The Obamas play tourists (with the odd detour for lunch at the Elysée Palace)

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The Independent Online

A typical American family of four completed a typical tourist weekend in Paris yesterday. There were visits to the Eiffel Tower, to Notre Dame cathedral, to the Pompidou Centre and, er, Sunday lunch with President Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni. Actually, the father of the American tourist family, Barack Obama, missed the lunch at the Elysée Palace. He had to fly home to Washington on business.

To those who tried to read a snub into his early departure, President Obama said: "I would love nothing more than to have a leisurely week in Paris, stroll down the Seine, take my wife out to a nice meal, have a picnic in the Luxembourg Gardens. Those days are over, for the moment."

In fact, the President, making a whirlwind visit to Paris after the commemoration of the 65th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, did manage the "nice meal". He and his wife Michelle, his older daughter Malia, 10, and two friends, joined other diners on Saturday night at La Fontaine de Mars, a classic Parisian bistro on the Rue Saint Dominique in the seventh arrondissement. Gabriel de Carvalho, who waited on the presidential party, said: "They were very pleased. They said that they had had a 'wonderful meal'. The President was very friendly. He had gigot d'agneau and an île flottante. No wine, just water. The others had fillet of beef and crème brûlée."

Just to be on the safe side, the US Secret Service had a taster in the kitchen to test the President's food before it was served. French and American security officers patrolled the street outside.

The restaurant visit was the only time the US First Couple came close to ordinary French people. Notre Dame cathedral was cleared to allow them to make a special tour on Saturday evening. They spent two hours in the modern art museum at the Centre Pompidou before it opened to the public yesterday. Malia and Sasha Obama, who celebrated her eighth birthday on Saturday, visited a children's workshop where they made human figures from wire.

After lunch at the Elysée with the Sarkozys and their younger children, Mrs Obama and her daughters visited the Louvre and went shopping in the afternoon. By that time, Dad was already on his way to the (Oval) office.