Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Crillion

I strolled through the Hôtel Crillon’s sumptuous lobby and turned right, pulled into the elegant Winter Garden by the dulcet tones of the harpist I enjoy so much. I am a creature of habit: I stay here on each and every visit to Paris, and I take an espresso here every afternoon, enjoying the harp and the fine beverage and snack menu. But today, my habit faced a roadblock: A lovely woman, her back to me, showing off a narrow waist, was in my regular seat. I walked by her, discreetly glancing to glimpse her face. She didn’t see this, concentrating as she was on finding the largest of the crude lumps of dark sugar for her café au lait. I took a step to move past her but decided, at the last minute, to turn and face her, hoping I could summon a remark witty and charming enough to solicit an invitation to join her—or at least yield a “yes” when I asked to sit with her.

I did, and she did, and we passed the afternoon laughing and drinking—quickly moving on to champagne—before heading down the street to the Arc de Triomphe. We took pictures of each other up top, the Eiffel Tower looming gray in the background, then more photos trying on sunglasses at Chanel. We ambled and strolled, finding ourselves in the 16th district near a lovely family bistro, where we dined. Her room at the Crillion, she sighed just the right amount, wasn’t her usual room, and she didn’t love it. More champagne caused me to invite her back to stay with me in my room, and she did.

I cancelled my meetings for Friday, and after the hotel delivered her favorite breakfast of strawberries, fresh cream, and their buttery croissants, we continued to explore the city. We lunched at the Gare de Lyon’s elegant Le Train Bleu, marveled at the Arab Institute’s innovative automated window sun shades, and sat outside the Louvre, admiring art through the windows but never going in. That evening, after champagne at the Pavillon Elysée Lenôtre, we shared hot frites and a croque monsieur at Pasteur Café on the Left Bank, then strolled by the Sorbonne, the Panthéon, and the many cafes which grew literary geniuses like moss. 

The next day brought more of the same: more champagne, the richest desserts, the most stunning art and architecture, and the most beautiful Hermès scarf I couldn't resist buying her after hearing the squeal its silkiness on her neck elicited. I blush now thinking how pleased I was to please her.

The third morning, I found her gone upon awakening, the remains of her beloved croissants littering a plate on a cart I had not heard enter the chamber. Noticing her small bag was missing, I was mildly concerned and inquired with the efficient front desk clerk, who had no record of a guest named Olive Snell.

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