Paris Travel Tales
Chapter 4: Crazy for Costes Cafes and the Enormous Profiterole
The Costes brothers own a ton of cafes in Paris (really around 40) and one very "chi-chi" hotel, the Hotel Costes. Being an A-list celebrity and one of the beautiful people does not guarantee entrance to the Hotel Costes bar on a Saturday night. Its that exclusive. They are so exclusive that their web site has nothing on it - just the name of the hotel and a phone number for reservations. No, Samantha and I did not crash the gates there yet.... we always have next year. Instead, we hung out at two of my favorite Costes cafes in Paris, the Cafe Marly and the Cafe Beaubourg.
The Costes formula is simple - a wide variety of dishes with something for everyone, strikingly modern interiors, and wait staff that are as gorgeous as they are indifferent. Sounds overpriced and pretentious? Why do I like to hang out there? For the views of course, and I don't mean looking at the models moonlighting as waiters :)
After a long day of window shopping, Samantha and I jump on the Number 1 Metro line to return to our apartment. Since we are jet-lagged and not great at keeping time in the best of circumstances, it is rush hour. And, the metro is packed. We feel like sardines. I grab Samantha's coat and motion that I am getting off at Palais Royal. Samantha stumbles off behind me asking "Why are we getting off here?"
"Cafe Marly" , I smile.
"Great idea. Beats being crushed on the metro."
I love the Cafe Marly. It is actually housed in the Louvre. The tables on the Louvre's towering terrace are a stone's throw from the famous I.M. Pei pyramid. Sitting at the Cafe Marly, I like to look at the scale of the buildings, and try to imagine that at one time this was the royal residence. I've read that it would take you 24 hours to walk through every passageway/room in the Louvre - its that huge.
My favorite time to visit the Cafe Marly is right before sunset. I watch the sun set behind the palace, with the light dancing off of the reflecting pools and gray stone of the surrounding buildings.
Just as the courtyard is enveloped in dusk, "poof", the golden lights of the pyramid come on. Stunning and an experience that I never get tired of.
Samantha and I stand on the terrace, doing the chit-chat, waiting to be seated at a table. We wait and wait while three waiters are enjoying their own chit-chat.
Finally, after much hand waving, we get their attention. The waiter is apologizing for the delay while I motion at the table I would like to sit at. My favorite spot is at the small tables at the edge of the stone balcony with an unobstructed view of the glowing pyramids.
Samantha sees where I am pointing. "No way. Its too cold there and there is no heaters. We'll sit back here, " She directs the waiter.
"Come on Samantha. We need to see the pyramids." I whine, "It's not that cold. Just put your hat and gloves on".
"You're crazy. Its around 40 degrees out. I'm sitting under a heater." We sit at a table directly underneath a heater. "See this isn't that bad. You can still see the Pyramids. No one is sitting in front of us. " I notice that absolutely no one is sitting at the prime tables.
Chilled, I sink down into my warm, white, linen padded armchair and sigh. Since I've had kids, sitting on white anything when food is involved seems very decadent. I notice that I have a view of the pyramids, and Samantha is sitting across from me. This is not good.
"Samantha, you have to move."
She looks up from the menu.
"You can't see the pyramids. You're staring at a stone wall. Move over here so you can see the pyramids."
She looks at me like I am crazy. "I'm fine. I've seen the pyramids a hundred times. I just took a freaking movie of the pyramids." She waves her cell phone at me.
"But the view is the best part of this place. And, who knows we may never be here again." I pout dramatically.
"You are being ridiculous. You always act like this may be your last time here, but nothing can keep you away from Paris. " She drags her chair around the side of the table to humor me. I smile contentedly. When our champagne arrives, I toast to "carpe diem."
As we drink our glasses of Lanson champagne (11 euros), and split a large chicken satay appetizer (14 euros), I mention "Did you know that when I.M. Pei designed the pyramids that a new type of glass had to be developed. There was no existing glass in the world that had the strength, and clearness needed. And the glass couldn't be reflective, so that the pyramids are transparent against the other buildings. Isn't that amazing?"
She looks amused. She is used to me being an encyclopedia of esoteric facts about Paris. WT marvels that I can remember architectural details of monuments six thousand miles from my home (like there are 698 glass triangles in the pyramids - not 666 - that's an urban legend), but I can't remember our wedding anniversary. I know that its Feb. 13... I mean 11th, or maybe its the 12th. Its definitely in February though.
We turn our attention to trying to flag down a waiter to bring back my credit card that he disappeared with 30 minutes previously. I don't really mind the wait as long as I can look at the pyramids.
If you're more into sculpture than architecture, sit inside in the strikingly elegant, but modern, dining room.
Many tables overlook the Louvre's sculpture garden, filled with priceless artifacts from Grecian and Roman times. The menu is a mix of elegant French cuisine like grilled lamb tenderloin with haricot verts and truffle endive salad, and more normal fare like penne pasta and burgers with fries. If you're getting tired of French fare, Samantha swears that the Marly's hamburgers are the best she's had in Paris. The wine selection is good with wines starting at 7 euros a glass.
And, don't forget to peek into the elaborate stone and glass bathrooms upstairs. Even the bathrooms fit the "royal residence" theme.
For budget travelers, BYOB and sit in one of the many built-in stone benches on the ground level of the Louvre. You'll miss the cafe elegance, but the view is the same.
Address: 93 rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris
Tel: 01 49 26 06 60
Photo Credits: Sunset by Courtney Holden, IWU University; Pyramid Night by dirtydag.com; Cafe Marly by Carsten Clasom. All other photos property of Paris Escapes.
Author: Cheryl Montgomery