Saturday, August 13, 2016

Feasting with friends

August 13, 2016 -- When it opened in 1878, the Hotel Continental was the most luxurious hotel in Paris.  Occupying an entire city block, it has 5 levels and 440 rooms.  In 1969, its name was changed to the Intercontinental, and since 2005, it has been the Westin Paris.

Before the Hotel Continental, the site was home to the ministry of finance, until that was burned down in the political upheaval of 1871.  The location is prime:  right on the rue de Rivoli, at the intersection of the rue Castiglione, which leads to the elegant Place Vendome – home of the Ritz.
In the other direction, the walkway through the Tuileries, leading directly from the hotel to the Seine, is in alignment with the passerelle (pedestrian bridge) that crosses over the river to the French Legion of Honor and the great statue of Thomas Jefferson.

Place Salvador Allende, home of La Tour Maubourg metro stop.

The sculptor depicts Jefferson holding the plans for Monticello in his hands.  There are architectural similarities between the Legion of Honor, Monticello, and the White House.  According to Wikipedia, the Legion of Honor building, which is called the Hotel de Salm, was “a favorite of Thomas Jefferson, who singled it out as a model for the American public buildings of Washington DC. He had observed its construction during his stay in Paris in 1784–1789, and his design for Monticello, his own estate, was based on it.”
Statue of Thomas Jefferson looking over the Seine, near the Legion of Honor.

I planned our walk to take in all these sights and more, because Tom and I were walking to the Westin to have dinner at its Le First restaurant with a friend from Florida and her daughter – Michelle and Courtney.  I’d made a reservation with La Fourchette, including a 30 percent discount on the food (not beverages).  But it turned out that Courtney’s Starwood Hotel employee discount was 50 percent off everything, so we went with that!
Tom's lamb dinner at Le First restaurant, in the Westin Paris hotel.

The dinner was fabulous.  I ordered the foie gras, especially so that Michelle and Courtney could try it.  Michelle declined, but Courtney had her first taste of foie gras (in paté form), and she loved it!

All of our food was delicious and beautifully presented, but Tom’s main course stole the show.  It was lamb with vegetables in a dark sauce surrounded by a stunning wreath of green puréed potatoes. 

Thank you, Chef David Real!

Tom, Michelle, and I caught up on news about old friends and real estate transactions.  Michelle is a paralegal who runs a title agency on Sanibel.  In our experience, she’s the best.  Every transaction we’ve had coordinated by her has been smooth.

But we know her as a neighbor.  When her house burned in 1990 or 1991, we let her and her family use our house for months, until theirs could be repaired.
Legion of Honor building, where our friend Roy was knighted
in honor of his academic work.

We all have lived in different places since then, but it still feels like we’re neighbors.
Michelle has been in Europe before, yet this is her first time in Paris.  The occasion is to celebrate Courtney’s 30th birthday.  

We hope they have a grand time this week!

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