Thursday, April 11, 2013

My Trip To Paris With My Daughter

One of the many views on our walk home from shopping on the Left Bank.
My Trip To Paris With My Daughter
by Nina Griscom

My daughter, Lily, has been to Paris many, many times, between the ages of 5 and 8, when her grandfather Felix Rohatyn served as American Ambassador to France under President Clinton (2007 to 2000).

Lily and I celebrating our upcoming trip to Paris together.
I remember all the wonderful things that she did with me while visiting her grand-parents: walks in the Jardins des Tuilleries, hot chocolate at Angelina on the rue de Rivoli, the Musée Grévin to see the waxworks, the Louvre, and of course the extraordinary privilege of residing at the fabulous Ambassador’s Residence on the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, where she met Hillary Clinton during her visit to the embassy.

Of course I remember those 3 years very well. It was pure magic and right out of a storybook. My memories could fill many volumes. But that is for another blog and probably only when I am close to death!

Lily had forgotten all those childhood years and asked me to take her to Paris during her Spring break from Trinity College this past month.

I was somewhat horrified that she had no memory of all those wonderful times. But nevertheless, I wanted to tweak her memory and to spend a few mother/daughter days with her in this beautiful city where I have spent so much time over the years of my life.

We flew on my favorite airline, British Air/Open Skies. BA is one of the few remaining proper airlines (as opposed to flying cattle cars posing as carriers) and knows how to give great service. I always opt for Biz Bed or Premium Economy, which is a close and less expensive equivalent to Business Class seats on other airlines.

Just to give you an idea of the size of a Paris apartment elevator.
We took off on time, and went straight to sleep. Usually I dope myself up, but this time I slept easily. Probably because my little pup (age 20) was next to me.

When we awoke, it was rainy and grey in Paris. Nothing new about that. We had packed two tiny umbrellas which one should always carry to Europe.

A dear friend had kindly loaned us her apartment in the 1st arrondissement; walking distance from the Rue Saint-Honoré. There’s nothing better than staying in a Paris apartment if you want to experience authentic daily life.

Elevators (closer to small mechanical crates) in Parisian apartment buildings are small and do NOT accommodate large suitcases or heavy weight, so Lily and I thumped our roller bags up the staircase to the 1ere étage apartment.

I was happy that she seemed ready to roll and wasn’t too jet lagged, so after unpacking we grabbed a taxi over to the Left Bank for lunch at Brasserie Lipp.

Lipp is the quintessential Parisian brasserie, and I had many “festive” meals there when I was a model, in the late '70s and early '80s with the journalists and photographers who were my friends at the time, such as William Connors and Benno Graziani.
Kate Moss and Ines de la Fressange at Brasserie Lipp.
Brasserie Lipp has been serving its Left Bank clientele since 1880.
When you go to Lipp, you need to ask for a table on the ground floor. The wait staff can have major attitude here and are not fond of tourists, whom they regularly dispatch to the 2nd floor; the realm of isolated Purgatory!  The ground floor is where the locals dine, and where the action is. And don’t bother trying to speak French. The waiters all speak better English than you do.

After settling into a lovely banquette (on the ground floor), and ordering two Kirs, we looked at the menu: Pig’s feet, Rognons (kidney’s), Cerveaux, (brains), Brandade (mousse of cod), etc. After all this was a brasserie.
Brasserie Lipp, today, a Parisian classic. You never know who or what you will see at Lipp, but it always delivers great people watching.
Lily chose this moment to inform me that she hated French food, and wanted pasta. PASTA! Boy was this ever the wrong place for pasta. I tried to coax her into a Foie de Veau (calves liver). No way. She settled for steamed asperges, and a salad along with half the basket of fresh bread. What to say!

I ordered the Oeufs en Gelée (eggs in aspic), and the Brandade; classic brasserie dishes. The food was fine, not great. But that is Lipp. Lily was thrilled when Owen Wilson appeared next to us, asking for a table. All of a sudden she thought Lipp was fabulous. What a criteria!
Oeufs en gelée at Lipp. In this classic French dish, gelatin is used to encase poached eggs in a delicate consommé.
Brandade, a mousse of salt cod, is a brasserie classic, and one of my favorite dishes. French comfort food!
After lunch we walked along the side streets of the Left Bank that have all the boutiques and shops she wanted to look in: Rue de Bac, Rue de Sevres, Rue des Saints-Peres, Rue de Grenelle, Rue du Four, Rue de Cherche-Midi, etc. None of them are too long and all are worth visiting. The most exquisite lingerie (and the most chère) in the world is Sabbia Rosa, located at 73 Rue des Saints-Peres. A rainbow of silk and lace.

The French have a wonderful saying: Léche Les Vitrines, which literally translated to “licking the windows." But in Paris it means window shopping. So we did just that.

We walked several beautiful miles back to the Right Bank and our borrowed apartment, exhausted, but full of all the beauty that is Paris.

We took a brief nap, and then sorted ourselves out (meaning: two girls in the bathroom curling hair and putting on make-up) for what was to be our first grand culinary experience: dinner at Le Grand Véfour.
The elegant entrance to Le Grand Véfour restaurant, off the Palais Royal, once the scene of political intrigue, dueling, gaming and prostitution.
Prostitutes and clients conversing at the Palais Royal Paris, 1800.
Don’t even think about dining before 8:30 or 9:00 PM in Paris or you will be looked at as a crazy American, the polite way of saying “heathen."

Le Grand Véfour (17 Rue de Beaujolais) is the Grand Dame of establishment restaurants in Paris, and comes with a wonderful 200-year social, political and culinary history as well as a sumptuously beautiful gilded dining room and haute cuisine, delivered by master chef Guy Martin (who is young and very handsome).
Le Grand Vefour's young and handsome chef extraordinaire, Guy Martin.
My first visit to Le Grand Véfour was with my dear mother when I was 12 or 13. I will never forget having lunch with her there and dining on frog legs soufflé. It was unforgettable, and I wanted to have that moment with my daughter.

This is grand cuisine at its best, and most expensive! So prepare to let the moths out of your wallet.

Cheese Trolley at Le Grand Véfour: One of the wonders of the world! 
What to wear? I saw the unexpected: a gentleman arriving in blue jeans, no tie, and a scruffy beard. Next up in the room was the most elegant woman I have ever seen, who wore a crisp white jacket over slim black silk trousers, perfectly coiffed long dark hair, and a long rope of lustrous pearls. She was movie star beautiful! The man accompanying her wasn’t bad either!

Lily and I opted for all black simple elegance, (which was pretty much all we had packed). No need for crown jewels; just a good appetite and plenty of time. These days the dress code in Paris is Anything Goes.

We dined in splendor in a red velvet banquette that boasted Joséphine Beauharnais as a former occupant. I wish I could have been a fly on the velvet whilst she was dining!

In a final nod to complete hedonism, I allowed a dialogue with the fully turned out cheese trolley; a culinary refinement one does not often see in America or parts elsewhere. When I was asked what I would like, I responded, “I want all the strongest and creamiest ones that you have."

And it was manna from heaven! Despite the 5 pounds I gained, I have no regrets.

Lots more to come from my Paris diary.
A fig is not just a fig. Here it is transformed into a delectable tart and ice cream. Sublime! The chocolate dessert at Le Grande Vèfour, a sinfully delicious way to end the meal.
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