Day 21 – In Which we Hobnob with the Rich and Famous

Every major city has its iconic luxury hotels and, in Paris, there is no hotel with a longer or more distinguished reputation than the impressive Le Meurice. Situated on the posh Rue de Rivoli, and facing into the beautiful Tuileries Gardens, Le Meurice has been a preferred hotel for the rich and famous for over 180 years. If you want to  spot some well known celebrities, just take up a position over the road and wait. Most likely it won’t take long till some actor, banker or world leader comes out the front door.

Although I considered selecting this hotel for our stay in Paris, I thought the 4300 Euro a night ( around $7000 AUD) charge might be a tad high. For that you get a standard room, but of course you have to pay extra for breakfast (around $100 a head per day), internet access, sheets and fresh towels. You also need to have your pockets stuffed with 50 Euro notes for the obligatory tips for everyone on the staff who even says “Bonjour” to you.

Next door to Le Meurice is the almost equally iconic Angelina’s tea rooms.  This place looks like something out of the Palace of Versailles with its ornate painted ceilings, chandeliers and expensive furniture. Of course, if you want a tea or coffee there, you can’t just walk in the door. Unless you are a class A celebrity there is always a long waiting list and a queue that means you must wait in line for hours, just to get a seat.

Fortunately for the Ghostriders, that was not a problem. Apparently the proprietor had been eagerly following our adventures each day on the blog and, when we arrived at the front door, we were directed around the long queue and up to the exclusive upstairs section. The distinguished butler escorted us to their finest table and indicated that we should be seated. When we saw the prices on the menu, I could see why it was so important to be seated first. I was grateful that I was not wearing my Nutella stained shirt and pants from the previous day, as that probably would not have gone down very well.

This whole episode had been Ross and Fran’s idea. Apparently they like to always visit this place, whenever they are in town. It was their influence with their favourite waiter that had got us the extra special service we received. There were eight of us sitting at the table, all looking a lot like the proverbial fish out of water. Most of my table etiquette had been learned at the local Macdonalds in Pakenham, so I was a little unsure how to act in such surroundings. Somehow the best we could manage was to regularly break into loud and hysterical fits of laughing every few minutes. I suspect that this is not the sort of place you are meant to laugh in, so it was little wonder that the waiter disappeared for a long time before reluctantly returning to take our orders.

Looking at the price of a cup of hot chocolate, I was tempted to order a single glass for Maggie and me to share. I looked in my wallet and stared at the quickly diminishing euro notes. On the other hand I did not want to look like a cheapskate, so decided that we could cut back on dinner. “Garcon”, I called, “bring me a cup of your finest hot chocolate, and also a glass of tap water for my wife”. I looked at the pictures of the desert selections and decided to order a chocolate delicacy that looked a lot like Donald Trump’s toupe. That should just about do it.

When the coffees and deserts arrived, I have to admit they were rather special, although I did somehow manage to spill my chocolate within the first few seconds. Fortunately it missed my trousers this time and just splashed all over the table cloth instead. More laughter. While I was drinking the chocolate and eating the hairpiece, Eugenie noticed that something was happening outside in the street.

Soon we were all on our feet looking out the windows at the huge line of shiny black cars that were blocking the entire Rue de Rivoli. There were also at least 10 motorcycles with especially dressed police riders on each. Obviously someone important was about to come out of the hotel next door. I wondered if Bronwyn Bishop may have been in town. We all scrambled to muster enough euros to cover most of the exorbitant bill and then walked out the front door. I was trying to hide the brand new chocolate dribble on the front of my shirt as we walked past the same queue that was still patiently waiting for their seats. I felt like advising them to join the Ghostriders, but wanted to see what was happening next door.

We apparently exited at just the right moment. A group of Africans all came out, all dressed in impressive caftans that would have even made Kamahl envious. While the footmen, doormen and security guards all competed to be the most subservient, the apparently powerful group of leaders quickly got into their vehicles and sped away. The impressive motorcade disappeared into the streets of Paris. Soon there was a massive explosion of horn tooting as the motorists that had been blocked for so long finally vented their pent up spleen.

Later in the day I searched the Internet to try to find out which country the leader had been from, but discovered that, while he was important enough to warrant a stay at Le Meurice and his own motorcade, his visit was  not significant enough to register on Google. I suspected that, since he was from Africa, he would probably been thrown out of power by the time he returned to his own country anyway. Just as well that they always have their secret Swiss bank accounts to fall back on in such hard times.

Maggie and I spent the rest of the afternoon rearranging our sock collections and catching up on our laundry. It was a wonderful time of togetherness for us. On my way back to the hotel that night I was very careful not to stand on the dog turd that had been in the middle of the footpath for the past two days. I think I succeeded.

We later learnt that Eugenie spent the afternoon at the local beauty parlor. Apparently she had been walking past when she saw an elegant looking French hairdresser making eyes at her from the inside. Her heart went a pit a pat and she found her feet taking her straight inside. Phillipe explained to her about the day’s special – “une haircut for ze price of two”. She could not let a bargain like that slip through her fingers, so spent the next hour feeling Phillipe’s fingers in her hair and his hot Gallic breath on the back of her neck. She came out with her hair looking like Madame Pompadour and her face the colour of beetroot. It had been worth the 200 Euros.

Tomorrow morning all those in Group One will be leaving Paris for Orleans and the start of our real adventure. We can’t wait to get riding again.