Sometimes people can be pretty awful to strangers without ill-intentions or malice of any kind. This is the story of how I ruined someone’s evening, and the complete lack of remorse I shoulder to this day.
On 17 November, 2017, our third of four days in Paris, Nura and I walked nearly ten miles. Five of those miles were entirely inside the Louvre, alternately trying to find and avoid the Mona Lisa. The remaining 4.5 miles were footed through the streets – mostly along the Champs-Élysées from the Louvre to the Arc De Triomphe.
This process kicked up an enormous appetite, and so, resolved to find inspired and authentic French cuisine, we picked a direction off the main drag, and let come what may.
Before long we found ourselves outside the Four Seasons’ Paris hotel, and I felt compelled to enter; if for no other reason than to stand inside a lobby I can’t afford to even look at. The décor was genuinely beautiful (if a bit excessive), so to buy another moment to admire the Christmas tree decorated exclusively with red roses, I approached the Maître D’, knowing full well the longshot I was taking by even asking, if she happened to have any seats available for dinner, in any of their restaurants that night, though it was already approaching 8:00 PM.
To our surprise and delight, she informed us that, while typically booked for weeks or months in advance, this evening there happened to be a cancellation in the “Mediterranean” restaurant, and we were welcome to fill the vacancy if it pleased us. I said it would please us very well, thank you, and did she have a menu we could look at?
Here’s a first for me; I was asked which menu I would like to see. The answer until this point had been “English, S’il vous plaît”, which I tried here. She clarified; “Would you like to see the menu with or without prices?”.
“Ah. With prices, d’accord. I’m not really a part of this world,” I said as I looked around the lavish interior.
We were led to another lobby, this one at the confluence of two or three of the hotel restaurants’ entrances. The menu she handed me, elegant in its simplicity, was more an FYI on what dishes we would be enjoying that evening, rather than the traditional pick-list one finds ahead of whatever plebian fare he’s about to choke down.
Just then, a caricature of an Ugly American entered the restaurant lobby; he was in his fifties, loud, loaded (with money and booze), and one hundred percent sure the universe was his very own thing. At his side was a bored-looking, stunningly beautiful young woman who couldn’t have been half his age.
The American feigned an apology for being 35 minutes late for his dinner reservation, but was confident his transgression would be easily overlooked. The Maître D’, who until now was walking me through the menu, quickly informed him that, because he was so late, a hotel guest had taken his place, and with regret he would not be dining here this evening. The bored expression on his guest’s hyper-symmetrical face livened a little, but unfortunately for the American it now more closely resembled contempt than amusement. As he pouted about his reservation not being honored, I watched his chances of getting laid dissolve into nothing.
But here’s the kicker: As the Ugly American and his evening’s prey left the hotel, Nura came out from the mirrored rose-room thing she escaped into, and declared she preferred to dine at a restaurant that was more traditionally French, rather than the French – Mediterranean fusion at this location. This location, by the way, was awarded their third Michelin Star in February.
So to succinctly recap the ordeal: We who had no business in that hotel to begin with, waltzed in, took and then abandoned someone’s dinner reservation from under his nose, asked the staff for recommendations to another restaurant, and then waltzed right back out into the night.
At this point, I’m not sure who the Ugliest American really was.