Le Sénat is located at the bottom of Rue de Tournon. The Frenchman had wanted me to take the RER to the Luxembourg station, but I decided it was much more expedient to take the metro to Mabillon and walk down Rue de Tournon. It’s an impressive old building that looks like it was carved out of old dun granite. With the help of palace police I was able to find the correct lobby and I proceeded in to find a bench to wait. I was maybe 20 minutes early. I sat down and immediately preceded to change from my boots to my high heels.
I then noticed an elderly couple sitting on the bench on the opposite side of the room. With no small amount of embarrassment, I realized that must be Le Sénateur and his wife, and that I’d just changed my shoes in front of them. Smooth move, Exlax! I never dreamed they would be that early. I pretended that maybe it wasn’t them, and waited patiently until The Frenchman arrived. I told him how embarrassed I was, and he communicated to them what happened.
Apparently, this was terrifically disarming — that is, if I’d needed any disarmament. They were incredibly nice people. The retired sénateur and his wife split their time between Paris and the Ivy League school where The Frenchman got his Ph.D. (which apparently is where they met and the mentorship commenced). They were completely charming, intelligent and big hearted.
Once on the other side of the security check, we entered the courtyard and could see the opening of the lush private gardens for the President of the Sénate, the mini-Luxembourg. We then immediately entered the restaurant, which was filled with good-humored, energetic servers who took The Fabulous Coat and petted Trog on the head as they hung him on a hanger with the coat. As soon as we sat down, I discovered that le sénateur was a bon vivant. He explained the menu to me, describing everything with the heady delicacy of a connoisseur. I settled on the tartine de lapin for my appetizer and then the canard (practically still quacking) for my main course. There was, of course, a cheese course that I tried to minimize but Le Sénateur would not hear of it! By the time desert arrived — I chose the pistachio macaron with rum-soaked cherries — I was so full, I didn’t need to eat for at least another day.
In the meantime, other sénateurs stopped by our table. Le Sénateur knew everyone, it seemed. As we were leaving, even more politicians approached him — including the President of the Senate, Monsieur Christian Poncelet. (If anything should happen to Chirac, he would become President of France.) I was already a-twitter because one of the gentleman who approached Le Sénateur was clearly a high-ranking military official. I heard that none other than Nicholas Sarkozy, the Minister of the Interior and favorite in the Presidential Election, was on his way. They were all there to greet him. The Frenchman told me later that I was standing in the midst of some French political Who’s Who. He recognized a lot of people, but didn’t remember their names. I wanted to stay and see Sarkozy, but it just couldn’t be done.
I didn’t get 30 yards down Rue de Tournon before my high heel stuck in something and nearly tore from my shoe. I changed my shoes somewhere outside on the sidewalk.
I’ve learned that a French stereotype of Americans is that we’re not very political, that we don’t interest ourselves in politics or get involved. I kept wondering why The Frenchman’s friends were so surprised and impressed when he told them I had the phone numbers of my California senators stored in my cell phone. The French love, love, love politics. They argue, they debate, they watch programs, call, vote, whatever. They even protest — lordie, do they protest. Les manifestations as they are called are so common in France that everyone takes them in stride. It’s a way of life.
Anyway, I did something right with Le Sénateur and his wife because they told The Frenchman jokingly that I was too good for him. Ha!
Off to create as much mischief as possible today.