We were in Paris for a week to celebrate the Inn at Little Washington’s 40th anniversary (and its 3rd Michelin star). The weather was lovely—sunny and crisp. In total, we ate at 5 restaurants (if you count the Inn) with a total of 12 Michelin stars (yes, we are gluttonous pigs). But it was a glorious gluttony!
We went with two friends of ours from Wichita and stayed at the Shangri-la Paris. The Shangri-la is situated in the 17th arrondissement, looking over the Eiffel Tower, and the building is the former estate of Napoleon’s great-nephew, Roland Bonaparte.
The Inn had arranged for a couple of additional events for us to attend. The first was a private tour of the Dior archives, which consists of both clothing and documents. It was fascinating to see how the archivists conserved vintage clothing and preserved various documents from the Dior shows and from the designer himself.
In addition, Jamie McCourt, the US ambassador to France, hosted a reception at her residence for the Inn. The ambassadorial residence is a building that was formerly owned by a New Orleans-born woman, the Baroness de Pontalba. (Talleyrand also once lived at that same location). After the death of the Baroness, one of the Rothschilds purchased the estate. The family fled to Switzerland when the Germans invaded. This proved to be a wise decision as the residence then became a club for Goering’s officers during the German occupation.
The residence and the grounds are beautiful, and there is even a Calder located on the grounds (it’s on loan).
But the crowning event celebrating the Inn took place at Vaux-le-Vicomte, the former residence of Louis XIV’s finance minister. It is said that Louis XIV modeled Versailles after Vaux-le-Vicomte (with Versailles being a bigger and better model, of course—that’s what happens when you’re an absolute monarch). Vaux-le-Vicomte is a drop dead fairy tale-like gorgeous chateau, complete with moat in front (no sharks) and an 18th century French formal garden in the back.
There were guardsmen, jugglers, musicians, and flamethrowers, all dressed in 17th century period clothing. Patrick O’Connell, the chef and owner of the Inn, was also dressed in period costume.
The food was excellent (of course!) and at the end of the evening, there were the most amazing fireworks in the garden, set to music. It was the most elaborate fireworks show I have ever seen.
In between all of these events, we played conventional tourists (the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, and Notre Dame) as well as unconventional tourists (Musée de Marmottan, Musée de L’Orangerie—both filled with Monet paintings, Musée d’Orsay, and Sainte Chapelle).
We also ate at Shang Palace, Taillevent, Guy Savoy, and L’Arpège. They were all their usual impressive places, but the place that stood out this time was L’Arpège. The chef is a genius with vegetables, which all come from his 10 hectare garden in Normandy.
Speaking personally, I am replete with paté and foie gras and red wine. It was a magnificent trip.