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Travel Flashback: 3-Star Embarrassment

Behind these doors, the most expensive bowl of soup you will ever eat.

Back in 2010, in the first step that would eventually lead me to Mockingbird Travel, I quit my corporate job, sold my car, packed my belongings into storage, and went back to graduate school. Between my last day of corporate life and my first day as a graduate student, I took myself to Paris.

My “excuse” for being in Paris was to improve my French, so I signed up for a language class. One day, two women in my class were talking about their plans for lunch the next week. One of the women, an Australian, suddenly turned to me and invited me to join them. The other woman (let’s call her ‘Betty’) said, “Sure, I can adjust the reservation.” And I thought, “A reservation for lunch! How fancy. I’ll wear the one and only skirt I brought with me on this trip.”

They didn’t tell me where we were going to eat, but we set a rendezvous in the Marais. When I got there, Betty told me that the Australian woman had cancelled. “What a shame,” I said; “should we go another day?”

“No, no,” Betty insisted, “I’ve got the reservation; we need to go today. And by the way,” she continued, “did I mention that the restaurant we’re going to is a Michelin 3 star?”

No, Betty, you didn’t mention that.

The alarm bells started going off in my head. My first thought was, “I’m unemployed! I’m spending the last of my ‘discretionary’ savings just to be here in Paris. This is NOT the time to eat at a Michelin 3-star restaurant!”

That thought was followed swiftly by the even more horrifying realization that I was currently wearing flip-flops.

I tried to protest a bit about my attire, but Betty was absolutely set on her plans, and I hated to be the party pooper who would send her there alone (though I was also starting to get suspicious about the Aussie’s sudden invitation to me and subsequent cancellation). I summoned up my best “go with the flow!” travel attitude and agreed to accompany Betty on her fancy lunch.

The Restaurant Guy Savoy, in the posh 17th arrondissement, was unassuming from the sidewalk. (I didn’t notice the white cordon ropes blocking off a parking space out front until later.) Inside, each and every tuxedoed waiter standing at attention between the front door and our table greeted us with “Bonjour.” If they noticed my footwear, they didn’t flinch. Once we were seated, they brought a little stool for Betty to sit her purse on.

For the nearly three hours it lasted, that lunch was truly one of the most extraordinary (and delicious) travel experiences I’ve ever had. Though my pocketbook felt the pinch at the time, I don’t regret going along for the ride. Plus, now I have the distinct honor of being able to say, with a fairly high degree of certainty, that I’m the only person ever to have dined at a Michelin 3 star in Paris while unemployed … and wearing flip-flops.

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