Tuesday, July 2, 2013

NOTES OF PARIS, PROVENCE AND CANNES

Red carpet at Cannes.
NOTES OF PARIS, PROVENCE AND CANNES
by Eleanora Kennedy

Thanks to Christie’s Green Auction — and its bid to Save The Earth before our world is “going, going, gone” — for introducing us to one of the most marvelous trips of our lives: The Alain Ducasse Culinary Tour (ADCT), covering New York, Paris and Provence, and all of chef Ducasse’s world class restaurants therein.  We personally added Cannes and the last two days of the 66th Film Festival as our dessert.
Our winning lot.
Air France took our family to Paris late last month, after much planning. We were filled not only with gastronomic anticipation but also with a yearning to revisit some our favorite French haunts.

Part of the ACDT included a “meet and greet” by our host hotel, the magnificent Plaza Athenee.
Clockwise from top left: Meet and Greet; The iconic Tower containing AD's Jules Verne Restaurant; The Kennedy Suite at Plaza Athenee; Plaza Athenee Hotel entrance.
We greeted Paris with a perfect misty mid-morning walk along the Seine past the Grand Palais to the Place de la Concorde, and through the Jardin des Tuileries to Rue Rivoli and a perfect hot chocolate. 

We continued to the Place Vendome to inspect the second year of the Ritz Hotel’s extensive renovations. Real progress, we noticed impatiently. Over to rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore, then up the Champs-Elysees and home to the Plaza Athenee.  All the while rejoicing in old familiarities and discovering new thoughts and spots.
Clockwise from top left: Pour Manger; Line at Angelina's (whose patrons included Proust and Coco Chanel) for divine hot chocolate; Benoit Lunch: Mini Strawberries and Asparagus; Canal St. Martin with ancient toll house; Another tower: Laduree Macaroons.
Among the significant attractions of the M. Ducasse’s tour was a two-hour, private cooking lesson at Ecole de Cuisine with Executive Chef, Pierre Morat. Chef Morat was a most gracious and accomplished gentleman, who painstakingly taught us the proper preparation of Sea Bass, Green and White Asparagus and a perfect Crème Brulee, which we devoured with a fine Sauvignon Blanc.
Michael Kennedy with Chef Pierre Morat and Cooking School certificate.
After lunch we took another stroll under a clearing sky to Peter Marino’s extraordinary design of Louis Vuitton’s flagship store on the Champs-Elysees. Then to the Trocadero to see the classic Louis Vuitton elevator in a restored boutique hotel.
Louis Vuitton Interior by Peter Marino. Antique LV elevator at Hotel Le Dokhan in the Trocadero.
The ADCT also included a guided tour of the Louvre. But this tour was unlike any other Louvre tour we’ve had. Our guide was Jacques LeRoux of the Paris Avec Vous Culture, and he was fabulous.

M. LeRoux, an accomplished art historian and Louvre specialist, provided us with some of the most magical moments of our three-hour visit, highlighting masterpieces we thought we knew well, but about which learned even more from the fascinating personal perspective of this remarkable guide. His insights, inside information and historical  gossip, presented these treasured pieces in a whole new light.
Anna and Michael Safir at the Louvre Pyramid.
Venus de Milo: found in Melos Island off Greece, by a farmer digging to expand his shed. The arms were never found.
Winged Victory: found on a stone in shape of a ship's prow in a harbor greeting sailors. Her head was never found.
Battle of San Romano c.1435, by Paolo Uccello. First painting to depict "motion" through spears, leader's command and soldiers in a charge. Painting to be viewed right to left.
By Messina: First painting using oil, which allowed the colors to be blended which gave depth and shadow. All earlier paintings used eggs which could not blend colors.
The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne: Recently restored three generations, in the first depiction beginning the classic pyramid style of construction.

These five Da Vinci's (The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne, Mona Lisa, St. John the Baptist, Virgin of the Rocks, Lady in Red) represent 1/3 of all Da Vinci's in the world.
Mona Lisa: Signor Giocondo commissioned Da Vinci to paint his 23-year-old wife's portrait. This was the first portrait with a smile which made her eternally young and vibrant. Da Vinci loved the painting and so kept it and paid a commission and fine to Signor Giocondo. The painting was stolen in 1910 and missing for 2 years. Interpol was founded to find her, which it finally did in Italy. Thereafter, Mona Lisa left the Louvre on two occasions: 1963 exhibited in New York and D.C. and 1974 exhibited in Tokyo.
St. John the Baptist: Da Vinci's last masterpiece. Virgin of the Rocks. Lady in Red.
The Consecration of Napoleon and Coronation of Josephine, by Jacques Louis David. Napoleon crowned himself (with his back to the altar) and then crowned Josephine while the Pope sat by. Napoleon's mother, who refused to attend because her other sons has been excluded, was added by the artist at Napoleon's instruction, which also included making Napoleon taller and Josephine younger.
Ceiling of the new Islamic wing. Metal mesh created to give feeling of sand dunes.
We had just enough energy in reserve to visit Proust bedroom at Musee Carnavalet.
Proust and his bedroom at Musee Carnavalet.
Now fully sated on great art, we prepared for Ducasse’s piece de resistance: we feasted on an extraordinary six course gastronomic delight in the Aquarium. We were given a private table in full view of the kitchen, at the 3-star Restaurant Le Relais in the Plaza Athenee — all under the beguiling and attentive eyes of Chef Christophe Saintagne. The different paired wines per course perfectly complemented this sublime, superb supper.
The Kennedys with chef Christopher Saintagne.
Le Relais kitchen ... our view from the Aquarium.
Dessert.
A room with a view.
Having experienced all three of Ducasse’s Paris Restaurants — Benoit, the finest brasserie in town, Jules Verne in the Eiffel Tower with its splendid views and cuisine to match and, of course, Le Relais, we very happily waddled our way to an early train from Gare de Lyon. We were going to Nice, via Lyon and the spectacularly beautiful countryside into Provence and on to our destination on the Mediterranean.

In the final leg of this great tour, we were booked into Alain Ducasse’s artfully and comfortably restored Hostellerie de Abbaye de la Celle, a hidden estate in the heart of Provence. This turned out to be a luxurious refuge of greenery, rehabilitated elegance and heavenly odors from his expectedly divine kitchen — another star; under the leadership of chef Benoit Witz, with wines from the vineyard les Coteaux Varois.
Hostellerie de Abbaye de la Celle.
12th-century Romanesque Benedictine Abbey.
Rose wine of the Coteaux Varois vineyard.
Light garbanzo lunch.
General de Gaulle's plaque in our suite where he wrote part of his memoirs. Pillow wish ... and the end of the Alain Ducasse Culinary Tour.
After two days and nights of restful luxuriating in the beauty, local wine and fresh produce of Provence, we were ready for the fast lanes and excitement of Cannes. There we would be spending the remainder of our time basking in the glow of wall to wall celebrities and flash bulbs, and all kinds of amazing films at the 66th Cannes Film Festival. It was also the 100th anniversary of the historic Carlton Hotel.

We would meet up with our old friend and co-President of Sony Pictures Classic, Michael Barker, who would shepherd us through the festivities.
Panorama of Cannes harbor with Carlton Hotel.
Carlton on the Beach.
Alfred Hitchcock suite, scene of 1954 film "To Catch a Thief" filmed at the Carlton Hotel.
The ultimate Mercedes boy toy. $2+ million Bugatti in the flesh.
Entrance to film festival Palais.
The Kennedys and Safirs en route to ultimate festival night and screenings.
Paparazzi all in mandatory black tie and black shoes.
"Silence your cell phones."
French icon Roman Polanski entering theater to standing ovation and his latest film, "Venus in Fur."
Jury President Steven Spielberg and Jury about to announce the festival awards.
Michael with Anwen Rees Meyers and John Hurt and the pre-party for Jim Jarmusch's "Only Lovers Left Alive."
Tilda Swinton at reception before screening. Eleanora with Peggy Siegal on red carpet awards night.
Post festival supper at Tetou, one of France's most popular seafood restaurants.
Langoustines and sea bass.
The first film festival at Cannes took place in 1946.  The timeless dream-like red carpet moments is still happening when one ascends the famous steps of the Palais des Festival. The paparazzi create click shock while their “photo call” of primal screams rings out.

Every year the official selection of the films presented is anxiously awaited. 1,858 films were screened in advance to select the 19 in competition for the Palme d'Or.

Cannes Film Festival's Palme d'Or.
We had three to five films of a huge variety available each day for screenings.

In between the dazzling moments of celebs, bow-ties, high heels, fashion, stunning jewels (even a big time jewelry heist), fabulous cars and pounding music, one screens international films. This year the red carpet rolled out, croissette-style, for Jury President Steven Spielberg, and his forty-year career.  The man is beloved in film circles, as was his Mistress of Ceremonies, the charming and talented Audrey Tatou.

We did it all — pre and post parties on beaches, hotels, restaurants and rooftops — midnight to 4 AM. Cool days. Hot nights. Great exhaustion.

We made two treks to Cap d’Antibes to check out the world famous Hotel du Cap-Eden Roc, where a lot of the stars stay and every night is a big night at the lobby bar.  We also went over to enjoy the Sunday brunch at Eden-Roc. 

Hotel du Cap and Eden-Roc represent 140 years of elegant perfection. There is no more desirable, must-visit hotel in the world. It still lives up to that unrivaled reputation, situated on a pristine coastline with spectacular views of the Mediterranean. Its fine restaurants, lively bars and lounges and exquisite suites, and the finest service and care-taking are unimaginable.
Hotel Du Cap-Eden Roc in Cap D' Antibes.
Lobby bar, Hotel Du Cap.
Pre-lunch respite.
22 Acres of ornamental gardens and pine forests leading to Eden Roc restaurant and beach.
Al Fresco dining at Eden Roc Grille.
The infamous 46 euro hamburger (was $16 in 1973). So worth it when paired with a view of the Du Cap pool.
Harvey Weinstein dining on his phone.
Kennedy, Barker, and Safir celebrating Sony Pictures Classic's "Best Actress" award to Berenice Bejo for "Le Passe."
Heading home having made some memories. Our heartfelt thanks to the Central Park Conservancy, to Christie’s Green Auction and to the Alain Ducasse Organization for actualizing this splendid ADCT tour, and to Michael Barker, Co-President of Sony Pictures Classic, for our unforgettable stay at the 66th Cannes Film Festival. We were given some of the most vibrant memories of our well-traveled lives, and it is our honor to share these memories.

Au revoir,

Eleanora
Sunset at Cannes harbor on our last night.