When we were dating my future wife made the mistake of mentioning that it would be nice to stay at the Four Seasons George V with me in Paris. I took this inactive conversation as a mission.
Twenty years have passed, but I remembered my mission. I had business in Geneva and suggested that we stop in Paris for a few days just for fun. My wife accepted.
I have made a great demonstration of the usually masculine incompetence in administrative matters. I asked my wife to find a Pension in Paris at a reasonable price. She did, but at the last moment I snatched the project away from her, pretending I had to combine it with business bookings.
I secretly booked the first night at the George V, and the following nights at the cheaper walk-in Pension in Montmartre.
We took the plane. At Charles de Gaulle (the airport, not the General, who is still dead), we took the bus to Etiole, the metro station near the George V and also called Charles de Gaulle (why not?). The peculiarity of the region is in fact the Arc du Triomphe. When we arrive, I hand over the receipts for Pension and such to my wife and ask her to note how to get there.
Her face lit up like Christmas morning and noted the reservation at the George V. The bus driver told us it was two blocks from the famous arch.
We had arrived in more than one way. The front desk manager was upset to say that our room had not been properly inspected. It was mid-morning, after all. We were ushered into the lobby restaurant to wait.
The lobby restaurant looked like your rich aunt’s living room in Saughanessy, Westmount or Rosedale – except with flowers. The George V not only has flowers everywhere, it has mounted and posed them in an unusual way. The stems are at a 45-degree angle so that passers-by can see the front of the flower at eye level.
In the comfortable loveseats in the lobby, we were offered baguette, ham and cheese. Fine.
“Do you have a good Chardonnay?” I asked.
Of course not! Why would a Parisian waiter, even in the George V, have either what one asks of him, or an ordinary Chardonnay.
The man drank a good wine on the other side of the Loire Valley, probably the sunny side. He was a Sancerrois. We don’t want to embarrass ourselves in front of the waiter at the lobby bar of the George V Hotel, do we? We ordered what he wanted us to order without incident.
After the flight and time zone change, a crispy glass shattered us. Fortunately, the Parisian official responsible for these things had agreed to the availability of our room, and we went to take a nap.
After the nap we found a great steak and fries restaurant. I noted the small portions, but also noted that I was taller than the average Parisian. But then our server came up with a second serving of steak and fries.
Back at the hotel, we fell asleep early and got up early. Around 6 a.m., we had coffee and chocolate croissants. We walked around the neighborhood, visited the hotel, and took another nap to get rid of the jet lag.
With all the naps it felt like we had been in the famous hotel for a week. But, in reality, about 24 hours after we arrived, we were back with the front desk manager. I’m not sure why he was so nice to us, but he might have noticed that I had stayed at the original Four Seasons hotel on Jarvis Street in Toronto for three weeks. It was right in front of the CBC, where I had just been transferred. Since I was from Toronto, maybe he thought I was a spy at the Four Seasons headquarters.
Anyway, he showed me the bill. I noticed that our snack in the lobby bar and our Sancerre wine were missing. The manager said in that wonderfully dismissive French manner: “Oh, we don’t care about those details.” He also said the same about the room service charge they forgot.
It was a few hundred dollars worth of treats on a bill of about a thousand.
Then the manager asked me if we wanted a taxi to go to the airport. I almost panicked. I couldn’t tell the front desk manager of the George V hotel that we were going to a much cheaper Parisian pension.
“No… Were… Uh… Going to stay with friends.
We left – thankful for the snacks and the subterfuge.
When he’s not traveling Dr. Allan Bonner, MSc, DBA, is a Toronto-based crisis manager.
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