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Tuesday, 11 February 2014

A Paris Sunday

Monday, February 11th., Hotel Matignon, Paris.

When I got up yesterday snow was falling thickly. naturally the snow turned to rain. The chances are ten to one that in a large city the snow will degenerate into rain. I took a young lady friend to lunch at the Tour d'Argent. Of course tradition compelled me to order duck, and of course the waiter gave me a slip with the ordinal number of the duck which was served to us. This piece of ritual seems to be fixed forever in the proceedings of this ancient, good and expensive restaurant. We were the only foreigners in the place. I threw my slip on the floor. The next moment the waiter picked it up and gave it to me again. Out of regard for his emotional loyalty to the restaurant I put it in my pocket.

The Tour d'Argent restaurant claims that it was founded in 1582 and frequented by Henri IV; it does not however offer any documentation for these or other claims about its history. The Quai de Tournelle, where it stands, was not paved until 1650; before that it was "a slope, often flooded and almost always made inaccessible by mud". It does not appear in a list from 1824 of "The principal restaurants, who are distinguished by the elegance of the decoration of their salons and by the number and the care taken with the dishes found there... Duck, especially the pressed duck, is the specialty (Canard à la presse, Caneton à la presse, Caneton Tour d'Argent). The restaurant raises its ducks on its own farm. Diners who order the duck receive a postcard with the bird's serial number, now well over 1 million. The restaurant's wine cellar, guarded around the clock, contains more than 450,000 bottles whose value was estimated in 2009 at 25 million euros (£22.5 million). Some 15,000 wines are offered to diners on a 400-page list. The dining room has an excellent view of the river Seine and Notre Dame.

After the usual trouble over taxis on a wet day in Paris we drove to Notre Dame. The damp cold in the huge and gloomy interior was intense. Hundreds of girls in thin white or half-white sat or stood shivering, waiting for something or other to begin. The mere spectacle of them made me turn up the collar of my overcoat. We went out full of fatal germs.

Later, in search of galoshes, we went up the hill to the Avenue de Clichy, where, at a certain famous restaurant, I had frequently eaten the glorious dish at which Anglo-Saxons turn up their noses: tripe. The Avenue de Clichy was as open as on a week-day. We entered a large busy shop containing millions of pairs of shoes. The first thing we saw was a range of satin shoes. "Oh!" said my friend. "I like the look of those, and how cheap they are! I couldn't get those in London ...." She bought a pair of satin shoes in something less than half an hour. She was about to leave the shop when I said: "Galoshes?" She thought she might as well get a pair, and did get a pair. The entire business did not take more than an hour!

Time for tea. We paid a call, on the chance of a free tea. The hostess was ill in bed. Still, we got a free tea and lots of talk. I then severed myself from mankind and went to my hotel and to bed. I dined later with other friends at that notorious establishment "The Ox on the Roof", where the excessive stridency of the orchestra lifts all conversation to a shout. Thence to a cinema to see "White Shadows", presented by the great French film firm, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer! At 11.20 the show finished. Outside, wind and rain, but not a taxi. I walked to my hotel in the wind and the rain. End of a Paris Sunday.

Le Boeuf sur le Toit (The Ox on the Roof) is the name of a celebrated Parisian cabaret-bar, founded in 1921 by Louis Moysés which was originally located at 28, rue Boissy d'Anglas in the 8th arrondissement of Paris. It was notably the gathering place for the avant garde arts scene during the period between the wars.

White Shadows in the South Seas (1928) is a silent film adventure romance produced by Cosmopolitan Productions in association with MGM and distributed by MGM. The movie was directed by W.S. Van Dyke and starred Monte Blue and Raquel Torres. Based on the novel of the same name by Frederick O'Brien, the film is known for being the first MGM picture to be released with a pre-recordedsoundtrack and having won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography for Clyde De Vinna.

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