We pushed down on the brass levered handle in the middle of a stone facade. The building must have been a fortress in the middle of the island at one time, but cafes and restaurants now occupied the narrow stone caverns. The interior was wide enough for only one table on either side of the door. A bar sat at the rear of eight tables, and bright paintings punctuated the stone walls. Behind the bar was a hall leading to a private dining room.
"Non, non, monsieur, not open!" was the greeting from the maitre d', who approached us in a striped button-down with rolled-up sleeves.
Our watches read 7:00, and since we were used to dinner reservations at home at 6:30, we were usually the first ones in a restaurant overseas. Technically it was 6:55 p.m., since Charley and I always kept out watches five minutes fast. Two other couples came through the door behind us, happy to escape the drizzle.
"Not OK?" Charley said.
"Non, monsieur. Cinq (five) minutes!"
"It's raining," Charley protested. "We have to stand outside in the rain?"
"There's awning, monsieur."
The six of us marched back outside and shivered under a three-foot awning. Five minutes later we were readmitted.
We had a second 7:00 p.m. reservation at the Brasserie Closerie des Lilas in Paris. Brasseries are open all day and we really didn't need a reservation, but our hotel called to ensure a good table.
We arrived at 6:50 p.m., not having learned our lesson, and were shown to the bar because (one guess!) our table wasn't ready. The restaurant was empty, with the exception of four tables of Parisians eating inside the glass enclosure facing the street.
|Hemingway photo 1930|
With his four words in English and my four words in French, the bartender
explained the name of the Brasserie. The restaurant was a "closerie," or
greenhouse, with its glass walls and interior/exterior trees and flowering plants.
What I couldn't grasp was the "Lilas" part, since he kept pointing to a poster with the name of the restaurant and beautiful women in clothes from the Roaring 20's.
"Aura," he kept saying. I guess the full name of the place meant "Greenhouse of Lilacs with Beautiful Atmosphere (Perfume?)."
At 7:20 we were shown to our table facing a wall of mirrors. The concierge at our hotel must not have had much pull, if this was the best table in the place! "May we sit facing the garden?" I asked.
|Another famous Brasserie in Paris, Les Deux Magots|
|Sacre Coeur, Paris|
|View from Sacre Coeur|