Saturday, August 11, 2007

breakfast at the ritz and a bespoke couch

We ate breakfast in the garden at the hotel, an outdoor terrace tucked behind the building shaded by a blue awning and revolving around a small pool with four white ducks. Pots of ferns and begonias filled white painted cast iron plant stands, a note of Victoriana. The scrambled eggs and bacon were hearty served with little roasted potatoes, and ample bowls of fruit. But it is the yogurt which was of particular distinction. Fresh and tart, slightly acidic yet creamy, it was sublime.

At the turn of the 20th century, the five investors who built the historic building of this old hotel (known from the beginning as La Grande Dame) had planned to name the hotel after London's celebrated Carlton when one of the investors remarked that his best friend Cesar Ritz had opened a hotel in Paris in 1898 which had quickly become recognised as one of the finest. They felt the Ritz name alone could guarantee good fortune. The group successfully applied for the rights to use the name but had to agree to several luxury conditions. Any hotel bearing the Ritz name had to have a bathroom in every room; a kitchen on each floor so room-service meals could be served course by course; round the clock valet service, and a concierge who could do things like trace lost luggage, order theatre tickets, make dinner reservations. The lobby had to be small enough to create a certain intimacy, and the hotel had to have a wide curving staircase from the mezzanine so that, on special occasions, women could make dramatic entrances, displaying their gowns to their best advantage. On December 31, 1912 the Ritz-Carlton opened for $3 million with such a special occasion, celebrating with a banquet-ball, the guests dancing until the early hours of the morning.

It was late hours of our morning, and breakfast lead us to a clutch of stores on St. Laurent, furniture and design palaces all with unique personalities. We were on the hunt for a fold-out couch with a decent mattress to replace our old couch in our sitting room whose mattress has lost its form. We found this out recently when giving up our bedroom to a good friend visiting with her two young children. We took the guest room and felt like we'd been swallowed by a too large goosefeathered pillow.

When we stopped at Licari where we bought our bed, the sales woman tells us that they don't make a sofa bed, and she didn't think anyone else on the street did either. If someone had a good idea for a sofabed and offered it in their showroom, everyone else would know about it as to those in the business it's really considered an impossible piece of furniture.

Cote de Sud is across the torn up street from Licari, and we walked over planks and gravel to get to the front door. The mastermind behind this store which features their own designs as well as Phillipe Stark and other goodies from Kartell sat at his desk in his glassed in office at the back of the showroom tapping his pencil and taking phonecalls. We think he looks a little like the French film actor Gerard Depardieu. We admired the large round wooden dining table, the faux Louis chairs upholstered in glam-rock fabrics, and the espresso machine sitting on an elegant art deco bar. We felt rather desperate for a coffee. But we perservered and learned that Cote de Sud didn't have any fold-out couches on hand, but we could have one made to order with almost any model they make. We sat on and stroked and peered under cushions; we looked through a three-ring dossier of designs. We landed on a look that seemed to fit. The saleswoman drummed up an estimate. We would compare this with other options.

Out the door and to the Greek grocery down the street to load up on dried split fava beans for the restaurant and canned delicacies like stuffed grape leaves, the idea of cooking making us hungry for lunch. We head out to an untraveled part of the city in search of our next meal.

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