Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Guilty - a slave to what the international runways send down preseason to see what's in style in France and Italy. It's all over the top and too much fun to watch. A luxury item is a luxury item. Prices are predictably high in any given country.
So, I am taking a look at what is happening at the end of another runway - an airport one. How are people celebrating in France and Italy all year long?
On any ordinary day the men and women of Paris are beautiful to behold. I have to laugh
( to myself as I am, after all, in France where everyone is not only beautiful but soooo reserved) as I drink my coffee. Sitting shoulder to shoulder with others, outside of the Cafe Duree, the posture of the Parisians is one sitting facing the street and "viewing" life in a very different manner than I am accustomed to.
My French is fragile but I attempt to chat with a fellow coffee lover. I now have
a handle , pun intended, on what I will coin as "fete forward."
Less is more. The economy has seen to that . The cost of both living and celebrating
is enough to take one's breath away. So, churches and hotels see their fair share
of events while museums and other alternative venues do not. Wine flows and food is served in a most traditional fashion. Flowers are plentiful and are easily found
courtesy of Mother Nature. So, in good weather, parties take place in courtyards.
One birthday celebration at the Georges Cinq is set up with a number of small tents.
Iron bases have soft canopies tied atop supporting poles with cascading , filmy
ribbons. Table settings are smaller and more intimate. There appears to be less of
an emphasis on a focal point and more on the ambiance. Felicitations , Catherine!
Fete fit for a Roi. My tour guide in Versailles, Anne Marie, says that only large
companies plan events at the palace. The gardens have fifty
landscaping crews working on them day in and day out. A staff of fountain keepers
keep the same hours. So, a world wide player, such as Microsoft, can easily extend
invitations to hundreds of guests for a launch. Formal attire and entertainment.
Private families, however well off, do not look to take over the palace an its
surroundings. I am thinking that brides choose not to accept stress as part of
the planning process. There is a venue for everyone and there are , even in a soft economy, 365 days in a year.
When in Rome... and I am. My guide , Daniel, who is a native Italian with catering work experience in N.Y., Miami, Vegas and Colorado, explains to me what a fly on the
city walls of Rome gets to see and hear.
Life and its joyous moments are celebrated with dancing in the streets. I
am busy staring at a nude which I know well from my art history days in
college. Behind me a bride , her family and friends are draped in silk
and striking their own poses for impromptu pictures. Simple fabrics.
Simple surroundings. Simple foods. Like the statue, her memories will be
carved in stone and survive the years.
Get me to the church on time! There is one on every corner...maybe two?
In Florence, the land of luxurious leather, elegant gatherings are scaled down
to be intimate much like that of the French. I am struck by the attention to both fashion and fare. Stunning copies of original dress designs line the streets of the city. The menus I find are prefixed and delicious. Local wines are offered and , I think, worth raising one's glass to. There are string musicians
who create a most romantic mood. Boutique hotels offer rooms for private
gatherings and their price points are both non negotiable and flexible.
"No worries. " The Villa Scacciapensieri which is named with that in mind. I discover that foreign dignitaries and local politicians will, from time to time, escape to celebrate a meeting of the minds in style. French service in the Tuscany valley makes me laugh ( aloud this time as , in Italy, volume is encouraged)! Lemon trees are natural bounds set
for gatherings. Paola, who indulges me an iced coffee, a la America, shares
tales of weddings and anniversaries which are being celebrated at the villa.
Sculpture gardens and stone patios are old world settings for new , and returning, guests. On a clear day, one can see miles and miles into the distance.
Event coordinators do not appear with headsets. The details are handled in advance
and then a most seasoned staff takes over. A celebratory meal at one end of the patio lingers for hours. The group sits and sits...and sits... "last call" is the last thing anyone has on their minds. Every moment is one to be savored. A simple menu of foods and wines. I note the absence of a drycleaning service and , so,
it occurs to me that a change of wardrobe from ceremony to reception will
not be a dramatic one. My blood pressure drops and so stress is not
an invited guest in Sienna.
I'm heading home to see what the dollar buys and if it is worth celebrating
at home !
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