the Disney Imagineers chose to recreate in World Showcase.

The waterway running next to the France Pavilion represents the Seine as it flows through Paris. In the years before International Gateway, it had a far more peaceful appearance than it does today.

Seine River (old picture)

Seine River (new picture)

Guests touring World Showcase counterclockwise enter the France Pavilion via a pedestrian bridge. This overpass recalls the old Pont des Arts, the first metal bridge in Paris.

Pont des Arts Bridge (Epcot)

Pont des Arts Bridge (Paris)

If you arrive at the France Pavilion at opening (11am), you might be greeted by French cast members proudly displaying Drapeau Tricolore (Tricolor Flag) or singing and waving joyously to welcome you to their Epcot country.

France Pavilion Cast Members

France Pavilion Cast Members

When crossing the "Pont des Arts" bridge that leads to the France Pavilion, be sure to look down on the banks of the Seine. Here you can see an easel and painting. If you study it carefully, you'll notice a budding artist is painting an impressionistic interpretation of International Gateway across the river. Once across the bridge, you can find another artist has also been struck by the beauty of the area.

Banks of the Seine

Oil Painting

International Gateway

Oil Painting

Pont des Arts Bridge

Just like in the real Paris, tourists can't help but notice the Eiffel Tower looming in the distance. Built at approximately 1/10 scale of the original, this 69 foot recreation (sitting atop a 34 foot high building) uses forced perspective to make it appear larger than it actually is. The Imagineers used blueprints from Gustave Eiffel's 1889 original to design their model. So detailed is this recreation that a close observer might notice tiny elevators and turn-of-the century beacon lights.

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

Before I continue, I would like to answer a question that I am frequently asked. "Why aren't there any people in your pictures? Do you have special access to the parks?"

I have no special privileges. As far as Disney is concerned, I'm just an average guest (unless I've been invited to a press event.) I do nothing that any of you can't do - if you're willing to take the time and expend the energy.

In the case of the France Pavilion, I arrived at International Gateway ten minutes before World Showcase officially opened. Once the rope was dropped, granting me access to the countries, I was at the front of the pack. I walked quickly and safely toward the pavilion, snapping pictures all the way. Since I knew that the vast majority of my fellow early-birds were heading for Boulangerie Patisserie to secure a delicious pastry, I needed to shoot the outside courtyard and seating area for this eatery before they could make their purchases and settle in. After that, I dashed from building to building, and interior to interior, taking pictures as fast as I could. I knew that I had about 20-30 minutes of people-free opportunities to get the shots I wanted.

Like I said, you could do this too - if you wanted to give up some of your valuable touring time for the sake of people-less pictures. But is that what you really want to do on your vacation? Probably not.

When you first set eyes on the France Pavilion, it's difficult to decide what to discover first. The rich architecture, the manicured landscaping, the multitude of colors, and the layers of texture are mind boggling. The foot of the "Pont des Arts" bridge is a wonderful spot to stop and take it all in.

France Pavilion

The city of Paris is represented by the main thoroughfare of the pavilion (as seen in the above picture). The small towns and provinces of France can be discovered on Le Petite Rue, a small street found in the back of the pavilion.

Le Petite Rue

Le Petite Rue

Some of you might have noticed the ugly green metal boxes lining the wall that separates the pavilion from World Showcase Lagoon. In Paris, boxes similar to these line the embankments of the Seine. Containing rare books, artwork, and modern-day souvenirs, bouquinistes (secondhand booksellers) hawk their wares from these boxes, just like their ancestors have been doing since the 1500's. Note, nothing is sold from these boxes at the France Pavilion.

Green Merchant Boxes - Closed

Green Merchant Box - Open

More street vendors can be found in this same vicinity. For a few francs (okay, for a few dollars), artists will draw your caricature or personalize a parasol. And if your gastronomical pallet needs to be satisfied, you can sample a glass of French wine or indulge in a crépe, espresso, or cappuccino at a nearby booth.

Merchant Stall

Cast Member and Parasol

Merchant Booth

Kiosks, like the ones seen in these next two pictures, are a prominent sight along Parisian streets. They serve as information boards, advertisements, and newspaper stands. The ones seen in the France Pavilion are plastered with the works of French artists, many promoting upcoming exhibits.



There is a lovely park-like setting bordering the "Seine." Although not accessible to the public, this area of the France Pavilion was inspired by the famous painting "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" by pointillist artist Georges Seurat. In reality, this was better illustrated before International Gateway was build and the embankment installed.

Banks of the Seine

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte

It was the Imagineers' desire to create an urban ambiance in the France Pavilion that reflects perpetual springtime in Paris. To achieve this, landscaping plays a vital role. Flowers, blossoming trees, and colorful plants can be seen everywhere. With this foliage, it was hoped that an atmosphere, capable of inspiring an impressionist artist, would be achieved.

Flower Pots

Flower Bed

Flowering Trees and Fountain

Flowering Trees and Kiosk

Hanging Flower Baskets

Jardin à la française (French formal garden) is a style of landscaping based on balance and symmetry. The idea is to impose "order" into nature. This style of gardening reached its apex in the 17th century when landscape architect André Le Nôtre used his talents at Versailles. In the decades that followed, this style was widely copied by other courts of Europe. A recreation of this gardening technique can be seen in the France Pavilion.

French formal garden

Four Disney characters are on hand at the France Pavilion to pose for pictures. Marie from the "The Aristocats" and Aurora from "Sleeping Beauty" meet guests near the kiosk at the foot of the "Pont des Arts" bridge. Belle and Beast from "Beauty and the Beast" greet guests at a location between the France and Morocco Pavilions. A sign board in these areas list the times.



That's it for Part One of my France Pavilion review. Check back tomorrow for Part Two and my video.

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About France

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to The “World” According to Jack in the France category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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