Monday night was stormy, rainy, and icy cold. I did not relish going out to meet with a group of friends – “rive gauche” artists, writers, and a publisher – at the largest and most legendary brasserie in Paris, “La Coupole”.
However, at 8:30 p.m., I found myself grudgingly being driven to “La Coupole” in Montparnasse, having mustered enough energy to dress up, deciding on a dramatic outfit to suit the occasion and ambience of this most flamboyant of Parisian institutions.
Upon entering the hallowed doors of this great brasserie, I heard the faint sound of music emanating from the dance hall below, the song was “J’ai deux amours” (..”mon pays et Paris” – a song I’ve always adored), the voice was that of the most dazzling of stars and singers, Josephine Baker.
An image of her walking down the long stretch of the isle of La Coupole, accompanied by her beloved pet cheetah, enveloped me. I continued to imagine her going through to the vast bar, where she was greeted fabulously by Ernest Hemingway (who called her “… the most sensational woman anyone ever saw”), F. Scott Fitzgerald, Pablo Picasso, Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Bouvoir (who loved to dance in the celebrated dance hall), to name only a few of the many artists and great personalities of the time, who frequented the place.
How I would have loved to turn back the clock to have been there among those stellar and larger than life personalities.
Reluctantly coming back from my reverie to reality, I found myself sitting around a huge table with my talented and artistic group of friends, who had ordered the brasserie’s famous “curry d’agneau”, along with other succulent dishes… escargots, lamb cutlets, and the most delicious “frites”, among many other typically French fare.
“Ensuite”, we ordered the Chef’s special, and one of my all-time favourite desserts, “Crêpes Suzette, flambé en salle”. Watching with great excitement and expectation the “maître d’hôtel” expertly flambéing the delicately golden Suzettes – with the blue flame of the Grand Marnier liqueur lighting up the whole dish – was pure theatre…
The crêpes were exquisite.
Champagne was flowing, with the “joie de vivre” and loud chatter that is “typiquement” La Coupole, the whole place seemed to turn into an amazing stage, with the delighted guests wallowing in its magical atmosphere – each reveling in playing their part on this most fabulous stage…
Where people-watching and being watched is “de rigueur”…
I promise I’ll never say no to an invitation to La Coupole again, “même” on a stormy, rainy, and icy cold night.