We spent the morning of Boris’ 60th birthday touring Claude Monet’s farmhouse and Gardens in Giverny, France. Now the birthday celebration returns to Paris for lunch at one of his favorites, Brasserie Bofinger. Last time we were in Paris the restaurant was closed for the season, much to Boris’ disappointment. We stopped by so Boris could show me the location, but I only got as far as the curb. This visit we have reservations under the dome.
As the restaurant puts it…”Founded in 1864, close to the Place des Vosges and the Place de la Bastille, the Brasserie Bofinger is considered the ‘most beautiful brewery in Paris'” The restaurant’s claim to fame is Alsatian food. Alsace is a cultural and historical region in eastern France, on the west bank of the upper Rhine next to Germany and Switzerland.
My impression is that the specialties of the house include German pork as well as fresh seafood. We started with seafood appetizers. I have been drinking champagne on this trip (my favorite). Boris has been joining me, but today he has switched to beer. And not small beers either. We are talking a really tall mug. We have ordered the assorted German meats to share as a main course.
The seafood was extraordinary from Boris’ escargot to my clams to the seafood tower that our neighbors had at the next table over. It was a lot of food. Next the waiter brought a raised stand to hold our meat and maintain the heat. By now Boris was on tall beer number two and we were both on butter overload.
Boris looked at the food. I served him; he was halfway through that second beer. He looked at the food again and then he got up, left the table, and said “I’ll be back in a minute”. Twenty minutes later (or at least it felt like it) he returned to the table and told me he didn’t feel so good but that I should keep eating. What? I am supposed to eat that platter by myself. (I do admit to eating some of the sausages while I was waiting, my German and Polish heritage shining through.)
Once he tilted his head back and moaned I knew we were done. I hated to not try at least one of the desserts-it was probably the best dessert menu I had seen in my life. I will definitely go back, for the seafood and the desserts (not sure about those large pork portions). I don’t know if it was the heat of day, the mix of beverages when we were a bit dehydrated, the excess of butter, the heavy meats after the seafood…In the end it really didn’t matter. I knew we had to leave. We handled the bill, got a cab, and got him to the hotel room as quickly as possible. Not exactly the way you want to celebrate a milestone birthday; I was also becoming increasingly concerned about out evening reservations at the Moulin Rouge. Timeless meal 3 of 5 didn’t go so well.
Once I knew the worse had passed and there was nothing I could do for him, I just let Boris sleep. At one point he got up and said he just wanted to sleep some more but that I didn’t need to stay. And then I remembered where our hotel was-right in the heart of all the department stores in Paris. Suddenly Natasha knew how to salvage the afternoon.
So I just walked down Rue Lazare and checked out a few of the stores I had found on-line or seen while we were walking by. I found an interesting boutique with colorful clothing and went in. The saleswoman-the only one who spoke any English-sized me up and then proceeded to pull things for me. Actually the clothing was quite reasonably priced and we had a lot of fun while trying to communicate with each other. Some reactions are universal.
A mom was in the dressing room next to mine. Her two teenage daughters sat in the chairs by the large mirror next to the upstairs dressing area. The girls knew a little English from school, so they tried to help too. I actually had fun and came back with some unique and colorful clothing.
Boris was awake and reading when I got back and said he really wanted to try to see the show at Moulin Rouge. So he got up and got dressed. We’ll give it a shot; we had prepaid reservations for the dinner and show.
At the Moulin Rouge, you check in in a hallway with several set of stairs. We arrived early for our 6:30 reservations, but the room was already crowded with guests. Just after 6:30, we were ushered into the lobby where our seats were assigned. Our wonderfully-placed table seated six, but we are the only two guests for dinner. Four more will join us for the show. There are two nightly shows at the Moulin Rouge.
According to Paris, the official website of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Moulin Rouge is the “most famous cabaret in the world [and] was immortalized by Toulouse-Lautrec…it opened in 1889[. Today t]he room is magnificently decorated in belle époque style and red velvet, with typical burlesque frescoes.”
We have now celebrated Boris’ birthday at two of the three famous cabarets in the world. First the Tropicana in Havana in March on our Cuba Cruise and the now the most famous, the Moulin Rouge in Paris. If we could make it to the Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro this year we would have the perfect trifecta.
Boris pulled his disappearing act during the three course dinner. He ate nothing. The food was good, but not the best of Paris. My octopus salad was particularly interesting and very good. The upside was that with Boris not eating or drinking I had the whole bottle of champagne to myself; nothing to complain about there. During dinner there were singers performing but the real show happens once dinner service is complete. That was when 4 additional guest joined us. Most people were there for both dinner and the show; that is certainly the way to get the best seats.
Unlike the Tropicana, I was unable to take photographs during the show. The performance featured a troupe of 60 artists from all over the world. The current show is called Féerie and is done in four acts Here we go again: “feathers, rhinestones, sequins, sparkling decor, acrobats, original music, international attractions … not forgetting the famous fast-paced French Cancan.”
The roller skating performers had to be the strangest, but excellent. The men’s costuming resulted in almost complete body coverage (unlike the Tropicana). On the flip side (and unlike the Tropicana) 95% of the time the women’s breasts were completely uncovered. You get used to seeing them. And if I may say, these women appeared to be natural and in all sizes. Not the fake oversized American “breasts” featured in the stateside shows. I liked all the acts except the clowns. (I’m not afraid of clowns, not do I find them creepy. I assume this part of the show was meant to funny, but it just came across as odd.)
Of course the highlight of the evening was the cancan. I am sure they can’t get away with doing a show without it. It was definitely Boris’ favorite. All too soon the evening was over and then you have to fight for a cab. Lot of price gouging was going on-be sure to settle on a price before you get in the cab or take alternative transportation. We tried several cabs before we found one with a price we could live with. The further from the door, the better the price.
Dinner and a show at the Moulin Rouge, this is the way to end a milestone birthday. Congratulations Boris!