Ravishing Ravel at Sainte Chapelle
Music can be found everywhere in Paris, not least in the churches. Last spring researching an upcoming trip to Paris, I happened upon a listing for a concert featuring the music of the French composer, Maurice Ravel, that was scheduled to take place at Sainte-Chapelle the week we would be in Paris. What more heavenly setting for a concert? After all, Sainte-Chapelle, on the Île de la Cité is widely recognized as one of the great architectural treasures of the western world, a Medieval beauty. A royal chapel in the Gothic style, it's within the medieval Palais de la Cité, which had been the residence of the kings of France until the 14th century.
However, when I tried to purchase tickets, the website was uncooperative, throwing up all manner of security warnings. This Nervous Nellie was hesitant about completing the online transaction. Calling the concierge at the hotel where we would be staying, I asked if he would go on-line and purchase two VIP tickets in Rows 3 to 10 for June 22nd.
"To go online is no good, madame," he said, "But as soon as I’m finished work this afternoon, I'll jump on my moto and pick them up for you."
"My motorbike, madame. It's the best way to get around Paris."
"O, can't you just call? I don’t want to put you to all that trouble," I fibbed.
"It’s no trouble, Madame. I want you to be happy while you are in Paris."
He did as promised, and I was happy. Very happy. It's that the light in Paris—the way it lingers late on a summer’s night—suits me. Even in summer it puts a spring in my step.
When we arrived that balmy June day at the hotel, no sooner had the concierge handed me the hard-to-come-by tickets, when, somewhere between le petit déjeuner in the breakfast room and ma chambre, I lost them. Were they thrown out along with the morning papers? It broke my heart to have to go downstairs and tell him my sad story. But once again, filled with good cheer, he hopped on his moto and puttered over to the Île de la Cité to secure, if not new tickets, a voucher showing the amount we had paid for them.
That evening, there was a large crowd milling around the gates and security was tight. We had to pass through three checkpoints before entering the chapel, and each time we did—Tickets? Non!—the voucher caused a bit of consternation. But our quick-thinking concierge had included a full accounting of the lost tickets -- one written in an elegant hand on pristine hotel stationery -- and of madame's carelessness. An account that was read at all three checkpoints. And each time it was, the guard's expression would run the emotional gamut, beginning with a furrowed brow and culminating in a broad smile. My fractured French is not up to handling the nuances, but I couldn't help but wonder: What exactly did the concierge say?
Which is how we found ourselves one lovely Sunday evening—the heat of the day lessening, the light softening—listening to a superb chamber music ensemble playing the music of Ravel in that rarefied setting. How was it? In a word: Divine.
After which, completely satisfied, we skipped dinner and settled for a nibble at the legendary Fouquet's on the Champs Elyseés, a place reeking of old-world glamour and having the best Croque Monsieur in town. And do you see the sloping chairs in the bar? Perfect for watching Paris go by.
I hope you'll come back next Sunday morning, as there's more to tell. Until then...may life treat you well.