Warmer nights and longer days... A sure sign that Spring has sprung, and that Summer is fast approaching. What better way to celebrate the coming of a new season, than with a cocktail party at the foot of the Musée du Louvre?
I had been invited only one week prior to the Tour Auto Launch Party in the Tuileries gardens, and of course, I had accepted.
My new roomie, Eva, and I sipped on red wine and pondered the all important decision of what to wear.
I was adamant, "It's a cocktail party... So I should wear a cocktail dress"
"Yes, but it's a cocktail party in Paris, and it's a Monday night... You can't wear a cocktail dress." Eva replied.
"Well I can't wear pants, and the only other alternative is a cocktail dress."
The discussion continued back and forth like this for another 10 minutes or so, before Eva went to her wardrobe and pulled out a black silk dress. Very elegant, yet very simple. Knee length and loose. No plunging neck line, and no sparkling beads or over-the-top embroidery.
It was a little dressy, yes. But I had more or less decided to say...
"Screw you Paris!"...
It was, after all, a cocktail party, and I wanted to look at least half decent.
I matched the dress with some red kitten heels, black tights and a jacket. A simple, plain, conservative outfit. Very 'cocktail party on a Monday night in Paris' worthy. Or so I thought.
The Tuileries Gardens (I didn't take this on the night... But it gives you the idea)
As the cab pulled up beside the Tuileries Gardens, I caught a glimpse of the sea of denim jeans, flat shoes, and after-work attire which lay beyond the wrought iron gate. Despite the fact that it was a very balmy evening, I buttoned up my jacket to conceal the rather 'dressy' silk dress beneath, and muttered under my breath, "congratulations Nicola - Yet again, you are over-dressed!"
I walked all of two steps before I was bombarded with waiters offering everything from petits fours, to champagne flutes of bubbling Veuve.
Would I like a chocolate mousse? Why not.
And a mini crème brûlée? Of course.
Champagne? Don't ask, just pour!
Juggling two desserts and one champagne, I set off walking past an array of different tents and a selection of amazing cars - some new, some old, and some vintage.
I was alone for a good half-hour before I found the tent I was looking for. During that half hour I soaked up the atmosphere of what it is to be at a Parisian cocktail party. The food was definitely one of the most striking aspects of this event. Indeed, I thought that the food on offer was just as striking as cars on display. And that's a big call, considering the total value of the cars would have well exceed the hundred million dollar mark.
As I replaced my empty mousse and brûlée dishes with a mini strawberry tart, and topped up my champagne glass, I wondered how an event of equivalent importance might have been held in Sydney. Firstly, the Veuve would not have been Veuve at all, but rather, some sort of sparkling wine. And the food... well the food would most definitely not compare to this. In Sydney, I would have probably been nibbling on those little pre-prepared pastry cups, filled with either caramelized onion or a dollop of ricotta cheese. By the same token, the women at the cocktail party in Sydney would be wearing black silk dresses and heels, unlike the women at the Parisian party, who were wearing jeans, nice flats and holding expensive handbags.
I eventually found the tent. Before entering I disposed of, what had become, my stained and crummy serviette and my empty champagne glass. I didn't want to give away how many petits fours I had eaten, or how many glasses of Veuve I had drunk.
Inside the tent there were 30 to 40 people, more barmen serving Veuve, several expensive cars on display and, wait for it, a towering croque en bouche in the corner of the room. Only in France!
Most people seemed clustered in small groups, either around the cars or beside the croque en bouche, sipping on Veuve and making small talk. All of a sudden, the fact that I didn't know anyone became painfully obvious. I think I may have even noticed a few people staring at me. Well, to be honest, they could have been staring at one of two things: The fact that I was the only one standing alone, or the fact that I was overdresse.! Either way, I felt the need to attach myself to one of these 'small clusters', and I felt the need to do it fast.
To my right was a group of about 6, slightly drunk and very jovial men. I walked up to them, and said "bonsoir!" It was perhaps the Veuve speaking, but they were all very chatty and friendly. One, in fact, was so friendly he gave me his phone number, and offered to take me 'out on the town' later that week. I accepted, and we did go out later that week... but I'm saving that story for next time.
At about 11pm I started to head home to my new, beautiful apartment. I was walking along Avenue Kleber, a street which runs from the Arc de Triomph to Trocadero. This part of Paris is filled with foreign embassies, expensive restaurants and ritzy apartments. The area is very chic, as are the people who live there. And to be honest, on this particular night, I myself looked rather chic.
When I was only a block from home, a car pulled up beside me and put down the window. Earphones in and music blaring, I didn't hear what he said. Assuming he wanted directions, I paused the music and approached the car.
"Tu travailles?" he asked. The translation - "Are you working?"
It took me a moment to register what he was asking...
And then I realized.
A PROSTITUTE?! This man thinks I'm a prostitute, walking the streets trying to earn some money!
I was furious. No one, in all my life, has ever, ever mistaken me for a prostitute! Unfortunately, because everything happened so quickly, and also because it was fairly late at night, all I could manage in French was a feeble "Non".
Let's just say the man got off lightly. My French simply isn't advanced enough so say what needs to be said in that kind of situation.
Excuse the vulgarity, but there is a moral to the story...
If and when you decide to say "screw you Paris," Paris will promptly put you back in your place, and try to "screw you" in return!