“Paris is the only city in the world where starving to death is still considered an art.”
― Carlos Ruiz Zafón
After a gorgeous day at Versailles, we convened at Katie and Adam’s quite-nearly-as-gorgeous-and-only-slightly-less-gilded hotel room to pick a place for dinner. It was a bit late in the day to be sorting this out but Katie (as ever, the best travel planner I have ever had the pleasure of frolicking around a major European capital with!) had already created a whole list of recommendations and hot spots. We settled on a restaurant that sounded promising and, after trying and failing to make a reservation online, got the brilliant idea to ask the concierge service to make a reservation for us since we figured a top-notch restaurant would be more willing to accommodate the request if it came from the front desk of the Le Meurice hotel rather than tourists. We we right. We know our cultural limitations, and how to work them, kittens.
Reservation made we made the trek across the river, found the right area, and then got a bit lost since we’d marked the address on a map but believed that we left Katie’s all-important list in the hotel room, containing the precise address. As it happened, we found the list the next day. In my camera bag. (Thunks head on her desk. I’m wincing just remembering it. Carry on, I’ll meet you at the next paragraph.)
Anyway, we were late for our reservation, but managed to find the joint Le Coupe Chou, which might be one of the most ambiance-rich place I have ever had the pleasure of dining in. I’m not surprised we got a bit lost, really. We were in the Latin Quarter, the old medieval heart of the city. The ruins of the Abbey of Cluny (once the largest building in the world, and the site where the Crusades were first kicked off a thousand years ago) was a mere stone’s throw away.
Don’t let the humble exterior lull you into a false sense of security, Le Coupe Chou is fearfully and wonderfully made within! In it’s 17th century past it began its current incarnation as residential spaces, which means that you have to be led through multiple rooms and levels of dining, drinking, and lounging spaces to get to your tables; complete with old wooden stairs, knocked through stone walls, heavy stone fireplaces, delftware tiles, and dark timber beams in the ceiling. The effect is very cozy and elegant at the same time.
Apparently both medieval and Roman site elements were discovered during upgrades and renovations. Which doesn’t surprise me in the slightest, it’s rather par for the course in a city as ancient as Paris, but excites me all the same. The remains of a 16th century well can be found in the basement along with 12th century pottery, and a piece of graffiti from the Revolution has a place of honor behind the bar. My little history heart was melting with contentment.
Late as we were, we were shown to our table and got to peruse the menu and talk all we wanted while waiters kept the bread and courses coming. Jeff chose best with the veal, by the way, which we both heartily recommend. At one point Adam excused himself from the table and when he came back, he was wearing an expression of complete delight masked by false nonchalance – a sort of widening of the eyes with the corners of the mouth turned up ever so slightly against his will.
“Guys, I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure Sean Penn is sitting three tables away.”
Naturally this meant that throughout the evening (spaced well apart) we all excused ourselves to confirm or deny the news.
And team it’s confirmed. I googled it later, just to verify we weren’t blinded by the Romantic lights of the city (or perhaps still slightly winded from our dash to find the restaurant in the first place), but yes. Sean Penn was in Paris, and he was definitely sitting thirty feet away from us that evening. More googling later informed me that other notables to have dined at this spot include Brigitte Bardot, Marlene Dietrich, The Beatles, and most of the great and good of French theatre over the last half century.
I herewith surrender any rights to complain about my life being uninteresting for the next six months at least. If I do, minions are encouraged to slap me across the face.