Monday, May 23, 2011
And I hadn't even told him that was what I'd been calling this trip long before we left home. Ever since reading about Europe’s “Grand Tours” I have always thought what fun it would be to have taken one. And since it's never too late, I stretched the definition a bit and named our spring trip our “Grand Tour” although originally. . .
Those Grand Tours. . .
. . .served as what you might call an educational ‘rite of passage’ for young, upper-class, European men, that really caught on in the 1660’s and reached its crescendo in the 1840’s or so, after the introduction of large-scale rail travel.
(If you travel, you recognize the name Thomas Cook, don’t you? We flew one of their flights last year and they have money exchanges all over the place. Well, it got his start back in Grand Tour days with his then popular “Cook’s Tours”.)
The tour gave the young aristocrats an opportunity to learn about cultural legacies, view great works of art, listen to music. The tours could last for months, even years. They were not pilgrimages of scholarly or religious sorts, simply opportunities for intellectual and cultural growth.
Our Grand Tour. . .
. . .while certainly no where as long as those of olde, we have had wonderful opportunities to expand our cultural and historical knowledge. From the on-board lecture series (our favorite speaker was English writer Nigel West) and the Corning Glass Museum demonstrations that Celebrity offered, to Madrid where we lived at the point of its Golden Triangle of the Prado Museum, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, and the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, we have had some great opportunities to pursue that favorite US public school phrase: life-long learning.
We’re concluding our Grand Tour with our brief immersion in London history and culture (and at least a couple trips to The British Museum), before spending a final night in Paris where we plan to educate our palates with French cuisine, and expand our knowledge of wine, perhaps a bit of champagne, and a lot of Sancerre, the favorite white wine of ours from France’s Loire Valley.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
We arrived at the restaurant at 6:40 p.m., twenty minutes before it opened for the evening's dining. There were only four others outside the restaurant when Joel read the hand-written menu posted outside the door. Not wanting to perpetuate the image of Americans -- who eat unfashionably early -- we went down the street and nursed a small glass of rose, finally giving in to hunger and returning to the restaurant at 7:20 p.m. In that 40 minutes the place had filled. Jam-packed filled.
We sat shoulder-to-shoulder, with other diners, our tables only inches apart. The only thing we had to decide was "rare, medium, or well-done" and the rest is taken care of by teams of efficient wait staff. We were served a green salad with walnuts before the entre: steak frites, french fries and a cut-it-with-your-fork rib steak drenched in an herb sauce that lived up to decades of accumulated accolades. Wait staff whirled around the crowded room, but kept a watchful eye on their assigned diners, as the moment we finished this first plate, they returned with platters from which they served us a second round.
And of course, we had to try a dessert; a delightful artery-clogging, calorie-laden Profiterolles Chocolat a plate of ice cream filled puffs swimming in dark chocolate (almonds are good for you though, I reasoned):
We had this gastronomical romp for 69E, just over a $100US which included a bottle of house wine. It was one of the best food buys we had, particularly when 1E = $1.50US. When we left at 8:30 the line of people waiting to eat their stretched into the street:
Reservations aren't taken at this place but we recommend it highly no matter how long the wait. We dined at the original restaurant location, however its website http://www.relaisdevenise.com/ says it is now open in Manhatten and Bahrain as well.