Often I find that when you open yourself up to the experience of dining alone, the world opens itself up to you. This is especially true when traveling.
My first stop after arriving in Paris, other than at the hotel to unpack, was at the Iconic Paris restaurant Le Grand Vefour (17 Rue de Beaujolais, 75001 Paris). I first visited Le Grand Vefour on my thirtieth birthday. A birthday present from my boyfriend (a while ago). A different time in my life and a world ago it seems now. I declared the foie gras ravioli the best dish in the entire world, and I have tried to visit this place whenever I am in Paris.
Le Grand Vefour opened in 1784 as the Café de Chartres on the same site where it is today, facing the Palais Royal Gardens. The walls and the ceiling of the restaurant are all gorgeous painted glass and mirrors in the Belle Époque style. They told me once that, during the war, they closed the restaurant and took down all the glass and mirrors and hid them so the Nazis would not steal them and take them back to Germany—quite a step back in time.
But, that is what I like about this restaurant. The more I change, the more the world changes, the more it stays the same here. I was visiting Paris alone this time, for a long weekend after several days in Amsterdam for a girls’ trip with our local museum. I did not want to miss the chance to visit Vefour, so I made my reservation for one and off I went. The maître d’ escorted me to my table and I remembered him and told him so. We spoke in my broken French and a little of his proper English about how often I had been to the restaurant and for how long. After that, I really was not alone much. The wait staff would chat with me for a second when in-between service for their tables. I admired the foie gras ravioli so much, my waiter brought me a couple of extra pieces. I met the chef and now owner Guy Martin, who is one of the finest chefs in the world today and the proud owner of a couple of Michelin stars attained during his impressive career. I helped the young Chinese couple next to me learn to eat a baguette (they were literally trying to cut it with a knife and fork like a steak which actually does not work) by showing them that you just tear your pieces. I had this incredibly immersive experience all while “eating by myself”.
It reminded me why I travel: to step outside of myself and my world, to live in the moment, and to know great places and interesting people. And the foie gras ravioli is still my favorite dish in all the world.
Here’s to experiencing the world and the best meal in Paris. Xoxo. Me.
P.S. I do not have any original photos of me in the restaurant as I would never take cell phone photographs in this restaurant. Ever. The photos of me were taken at the Hotel St. James where I stayed (and highly recommend) before leaving to go to Le Grand Vefour.