Tuesday, January 27, 2009

“Have you got time for a glass of champagne, Monsieur?” Jean-Nicolas Mahe and his father own A. Laurans, a small vineyard which makes quality champagne and sells it exclusively in a little shop on the beautiful Avenue de Breteuil. I had stopped in his champagne store after popping up out of the Metro in the early evening in a part of Paris where I had not come during this current visit. I was going to join Nancy Brune, president of the Paris Choral Society whom I had met several days ago, for dinner. Not quite sure which way I needed to turn, and finding a welcome smile amid the jereboams, I asked Jean-Nicolas if he would point me in the right direction. “Of course,” but first I must taste those bubbles he proffered. It was unexpected and a delightful welcome to this very proper neighborhood.
Avenue Breteuil is a main thoroughfare in the 7th arrondissement, one of the more notable sections of Paris as it is home to the Eiffel Tower and a second remarkable edifice, Les Invalides. After dark, with the enormous structure and its spectacular dome bathed in golden lights, it is really an imposing scene. This is an area visited most frequently because it is under that big dome that Napoleon’s crypt is displayed. Vistors come generally during the day, leaving the night mostly for residents who inhabit the splendid apartments along the brightly lit and expansive avenue.
Nancy’s 7th floor apartment is about as close to this landmark as you would want to be, and stepping out on her balcony presents quite a sight. From here on a clear night, and the stars were out tonight, you can see literally all the way across Paris, with landmarks scattered about in every direction. The far horizon is accented by another lighted dome, the Sacre Coeur, which looks over Paris from the city’s highest point up in Montmartre. This is a gorgeous apartment with a view to match. Nancy, whose late husband was for many years Secretary General of the World Energy Council, has wonderful pieces of art, a piano (“I should have played more along the way; may take it up again”), and loves classical music. She is great company.
She had reserved a table at a favorite neighborhood dining establishment, Pasco, and it was a perfect choice. Nancy had a hearty risotto as her “plat”(I have gotten used to the fact that an entree on a French menu means the first, or entry, course, to be followed by the main plate, or plat). I had an even heartier veal chop braised with wild mushrooms and served with sauteed potatoes for my main course. We swapped stories through the meal while sharing a fine bottle of Pauillac. No need for dessert after this, so we walked the few blocks back to her apartment, said our au revoirs and I had a quick ride home on the Metro. It was really a lovely evening.

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