An excerpt from  "Hungry for Paris"

paris1.jpg Some ten years ago, I went to dinner one night with no expectations. A London newspaper had asked me to write about Lapérouse, an old warhorse of a restaurant overlooking the Seine on the Left Bank—it was doing historic Paris restaurants, and this one’s been around forever. I politely suggested that there might be better candidates, because as far as I knew, this place was still a slumbering tourist table flogging its past: it has several charming tiny private dining rooms with badly scratched mirrors—as the legend goes, these cuts were made by ladies testing the veracity of newly offered diamonds (real diamonds cut glass).

The editor was unyielding, so off I went. The stale-smelling dining room was mostly empty on a winter night, and though the young mâitre d’hôtel was unexpectedly charming and gracious, I was more interested by my friend Anne’s gossipy accounts of a recent visit to Los Angeles than I was by the menu.

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eavesdroppingI admit it. I eavesdrop. I love it, but sometimes I end up a buttinsky. I start chatting with random people in a restaurant, and it’s so transparent that I have been leaning way far over in order to hear it all. One time, in New York, I overheard a first date. They met on Two middle-aged people (pushing 70, so maybe not middle age) were having a conversation and the cuckoo bird woman was telling her date she was a princess in some obscure country no one has heard of. I’m not kidding. I wanted her to go to the bathroom so I could tell the guy to make a run for it. And it was SO none of my fucking business. And yet, I continue this pursuit even though the hearing is now diminished in my right ear and I have to be seated just so in order to overhear everything.

I’ve been in Quebec the past week and can’t often eavesdrop because everyone is speaking French, damn them -- and me for not learning the language. But, the other night I did spend a great deal of time totally engaged in other diners’ conversation. We were in a small room, three tables of families. The middle table asked the couple by the window how long they’d been coming to Gibby’s. I perked up because hey, it was in English. Apparently, the couple drove many miles, from Laval, to come to this small village, Saint Sauveur, as did the family in the middle who came from Saint Agathe. They agreed it was a wonderful experience and worth the drive. Then the conversation went into a whole boring part with questions from the middle table about the window table’s drilling business. Don’t you hate when other tables’ conversations get boring?

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spanish-steps-rome.jpgThe commercial kept calling out to us. A catchy tune and the promise of a round trip ticket to anywhere in Europe for under $500. None of us could resist and the plan was in motion. Andrea and I would fly from L.A. and land in New York for a layover where we’d meet Stacey at JFK. Actually, it might be tricky since my two friends hadn’t even met yet.

It was the dead of winter. Stacey called to let me know about this great coat she bought. She couldn’t wait for me to see it because she just knew I was gonna love it. Andrea did some research and picked out a boutique hotel, within walking distance of the Spanish steps.

Speaking of walking, those two girls were planning on walking the whole city every day. They are both hardcore exercisers and felt that would be the best way to really see Rome. I tire easily, so that was so not going to be me. But, I would happily arrange to find some great restaurants. We all know what we’re good at. That’s my specialty.

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