We had our first American visitor this weekend. I'm not referring to Angelina Jolie. Yes, Angelina was here, but now that she isn't drinking, she's just not as much fun to be around. I did, however, stop by her hotel to say "hello" and to drop off a gift as I won't be able to make her baby shower. I took the opportunity to ask her if she planned on keeping Maddox and Zahara now that she is having Brad's baby. She said "yes" and looked at me like I was a horrible person. I prefer the old Angie much better, the one who carried blood in a vial and made out with her brother. The globe-trotting, good-willing Angelina can't even take a joke.
The visitor to which I'm referring is my friend Alex from San Francisco. He's much more fun than all of the Jolie-Pitts rolled up in one! He was in Spain and stopped by Paris for the weekend before heading back home. Fred and I were looking forward to his visit. However, we were a little nervous considering he was our first guest and we wanted him to have a good time.
In San Francisco, we had a standard tour for visitors, e.g., our favorite restaurants, the Ferry Building, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Napa. We hadn't developed our Parisian tour yet and were feeling very uncool. Alex had visited France a few years back and had hit all the tourist attractions. He was very gracious and said he was up for anything; he really just wanted to hang out with us. Knowing that hanging out with me can be unbearable, Fred did the smart thing and hit the internet and restaurant guide books.
Our first stop was a brasserie for a quick drink. Alex and I decided to catch-up over happy hour while we waited for Fred to get home from work. We picked a bar at random and ordered. The barman spoke little French (or couldn't understand the little French that I spoke) and even less English. He asked if I spoke Spanish. Several years ago, I probably could have answered "un poquito" with a straight face, but now I can barely order a Dos Equis. Luckily, Alex, fresh off the plane from Spain, pulled through. My first attempt at convincing my old friend that I was a cosmopolitan Parisienne failed miserably.
A few hours later, we met up with Fred and headed to Mandalaray for pre-dinner cocktails. We weren't quite sure what to expect as the website brags about John Malkovich, Sean Penn, and Johnny Depp being part owners. I feared that I was leading us into a slightly upscale Planet Hollywood. As we entered, I saw that it was not like Planet Hollywood at all. No, it was like Ana Mandara (sans Don Johnson, of course). You be the judge:
*Click on the shaded words to be directed to related websites.
It ended up being a nice place to have a drink (or two!). We went early enough so it wasn't too crowded.
After drinks, we took a short walk on the Champs-Elysee and ended up at L'Appart. We enjoyed a good basic meal in a nice atmosphere. It was along the lines of Kuleto's in San Francisco with a mix of locals and tourists.
Later that night, we met up with Alex's brother (who had been traveling in Spain with Alex) and his friends at a hotel bar, Costes. The hotel's website is far "too cool" and doesn't have any pictures or information about the hotel or bar. If you're curious, click on the official website. I spent a good 5 minutes there trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. We ended up having a good time, but this is one of those places where you have to check in with the hostess, who shuttles you to the doorman (too many gate-keepers for no good reason, other than to make them feel important). It's very much like the Clift Hotel's Redwood Room.
The following morning, late the following morning, we headed out for a little sightseeing at Montmartre. This is one of my favorite areas of Paris. At the top of the hill is a small square with street artists. On my first trip to Paris, Fred and I had our picture drawn. The artist did a fairly good job drawing me, but Fred looked like Greg Kinnear. If we had our stuff (that we shipped from San Francisco on October 26!), I would have attached a photograph of the picture.
For now, here is a photo that Alex took at the top of the hill looking out over Paris, just in front of Basilique du Sacré Coeur (Basilica of the Sacred Heart), San Francisco's Grace Cathederal.
*Click on photos to enlarge
This blog entry is getting too long, I'm sure you're all losing interest by now, assuming you made it this far. So, I'll fast forward to that evening, we ended up at Music Hall. We had a really great time there. The food was very good and the presentation was beautiful! It reminded me of The Slanted Door in San Francisco. Editor's Note: Slanted Door needs a new website!
Here is a picture from Music Hall:
Seated, from left: Donna (Alex's brother's girlfriend's mom); Nolan (Alex's brother's girlfriend's brother); Colin (Alex's brother); Todd (our American friend who lives in Paris).
Standing, from left: Johann (Fred's friend from Bordeaux, who we ran into by surprise at the restaurant), Laurence (Johann's wife), Alex (to the right of Fred, our friend visiting from SF).
The next day, Alex headed back to San Francisco, and two days later, FedEx showed up with this:
It was great opening the box and finding a little piece of home in there. This morning, I made myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I hadn't eaten a PBJ in years, yet the taste was very familiar and comforting. Before Alex left, we talked about how great it is to travel, but there's something special about going back through U.S. Customs and having an agent stamp your passport and say "Welcome Home". I'm looking forward to our visit in September, when I hear those words again!