Paris – AAA tour begins

So we arrived yesterday in Paris and today, the AAA culinary tour officially kicked off with a champagne reception at the swanky Hotel Victoria Palace. We met our small, but enthusiastic group, all of whom are from different backgrounds, from construction company manager to flight attendant to retired accountant. One woman works for a law firm in Seattle about two miles from our house there. What a small world.

Afterward we walked to dinner to La Coupole in the Montparnasse neighborhood. La Coupole is one of the oldest brasseries in Paris, one of those grand open dining rooms that is empty at 7:30 p.m. and packed by 8:30 with Parisians. We arrived early to take a tour of the kitchen, guided by the PR man for the place. The numbers he provided are fairly staggering. The restaurant serves 1,500 meals every day, using the quantity found in most modest-sized grocery stores in a couple of days. They will go through nearly 3,500 bottles of wine each day, and use the contents of three large walk-in coolers in two days. White, red and champagne have their own coolers; the latter is manned by two people who have to “check out” each bottle of champagne as part of inventory control.

The restaurant employs about 200 people now, but at the height of its glory, it employed more than 425 people. The restaurant had both an upstairs dining room and a downstairs where dancing took place. The upstairs dining room was closed several years ago, but the dancing continued on until early 2007. Over our entrees, our tour guide Marie told us that the restaurant has something of an interesting reputation. Wealthy women of a certain age were known to come to the downstairs area of La Coupole, where they often met young men of a much younger age. The attendance started to decline when a magazine reported openly on the December-May hook ups, and presumably, both parties became embarrassed to show up to rendezvous.

“Where do you think they went?” someone asked. The table discussed for awhile and came up with an answer: internet dating.

A few of us finished off the evening in the bar over glasses of calvados, an elegant end to the first day. We toasted to Mike’s father Floyd, who was supposed to be along for the trip…


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