Written by Tom Thrun.
It’s hard to believe that Her Majesty celebrated fifty years on the throne in the year 2002. No, not that Queen, I’m referring to Classic Travel’s fearless leader and my beloved partner in crime, Joy.
After contemplating numerous exotic destinations in which to commemorate this historic day, the decree was handed down, Paris was to have the honor.
Ahh…Paris, romance, excitement, a city where the love of food is surpassed only by the loathing of Americans… let’s party! We did it all during Joy’s Golden Jubilee; a shopping spree along the Champs-Elysees, a stroll through Monmartre to Sacre-Coeur, a climb up the Eiffel Tower (the stairs, thank you very much, take that 50!) and all the great museums. However, I was slightly underwhelmed at the Pompidou. We attended a special exhibit showing films of German performance artist, Gunther Brus. Here we witnessed the naked and handcuffed artist urinate into self-inflicted gashes in his thighs. This has been standard procedure at hockey team initiations for years. It’s pedestrian, it’s been done, I remain unimpressed.
Of course, the highlight of our celebration in this fabulous city would be the all important birthday dinner. Considering our herbivore leanings we decided that L’Arpege, the only Michelin three-star vegetarian restaurant in the world, would be the call. Critics raved about the food but warned of “carrots the price of caviar”. Oh what the hell, after all it is the Queen’s birthday. Prior to the big event I had done my best to absorb as much “Parisian cool” as I could. I was determined to appear as unintimidated and non-tourist as possible when we got to this fancy-shmancy restaurant. However, one of the Ten Commandments of Travel states; “He who tries with all his might not to appeareth as a tourist…does”.
As we arrived at our table the Maitre’d pulled out a chair and I immediately plopped down my big American butt. The Maitre’d, the waiter and the birthday girl were all standing there staring down at Mr. Cool in stunned silence. Sacre bleu! Faux paux number one and we just got here. After a little champagne we began to feel right at home making the scene with the beautiful people, until the waiter arrived. As he handed us the menus he snapped, “Monsieur, perhaps you will allow the lady to go first this time”. Watch it Pierre, I’m armed with mostly forgotten high school French and I’m not afraid to use it! To truly experience L’Arpege we were advised to request the chef’s vegetarian tasting menu. As we perused the menu, prices started to pop out at me like boobs at the Lido, these can’t be real! I expected Joy to fall right out of her chair but she just continued to gaze serenely at her menu with a happy champagne grin.
Again, demonstrating my best “Parisian cool”, I bellowed, “My God can you believe these prices?!” “What prices?” replied Joy in a ‘who cares’ tone. Then it hit me. I seem to recall some weird Euro-custom that the prices are not revealed to the lady in establishments such as this. Let me tell you something, if I spend this kind of dough on dinner, Madame will be fully informed. The meal was spectacular and each course was magically delicious. I’ve had leek mousse with pistachio oil and mustard ice cream all my life, but this was beyond compare! When the check finally arrived we had concluded two things; One, this was the best meal we had ever had and two, we had just eaten the treadmill Joy was expecting as a birthday present.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BABY!