To celebrate their tenth anniversary, two normally sensible friends of mine decided to fly from Iowa to Paris on a bargain fare (the sensible part) and treat themselves to a weekend at the famous George V Hotel (get outta here!). The V is pronounced ‘cinq’ (which is pronounced ‘sank’) but stands for ‘very expensive.’
‘Built in 1926,’ Alan reports, ‘the hotel was Eisenhower’s headquarters after the liberation of Paris in WWII. It was completely remodeled in 1999 and is now simply spectacular. I’m not a big fan of frilly-French furniture but I have to admit this was eye-popping – like living at Versailles.’
Ah, Paris. I don’t mean to show off, but I have actually been there myself. The Seine! The Eiffel Tower! And the money! They use francs! You get about seven of them for a single dollar. Is that cool or what? These days, they use Euros as well – a Euro is worth about 90 cents, and so about 6 francs – and in most places prices are shown both ways, although some show just one or the other. But – and here’s a really neat thing – the money is in color. But I digress.
‘Coming back from dinner Sunday evening,’ Alan continues, ‘we walked past a sumptuous sitting area in our hotel, where drinks are served as a pianist plays quietly in the background. Clark suggested we sit and have a glass of cognac before bedtime, so we did. I was feeling like it was very special and romantic so I wanted to order him a glass of the best one they had and surprise him as he was drinking it. (‘Hey, you know you are drinking a $60 glass of Cognac from 1806!’) So I did the ordering. The waiter came over to take our order and when I told him I wanted two glasses of that one he said, ‘Are you sure?’ and I said ‘Why? Isn’t it very good?’ (thinking he was trying to tell me there were better ones) and he said ‘No, it’s wonderful.’ So I ordered it. A few minutes later he brought it and Clark and I toasted each other and then I sprung it on him. ‘It’s from 1806!’ Sixty dollars for a smidgeon of cognac at the bottom of a large glass. We felt very decadent.
‘The young waiter came back and asked us how we liked it and we said it was wonderful. (Frankly I can’t tell one cognac from another, but Clark can.) He said that the hotel had only one bottle of it, that it was basically on the list for prestige value, and that I was only the fourth person to ever order it. He said he had never tasted it personally but he hoped to sometime. He had an awe toward it. (I thought about telling him, ‘Here, take a sip,’ but it was a much too fancy place for something so informal as that.)
‘After he walked away it dawned on me. (You have probably beaten me to the punch line of this story) … the price I saw was not 380 Francs per glass, but 380 EUROS. When I told Clark what I had done he gasped. We looked at the cognac and stared at each other for a moment, then just laughed in a nervous ‘oh my gawd, what have we done’ sort of way. I told him it was still my treat to him, even if it was six times what I thought I was paying. Oh well, it’s a memory we’ll never forget – and it makes a good (horror) story – at my expense – LITERALLY! Ouch.”