Saturday in the park
Skipping the caviar, going for the $100 breakfast and walking and walkingthrough the streets of Paris
In the previous century, which dollar-wise seems truly a century ago, I was in Paris as a newspaper travel editor who did a good bit of freelance writing as well. I assigned myself the arduous task of sampling (entirely on my dime or rather that of my husband) the caviar houses of Paris.
That was, of course, before the euro and at a time when the dollar was deliciously more powerful than the long lost French Franc. It was divine.
We stayed at the tiny Hotel Lutece on the charming Ile Saint-Louis and paid probably $100 a night for our room, saving our dollars for the caviar experience. Caviar Kaspia,La Maison du Caviar and more.
We worked our way through osetra, sevruga and beluga. Our bill was never more than a couple of hundred dollars, except for the Maison du Caviar experience where I, not being a math wizard or anywhere near it, miscalculated the volume of a "carafe" of vodka to accompany our tasting. Our mid-afternoon snack turned into a feast, which more than a decade ago turned into a vodka-infused $300 caviar fix. (Today, that would barely buy a spoonful of beluga.)
So with caviar clearly off the budget in 2011 and wanting a really good breakfast/brunch at 11:30 on Saturday morning, we ventured out of our Hotel Regina down the Rue Saint-Honore where we were attracted by the yummy window displays of pastries and breads in the window of Aux Delices de Manon. If you know Paris, you know that the window displays of pastries are true artworks that beckon even the most calorie conscious.
In any case, it was a tasty breakfast of fresh-squeezed orange juice, ham and cheese omelette with toast, a croissant, a petite quiche lorraine, cappuccino and Coca-Cola Zero (far superior to Europe's insidious Coke Lite which is a different formula from the U.S.'s tastebud friendly Diet Coke). That would be 63 euros for breakfast, thank you, which translates into roughly $100.
Not to fear CultureMap accountants, McDonald's is just around the corner from my hotel. And that will be tomorrow's breakfast spot. And, yes, I know my per diem was shot at the jus d'orange.
It was a satisfying start to a day of walking, walking and more walking — our favorite way to visit foreign cities. We headed toward Place Madeleine, a vibrant public and, yes, touristy square with great shops and great spots to eat. We never make a trip to Paris without strolling the vast square centered with the church of La Madeleine.
We peeked into Fauchon's, the world's grandest gourmet emporium, to discover that, of all things, a sleek caviar bar that had opened four years ago. With our three-figure breakfast filling our tummies and taxing our pocketbooks, we opted for window shopping.
On a visit to Paris some years ago, we packed up various goodies from Fauchon for a wine-laced picnic lunch on the Seine. It was such a great idea except for the fact that we both were sick with food poisoning about six hours after our jambon et fromage sandwiches. (No hard feelings. It happens.)
On this day, we continued walking on past the beautiful Hotel de Crillon and its neighbor, the American Embassy, into the gardens along the Champs-Elysees and then on to the Tuileries. The gardens were packed with tourists and locals, children on carnival rides, people strolling, joggers, mothers with baby carriages and others finding benches and chairs to enjoy the splendid weather, a welcome change from Friday's rain.
As Houstonians began arriving today for the Liaisons au Louvre activities that begin with dinner at the U.S. Ambassador's residence on Sunday, we have run into a few — Ch. 2 KPRC news anchor Dominique Sachse on the arm of Nick Florescu, who on-again/off-again calls Paris home; Andrew Echols checking into Le Meurice; and the Events Co.'s Richard Flowers here to enjoy as well as to scope out the Louvre logistics for a probable future assignment here.
We're taking Richard to dinner tonight at Costes because, despite their over-the-top snootiness, the good food and over-the-top people-watching is not to be missed. And we're pretty sure that a huge contingent of the 40 Houstonians here for the Louvre parties will be there later this evening. While our dinner reservation is for 8 p.m., we don't expect the true cognescenti to arrive until we are into our coffee and dessert.
But then there is always the Costes bar in which to hang out late into the night.
See you there.