Yesterday, as I packed for five days in London, I procrastinated (I’m almost hitting personal best status at this) by sifting through and replying to emails and messages that readers have written in response to previous blog posts.
One comment that caught my eye was from a girl whose sister had spent six months on exchange in France. She wrote, ‘my sister always says that the French love bureaucracy and they throw great parties.’
That’s right, the French love Parties and Paperwork.
This morning as I began to type this on the train to London, I was feeling nothing short of exhausted and positively mad, with a warm up resting on my knee and a watery coffee lasting only moments before it was devoured with the greatest sense of urgency. Just two drips made it onto my top and one blob of melted cheese was discovered soaking nicely into my trousers, two hours later and as we pulled into London.
A warm up consists of two soggy wholemeal pieces of bread filled with ham and cheese and wrapped in cardboard, before being nuked in a microwave by Mathew (with one T), a friendly man who was working the cafe in carriage 9, and one who takes his job very seriously.
Mathew was a mutitasker and diligently switched between French and English and having a jolly old time as he did.
Standing in the queue as I waited to be served, I found myself wondering if Mathew spends weekends with his Nan and a little dog (I imagined a scruffy terrier or sorts) and I also made a mental note when he stopped, just once, to take a breath after a man observed how busy it was in the cafe this morning – raising a hand to his head, Mathew let out an almighty sigh before admitting (between clenched teeth), ‘it’s just non stop.’
‘Non stop’ was the approach that Colin took when preparing our drinks at the Hemingway Bar last night.
My friend from Melbourne, Marcel, was back from the South and she had one night remaining in the city that never sleeps. We met up in the late afternoon, sipping on a glass of rosé at ‘Maison Sauvage,’ my new favourite little haunt in Rue de Buci and just around the corner from my apartment. We shared stories from the week and enjoyed a fabulous visual feast of 6pm people watching in the warmth of the early evening before deciding that it was time to get to the birth place of the Bloody Mary.
Half an hour later, we were in an Uber crossing the Pont du Carrousel as we swept past the Louvre and into Place Vendôme, home of the Ritz.
(It is important to note that my normal life in Paris is spent holed up in my apartment making coffee on the stovetop most mornings, as I busy myself with writing this blog, before heading out in the afternoon for lunch and a walk and as many conversations as I can make people endure- practice makes perfect, and I save moments like the Ritz for visitors- not my everyday!).
The Hemingway Bar sits at the end of a magnificent gallery of shops that are too beautiful for me to even look at, let alone enter – the types of ‘magasins’ I have visions of being chased out of and I’m still scarred from that time in Benetton in the Bon Marché, circa 1999.
To the right of the gallery there is a beautiful and opulently oversized garden that houses tables and chairs hidden in little alcoves along its edges which are framed by decent sized Versailles planter boxes filled with Linden trees, and to top it off a limestone fountain trickles in the centre – it is nothing short of magic.
The bar is a relatively small, dimly lit room filled with plump leather chairs and banquettes, handsome men and facelifts to match. We were told on arrival that we would be best sat up at the bar and, after just a few moments we realised why.
Colin Field- Hemingway authority, drink mixer, performer and French speaking Brit to the core, has to be seen to be believed.
He advised that the Hemingway Bar is not actually the birth place of the Bloody Mary, and nor is Harry’s (much as they claim to be – with Colin’s very public objection to this leading to a 20 year ban from him setting foot in there).
Marce and I sat for hours listening and watching as Colin did his thing while imbibing us with drinks we’ll probably never see again in our respective lifetimes. We were treated to days old mushrooms frozen in ice after being fermented in a cell that ‘no one has ever entered,’ fresh tomato juice blended with ice made with the freshest celery (no strings attached) and vodka mixed with champagne exclusive to the Ritz.
It was quite possibly one of the funniest nights I have had in such a long time- my trip out of the 6th Arrondissement with Marcel was one for the book, and when I got home last night I was delighted to read that Colin Peter Field is in fact, ‘The Best Barman in The World’ according to Forbes Magazine.
Google him, it’s a read you won’t regret.
Now, as I finish typing this piece in a study on the top floor of the sweet little place where I am staying in London for the next five days, I look out the window to a bleary London sky.
Union Jacks fly from building tops and the black cabs are busy as always. It’s so great to be back in this wonderful city and I look forward to sharing tales of what unfolds in the days to come.
Today marks the beginning of a week sans paperwork, kicked off with a very funny and very French party. Now, I’m off to do the very English thing of running a bath!
Pictured: our man Colin in action- drinks mixer, fount of knowledge and easily the best barman in the world (the most amusing too).