With our last minute airplane tickets in hand, Paul and I head from Manhattan to Kennedy Airport for a flight to Paris. Our four-day excursion to the City of Light is an annual ritual.
Our trips to Paris invariably ratchet up our joie de vivre, thanks to lessons learned about the art of compromise.
The details of our yearly excursions are never planned far in advance-less likely that one of us will have to cancel them. We favor preparations at the eleventh hour-searching frantically for bargain airfares, deep discounts on lodging, nightly restaurant reservations and up to date listings of exhibits that are covered in the citywide museum pass.
The week we are to leave, Paul and I brush up on our French and check out the latest edition of our favorite guidebook: Paris Inside Out, by David Applefield. It refreshes our memories of previous treasured visits and helps us to settle on new explorations.
This year, cheaptickets.com turns up the best priced roundtrip airfares between New York and Paris– Air France, at $932 for a pair of them. The French Bureau de Tourisme talks Paul into booking a glamorous bedroom at the Hotel Napoleon for $170 per night, which is fifty per cent of its standard rate. Internet access is intermittent, and I’ll be grappling with a French computer keyboard, but I am still suitably impressed. Errol Flynn slept here!
The Napoleon is a stone’s throw from the fabled Champs Elysees and around the corner from sizzling poker games that go from dusk to dawn at Aviation Club de France. The hotel is also just one block away from a nightclub in the style of the Folies Bergeres.
Paul suggests that I get poker out of my system early on this trip. He reminds me that during my last visit to the Aviation he slipped out the door, opting to watch leggy showgirls, rather than my four queens, as they cracked an opponent’s full house. I remind Paul that he returned to the Aviation that night, in time to join me in the Club’s stunningly appointed gourmet dining room, where my winnings picked up the check! Tonight, I take in enough winnings to pay for a mini shopping expedition at Chanel’s flagship store on Rue Cambon, with enough left over to buy Paul dinner at Alain Ducasse’s top rated restaurant at the Hotel Plaza Athenee.
On day two, we figure it is time to get serious in our hunt for an Empire Ormulu antique desk. Paul is no fan of shopping of any kind, but he appreciates a well worn patina. He secures a private tour for us at Carousel Louvre, the most prestigious antiques fair in the world. Forewarned and forearmed, I speak strictly French here. Respecting the language is the key to seeing better goods in the back of the shops with better prices than the ones shown on the front of the sales tickets.
At the end of day three, we’ve enjoyed three lunches at quaint bistros and a half day “play date” in the park at Montmartre with local artists who do charcoal and pastel portraits of the two of us, in twenty minutes, for fifty dollars a piece. Our three dinners are spectacular three hour affairs, including our perennial choice of Taillevent which remains at the top of the heap in France’s vaunted Michelin Guide.
The crowning glory of the weekend is our day trip to the home and gardens of Giverny where Claude Monet painted his tableaux of water lilies; the biggest victory of the trip is beating the clock in time to get back to Paris’ intimate Orangerie Museum to see the fruits of Monet’s labor – his magnificent collection of water lilies that line the entirety of the museum’s basement walls.
The final morning we hit the streets for one more whirlwind tour: a last look at Notre Dame, a five minute stop to eye the Mona Lisa at the Louvre and a few more minutes to stand in awe at the Pantheon while we ponder Mirabeau, Voltaire, Rousseau, Hugo and Zola and the recently added humanist novelist AndrÃ© Malraux.
Paul and I will return to the city of Paris, again and again, because it offers a recurring feast for the eyes and the palate and the prospect of a profitable disruption in a hopping poker game.
Wendeen Eolis has been selected as one of the six women to compete in the 2004 WPT Women’s Invitational. Ms. Eolis’ accomplishments in business politics and poker have been profiled in the New York Times (four times), GQ and numerous other newspapers and magazines, as well as on the BBC, Court TV, and A&E’s Biography. She is the CEO of EOLIS International Group and has served as former first assistant to Governor George E. Pataki and as special advisor to Mayor Rudolph W Giuliani. Her e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s Note: This feature is adapted from material that is slated for inclusion in Ms. Eolis’ book in progress,”Power Poker Dame.”