Paris, Day 1: Disorientation and Unexpected Darkness

Business Class is _the_ way to fly to Europe, and Melatonin is your friend. We ate well, I had yummy wine (1st Class was essentially empty so the cabin attendant brought me back wine from that cabin to drink — and gave me a bottle “to taste” for the hotel room.) and we slept at least 3 hours. I say this with pleasure because our trip to London elicited catnaps and maybe an hours sleep — TOTAL. *shudder*. Business Class seats are much more comfortable (they recline nearly 180 degrees for one thing) than Economy Plus, and the food was very very good, and so is the wine. It was seriously empty, so we had lots of individual attention. Oh — and the ‘amenity bags’ are great! Eye mask, ear plugs, socks, toothbrush & toothpaste, and really nice moisturizer. All in a very handy bag.

You saw my previous post about CDG, I won’t repeat my impressions.

Dinner was at 8:30pm at Le Tastevin, a multi-hundred year old restaurant on the Ile de St. Louis, an island in the middle of the Seine River which is nearly as old as the birtplace of Paris. We walked from our hotel, and it took a little longer than we expected, so when we rounded the corner to the restaurant, we walked right in  . . . to a woman in a long gown and pointy-princess hat (you know — the fancy dunce cap with a piece of gauze on the tip) singing. She looked at us like we were carrying dog shit, so we quickly stepped back out and consulted. Yes, we were in the right place. Yes, it was exactly 8:30pm, the time of our reservation. Yes, the singing woman was right in front of the only entrance in to the restaurant. Ok, clearly this is surreal time.

We waited for a break in her set, and then went in. (Please understand — it was also below freezing and quite damp outside, It was NOT comfortable for us to wait in the street when we had reservations for a table in this warm cozy food-filled place.) Le Tastevin is amazing.

I’m going to get my one serious complaint out of the way right now: we were seated in the WORST table in the place. It was literally right next to the kitchen entrance. I would have thought that making a confirmed reservation in SEPTEMBER would have given us a better place. But no, and the people who arrived just behind us were, in fact, given a better place. My second complaint is that the quality of the food was a B+, and that includes ’slack’ for it being NYE. Keep that grade in mind as I discuss the meal.

Le Menu:

Entree (what they call the appetizer course, choice of:

  • Scallop soup with champagne
  • Lobster mousse
  • Puff pastry with Munster-cumin sauce (J had this, quite yummy)
  • Escargots (I had this — YUM)
  • 2 kinds of foie gras preparations

Plats (Main Course), choice of:

  • Wild Boar w/ raspberry sauce and chestnut puree
  • Filet of beef w/ potato gratin (J had this, very yummy)
  • Breast of duck, apple chutney onion confit (a sort of jamlike preparation) (I had this, very good)
  • Turbot (or monkfish) steamed in paper with orange sauce
  • Lobsters, deep fried

Cheese course: a kind of fondue with crostini

Digestif: pear sorbet with pear eau de vie

Dessert, choice of:

  • mango sorbet
  • chocolate cake with raspberry sauce and creme fraiche : dry cake but very intense flavor. *just* this side of overly sweet and definitely assisted by the sauces rather than standing beautifully on its own.

All throughout the meal, the singer is singing, accompanied by a tape player. Despite the three (yes, three) costume changes, her work was very simple and she was quite good. Just after 11pm she walked around offering her music on CD and tape. John had a bet that she was the sister of the proprietress, who kept trying to get the crowd to sing along with the Piaf-like songs, clearly old favorites and ones locals might well be used to.

That’s when it struck me — more than 3/4 of the people there were American. Did we all read Rick Steves and think ‘that’s where I’ll spend NYE’? Maybe so. There was a couple from New York, another from Los Angeles, I could hear other American (as opposed to English) accents from over there . . . No wonder no one was singing along.

Not long after 11pm, the most magical thing happened. The power went out. At that point we’d all been served our meals and were waiting for the cheese course. There was a moment of — huh? — and then we all just went back to talking and laughing. The chanteuese sang a few songs sans tape, but was drowned out by the crowd, so I think she went home. The waiter/ess went around and lit candles at the tables — not all — and mentioned that the building was 700 years old and that this sometimes happens. A few people used it as an oportunity to leave (presumably to see the fireworks over the Eiffel Tower). We stayed.

Since we were also right next to the way to the bathroom, we found ourselves offering up our candle to people in need of relief. (There was no light in the back area, nor in the bathroom.) We met soem very nice people (mostly American) that was as we kept people from getting lost and or losing their way (such as it would have been) in the deep dark.

J. had his first taste of port (very nice, very sweet, very mellow.) The cheese course was a bit salty and not to our taste. The dessert was sweet, served with the aforementioned port and champage as we shouted Bonne Annee! at the turn of the year. (Yes, we kissed across the table, thank you for asking, and said private endearments to one another.)

More laughter, the candles glowing, and people began making their way home.

We left near to 1am and walked home. There were groups of young people wandering around yelling Bonne Annee at any opportunity. We yelled it back and kept going. In bed by 1:30am (blessing that nap) we ended our first day in Paris, and began a new year.

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