According to the books and other things I read, the French typically have toast and a cup of coffee or a pastry with tea for breakfast. The buffet breakfasts at our hotels provided much more selection than that but were still noticeably lighter than the Full Irish Breakfasts we were exposed to in Ireland last year (Eating in Ireland).
Hot food. Hot food was generally limited to eggs and, maybe, link sausages. Most of the time the eggs were scrambled and served from a hot plate. But, the first hotel had this cool gadget for preparing your own boiled eggs. You put your egg in one of the wire holders and lowered it into a hot bath for as long you liked. Then you transferred your perfect three or four minute egg to an egg cup.
Meat and cheese. Aside from the link sausages, the meats were served cold. There was a selection of charcuterie — I never knew there were so many different kinds of ham. Sometimes smoked salmon was available as well. You could also choose from a variety of soft and hard cheeses.
Yogurt, fruit, cereal, and drinks. Yogurt came in cute little glass jars. Usually, the choice was limited to plain or fruit. In the last hotel, you had the option of a low fat yogurt. There was always fruit nearby for eating on its own or stirring into yogurt. My favorite was the house-made applesauce at the first hotel. Off in a corner, there would be a selection of American style cereals but I don’t think I ever saw any of the Americans eating it. There were carafes of a selection of juices (most often orange, grapefruit, and apple) and milk (sometimes with different fat levels). Water was always available in large bottles. Evian was the brand of choice for still water and Badoit was the brand for sparkling.
Bread. The bread table always had pride of place in the breakfast buffets. The first two hotels offered rolls for savory breads, but the Paris hotel managed to provide baguettes. The baguette was wrapped in a napkin for sanitary holding while you cut off as much as you liked. The cutting board was slotted so the crumbs fell through leaving the cutting surface reasonably neat for the next person. Croissants were ubiquitous, always offered in at least plain and chocolate but sometimes other variations as well. Sometimes other sweet breads were provided — my favorite was the chocolate chip bread. Butter for spreading was less in evidence than in Ireland and always pre-packaged if you could find it at all. American eaters were surprised by this, but, really, I found the bread plenty satisfying with nothing on it or eaten with a bit of cheese or meat.
I hope you enjoyed this French journey through breakfast for Weekend Cooking. The Weekend Cooking post at Beth Fish Reads today reviews a book about cocktails: Weekend Cooking: An Illustrated Guide to Cocktails by Orr Shtuhl. Check the links at the bottom of that post for more culinary adventures around the web and around the world.