New Year’s Eve: 31 December, 2007 ­ Saint Sylvestre avec deux femmes …

ginerenee-1.jpgGina ­ whom Renee has known for many years, and her 10 yr. old daughter Grace arrived from New York City 8:30 in the morning of the 31st. Gina had requested lunch at Balzar, also one of our favorites. 

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After lunch Gina and Grace went home to sleep and we walked through the 5th to the Pantheon. Here one turns a corner and discovers a magnificent monument. The Pantheon, modeled on the Pantheon in Rome is a Classic building constructed in the late 18th Century and begun by Louis XV. It and the setting are a stunning sight, evoking the awe and solemnity intended. It has been the burial place of some of France’s famous writers and freedom fighters.

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In 2007 Jacque Chirac placed a plaque inside acknowledging more than 2600 people  who were named the  ”Righteous” by the Yad Vashem memorial in Israel for saving the lives of Jews who would otherwise have been deported to concentration camps. The tribute in the Pantheon underlines the fact that around three quarters of the country’s Jewish population survived the war, often thanks to ordinary people who provided help at the risk of their own life. This plaque says: 

“Sous la chape de haine et de nuit tombée sur la France dans les années d’occupation, des lumières, par milliers, refusèrent de s’éteindre. Nommés

“Juste parmi les Nations” ou restés anonymes, des femmes et des hommes, de toutes origines et de toutes conditions, ont sauvé des juifs des persécutions antisémites et des camps d’extermination. Bravant les risques encourus, ils ont incarné l’honneur de la France, ses valeurs de justice, de tolérance et d’humanité.”

 Which can be translated as follows :

“Under the cloak of hate and darkness that spread over France during the years of [Nazi] occupation, thousands of lights refused to be extinguished. Named as “Righteous among the Nations” or remaining anonymous, women and men, of all backgrounds and social classes, saved Jews from anti-Semitic persecution and the extermination camps. Braving the risks involved, they incarnated the honour of France, and its values of justice, tolerance and humanity.”

We continued our walk through the 5th arrondisement down streets surrounded by the 19th century buildings of the Sorbonne. We were drawn into a small shop selling Old LP’s and CD’s, by the music we heard from inside. Every available space was stocked with recordings, which this well-informed and gracious music lover had bought from private collections to resell. He knew exactly where every recording was. He apologized for not having one we wanted, ( Schubert’s Das Paradies und Die Peri, which we had heard at the Theatre Champs Elysee on Ave. Montaigne) explaining that he bought collections so he could charge less than he otherwise would have to if he ordered them new. He knew the piece, knew it’s history and looked since he thought he might have it.

We continued toward Eglise Saint Julien le Pauvre, built in the 13th-Century on ground that had been used as a basilica and hospice for travelers from the 6th- Century.

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We had gone to this church many times over the years for musical concerts. It is small, intimate and the acoustics are wonderful. Eugene had gotten tickets for the four of us and he went in early to be sure to get seats on the aisle - his particular hang-up. He sat on the aisle, placed his coat over two seats and his hat on the third and waited.

The church began filling up. A man and a woman wanted to take the seats E had saved. The man pointed to the seats next to him and spoke in French. E did not understand what the man was saying but knew it was about holding those seats. E explained, pointing to the seat next to him, ”Pour ma femme.” Then pointing to the next seat, “Pour ma femme,” and then the last seat, “Pour mon enfant.”

The man turned and looked at him and said “Deux femmes?”

“Oui,” E replied with a broad smile on his face. “C’est bon, No!”

“Ooh, la,la,” he said shaking his hand as if he had touched something too hot.

We have always enjoyed just sitting in the church, a congregation of Eastern Catholics of the Byzantine Rite.

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The performance was by “Les violins de France” led by Frederic Moreau whose violin made the most beautiful sound we had ever heard a violin make. The program was perfect for the season: Pachelbel’s Canon, Albioni’s Adagio, Gounod’s Ave Marie, Bach’s Jesus, Que Ma Joie Demeure, Mozart’s Petite Musique de Nuit, Schubert’s Ave Marie, Bach’s aria and Barber’s Adagio.

Then to the Four Season’s George V …

Gina had reserved a table in the Gallery, a large reception room in between the bar and the 3-Star “Le Cinq”.  The fun started the minute we walked in. 

At the entrance to the Galleria was a tuxedo-clad 7-piece orchestra (with of course a singer and an accordion) playing Gypsy music.

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A score of tuxedo-clad men and woman greeted us and escorted us to our table, which was in a series of tables along both sides of the gallery. Even before Gina and Renee sat on the deep sofa facing the table, the madness started. Gina said it was too low. The Maitre d’ hovered and then with 3 other men brought small throw pillows, which they put under the large sofa pillows.

That didn’t work. E suggested we move the table out into the gallery and place a chair in front of the sofa. No good: they didn’t have any extra chairs, but the Maitre d’ had an idea. He called over 2 more men. They moved the table out into the gallery, and lifted the sofa, but not before one of the men gingerly, with both hands, picked up Gina’s vintage Channel handbag as if it were a Fabergé egg and handed it to her. We stood in the middle of the Gallery as the band played Ceilito Lindo — in Paris!

 It felt like a Mel Brooks movie.

The men ceremoniously carried away the overstuffed couch, brought a settee of a proper height and replaced the table. Now it was perfect. Gina sat on the settee and R and E at either end. A tuxedo-clad woman came over to ask if we wanted anything to drink. I stared at her because I knew that face - 3609571545.jpegShe was a Joan Cusack look-alike.

We ordered champagne, Billecart-Salmon Rosé and the evening started. The band moved from table to table, playing Gypsy and Mexican music led by a portly “major domo.”

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Our neighbors were scenes from a night in Paris. On one side a very rotund man and 2 women. One of the women moved to put her outsized handbag on the floor and as if by magic, the Maitre de had anticipated her needs and placed a small footstool next to her chair so she was able to put her handbag on the stool and not on the floor. On our other side a couple; she in a low cut red dress, he in a tuxedo looking at his opened cell phone. Across from us an elderly couple; he in a tuxedo and she decked out in sapphire and diamond necklace and earrings. And we faced the corridor through which everyone entering or leaving the restaurant had to pass.

The menu was fixed: six courses, the first four all with truffles, white and black. first-course8.jpg

We moved on to Chablis just as the band, who had now situated themselves in a niche played “New York, New York.” So here we are, two ex-New Yorkers and one current New Yorker. What were we to do? Get up and Dance. And so we did.

Before midnight, the staff came around with a shopping bag for everyone. For the women a Hermes scarf decorated with a picture of Chief Seattle and E got a light blue Hermes tie.

Then the staff brought hats, masks and noise-makers.

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Midnight edged closer: rounds of champagne were brought to everyone, the countdown started to midnight with everyone wishing everyone else “Bonne Année.”

And to celebrate the New Year, the band played YMCA. The three of us danced.

Eugene went over to a table of four elderly women and asked the one at the head of the table ­ a perfect dowager ­ if she would care to dance, she joined us and afterwards we all did the traditional cheek kissing and wished each other “Bonne Année.”

At the table next to us the woman in the plunging red neckline had gotten up to dance but her partner, captivated by his cellphone, wouldn’t move. She took off her shoes and danced in front of him as he sat slumped in his chair looking at the screen of his cell phone. Sometime later ­ it must have been 1 am we realized that she had disappeared and he was still looking at his cell phone.

We said good night at about 2 am. Laurent, the driver,  took us back to our apartment on the Left Bank. He drove by Pierre Hermé, a shop famous for macaroons. We had passed by the other day and there were at least 25 people in line. Laurent told us about a special macaroon he cannot resist, which is made with foie gras and truffles. It costs 8 Euros (that’s $12 at today’s exchange rate). He is a perfect example of the way the French regard food and what they will pay for excellence.

We got home about 2:30 AM and woke up on New Year’s day at noon looking forward to another day’s adventure.

 

One Response to “New Year’s Eve: 31 December, 2007 ­ Saint Sylvestre avec deux femmes …”

  1. Wow! You have been busy. Sounds like a great time had by you and all your guests.
    Behind the Le Patheon, check out Rue Mouffetard…a fun place. Some cute little places to eat also. Tell me what you think. And if you’ve already been, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.
    Until later,
    Jimbo

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