Paris & London: First Trip

February 9th, 2013 § 0 comments

The year was 1966, HG and BSK were off on their first European trip. Five days in Paris. Five days in London. They were accompanied by two-year-old Lesley, their remarkably precocious, articulate (and, needless to say) beautiful daughter. The dollar was strong. Stayed at the Hotel Pont-Royal on Rue du Bac in Saint Germain des Pres. The hotel was arty, picturesque, nicely shabby (and cheap). Now it is super posh following numerous expensive makeovers (there’s a Jöel Robuchon restaurant on the premises). Steeped in intellectual nostalgia for the Existentialists HG and BSK’s first stop was at Cafe Flore. During the German occupation, intellectuals gathered at the well heated Flore rather than their pre-war cafe-of-choice Deux Magots, the other great St. Germain cafe, because Deux Magots was favored by German officers. (Little did HG and BSK know at the time that they needn’t have traveled far for their nod to intellectual greatness as the basement bar of the Pont-Royal was the hangout of the most advanced intellectuals, political engages, writers and philosophers. It was where Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir held forth when they were not pontificating at the Cafe Flore.) Little Lesley had her first Croque Monsieur. Loved it and subsisted on those sandwiches for the entire Paris visit. HG and BSK were enthralled by the style and elegance of the Parisians. It was April in Paris. The costume for young women was a vivid, clingy sheath and a short leather jacket. (These items — plus a tweedy topcoat — were immediately purchased by BSK and, of course, BSK was the height of casual chic.) In order to fit into the Paris scene, HG visited a Boulevard Saint Germain shop for some stylish suits and a blazer. The welcome to HG was cool. Then HG had an insight. HG spoke to the store manager in Yiddish. Everything changed. HG was treated like a long lost son. Received a discount. Clothes were instantly altered and delivered within a few hours. Stylishly clad in their new duds, the duo dined at the famed Laperouse, a restaurant renowned for high cuisine and discreet private rooms for amorous gourmands. HG and BSK ordered badly. Heavy, heavy cream and butter sauces. BSK became ill and was laid up for a day. HG and little Lesley explored the lovely streets and squares of the district, pausing before many enticing shop windows. Naturally, there were many stops for Vin Rouge for HG and un chocolat chaud for Lesley. Once BSK’s health and appetite returned, the trio was off to museums; Luxembourg Gardens (Lesley was delighted by the puppet show); a stroll through the Tuileries to the Louvre; a visit to a toy store an the Champs Elysee, etc. On the last night in Paris a baby sitter took Lesley to a carousel (and a dinner of a Croque Monsieur and hot chocolate, naturally). HG and BSK dined at a Left Bank bistro. A bottle of very good, young Beaujolais. The waiter brought a platter of thick, white steamed asparagus (first of the Spring) wrapped in a linen napkin. A big bowl of Sauce Mousseline (better than Hollandaise). Heaven. This was followed by gigot, rosy slices of young, roasted lamb. An abundance of perfect pomme frites. Next course was a small green salad with a wedge of ripe camembert. Dessert was bowls of wild strawberries with creme fraiche. Then, strong demi tasse and (for HG) a snifter of cognac. It was the perfect meal.

London was not an anti-climax. HG and BSK had smoked salmon and Dover sole at Wheeler’s. Traditional roast beef and Yorkshire Pudding at Simpson’s in the Strand. Afternoon tea at Brown’s. A visit to the National Museum. Strolls in the beautiful parks. An amplitude of fish and chips. For Anglophiles like HG and BSK it was the culmination of many childhood dreams. This was the time of Mod London and so a visit to Carnaby Street, the center of Mod fashion, was obligatory. Here, the proud parents kitted Lesley out in striped bell bottom trousers and a vivid safari jacket. There was universal agreement that she was the hippest, cutest little girl in Britain.

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