The Hall of Temptations

When in Paris, the only reason not to stay at the Ritz is if you can’t afford it.”   – Ernest Hemingway

Awning over a window with the Ritz logo

I can’t say for sure but I suspect Hemingway was right.  I’ve never stayed at the Ritz in Paris, and if the Hall of Temptations is any indication, I can’t afford it.

I was at this iconic hotel in October to attend a culinary workshop at the École Ritz Escoffier. The registration package I received included instructions to enter the school through the service entrance off Rue Cambon. Really? The service entrance? I felt like a scullery maid as the receptionist ushered me down a deep stairway into the kitchens of one of the world’s most luxurious hotels, but my indignation was quickly forgotten as I spent the next four hours immersed in the wonders of haute cuisine. After class, I asked my translator, Sophie, if she could show me how to get to the Hemingway Bar without having to go back out on the street. (Truth be told, I just wanted an excuse to look around.) Sophie escorted me only as far as the elevator since students and employees of the school are not allowed to enter the public areas of the hotel.

I stepped out of the elevator and into the Hall of Temptations. The Ritz consists of two buildings – the original on Place Vendome and another on Rue Cambon. The Hall of Temptations is a very long corridor that links the two. Royal blue carpet with a buttery yellow floral pattern runs the length of the hall while glass display cases flank both sides. Behind the glass is a wildly eclectic mix of the most luxurious and unusual items that Paris has to offer. Need a new tiara? A new gem-encrusted walking stick? Maybe a crocodile handbag or a pair of alligator shoes? Cartier diamonds? Couture from Dior  or Chanel? An exotic hookah pipe or maybe an absinthe fountain? Well, you’ve come to the right place. But you won’t find any price tags in the Hall of Temptations, presumably because if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.

It seems like there are almost as many luxury food shops in Paris as there are luxury hotels. Some of the most famous gourmet stores specialize in just a single delicacy like caviar, or lobster, or macarons.

Window display of prunier caviar

display of fresh seafood in Paris seafood market

coloured assortment of macarons

Taking Metro Line 1, I left the Hall of Temptations and the luxury food shops surrounding L’église de la Madeleine behind and headed back to my apartment in the Marais. At the top of the stairs coming up from the Bastille Station (on the same corner as the Banque de France), I burst out of my little champagne bubble and back to reality. Not everyone living in the City of Light is putting on the Ritz, dining on truffles and fois gras.

I almost tripped over a family of four living in a pup tent they had pitched on the sidewalk. I had walked past them at least a dozen times during my stay in Paris. On warmer days, they all sat together on a mattress in the open air – a handsome man, a woman, and two small toddlers – but on this particular night it was raining and they had taken shelter inside a tiny red tent. Each time I saw them I wondered what had brought them to this place and these circumstances. How had they lost their home? Where were they from? Where were their families? I would never know their story but their situation contrasted so sharply with the excesses of the Hall of Temptations (so fresh in my mind) that I could not just walk by. The tent’s zipper was open and I could hear the children playing inside.  I inched closer, held out the last of my euro and said,

“Monsieur bonsoir.  S’il vous plaît.  Pour vos enfants.”

This post was submitted to Nathan Bransford’s 3rd Annual Heifer International Fundraiser blogging event.

Happy Holidays!

30 Comments

  1. Goats, pigs, cows … anything to help.

    Reply
    • Thanks Nathan – hope to join you again next year.

      Reply
  2. Laura, from one aspiring to another (late-blooming) one, lovely article. I get Heifer’s catalog in the mail at Christmas. It’s a great cause. Will spread the news.

    Reply
    • Thank you! You’ve led a very exciting live so far (first 50), and have found a fascinating niche to write about. I’ve just subscribed and can’t wait to dig into Book One :-)

      Reply
  3. What a great post!

    I love Heifer International and the work they do around the world– those are gifts that really make sense. Thanks for multiplying the giving, and enjoy your holidays!

    Reply
    • And thank you for also taking part in this event. Happy Holidays to you too.

      Reply
  4. Great post! Heifer International is a wonderful organization. Our church has worked through them before. What a fantastic way for you to celebrate the holidays by giving to others.

    Reply
    • Thanks very much for taking the time to stop. I really like their “Pass on the Gift” approach. It means a little goes a long way.

      Reply
  5. Found this article quite interesting. Your blog makes me want to go & see these things for myself. Look forward to each blog issuance. AM

    Reply
    • Thanks Mary! I’m really glad you enjoyed it. Hope you all had a very Merry Christmas :-)

      Reply
  6. Love this post and the pictures! Thanks for doing this! I hope you have a wonderful holiday!

    Reply
  7. Thank you for doing this.

    Reply
    • Sometimes it feels like my whole life revolves around food – eating, cooking, shopping, blogging, reading, and sometimes even dreaming about it. It’s hard to imagine what it would be like to have none.

      Thanks a lot for stopping by.

      Reply
  8. Thank you! I often fish the same rivers that Hemingway fished here in Michigan, and I have read about his times in Europe, but your story sheds a different kind of light on it.

    Reply
    • His passion for nature and the outdoors must have outweighed the lure of the luxury hotel. Paris was the last big city he ever lived in.

      Happy Holidays to you!

      Reply
  9. I Love your work HAPPY CHRISTMAS :)

    Reply
    • Jake – thanks very much! I always look forward to seeing your creative interpretations of the weekly photo challenges. Happy Christmas to you too :-)

      Reply
  10. What a wonderful post and a wonderful thing that you are doing. Merry Christmas.

    Reply
    • Thank you Karen. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. You’re stuffed turkey tenderloin looks divine!

      Reply
    • Thanks Bryan! Hope you’re stuffed with turkey now, or whatever your holiday tradition brings to the table.

      Reply
  11. What a nice thing to do. Even if I’m late, i just want to say i love what you’re doing.

    Reply
    • You’re not too late. I extended it another 24 hours (midnight Christmas Day instead of midnight Christmas Eve). Thank you so much for your kind comments. Happy Holidays to you.

      Reply
  12. This is such a thoughtful post showing luxury and need at the same time. And I like your description of the Hall itself. You clearly have a good memory. Excellent post!

    Reply
    • Thank you so much! Blogging really helps me keep the memories fresh. I’m not sure what I’ll do when I run out of things to write about Paris. I guess when that time comes I’ll have to plan another trip :-)

      Happy New Year!

      Reply
  13. Yes, plan another trip to Paris, or indeed to anywhere in France. As soon as I find an excuse to go, I’ll be planning one myself (she said with an empty purse). The photos of lobsters and macaroons and caviar boxes are just the best colours; you have a great eye for colour, Laura. And those chèvre breakfast photos look good enough to eat…

    Reply
    • Thanks Trish! Maybe Provence…although I have the same problem as you with my purse :-)

      Reply

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