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Ambassdor’s Fourth of July Party

July 2, 2010

After sweating away and visiting the Marais for research yesterday, I got to put on my fancy pants and go to the U.S. Ambassador’s 4th of July party.

Hôtel de Pontalba

Yes, I know what the date was, I’ll get into that. The ambassador, whose offices are in Place de la Concorde, has an official residence at number 41, Rue du Faubourg St-Honoré, which is, of course, the fanciest street in Paris. Every haute couture designer has a boutique on the block, and all of the official ambassadorial residences are there because it is right near the Elysée Palace, where President Nicolas Sarkozy resides. The mansion, known as the Hôtel de Pantalba, is a gorgeous 19th-century building designed by Louis Visconti.

Aside from the U.S. Ambassador (Charles Rivkin) and his family, the party was full of all sorts of fancy-pants people: millionaire directors of international companies, high-level military personnel from various countries (Vietnam, for one) and all sorts of yenta-ish members of the American ex-pat community, one of whom was kind enough to extend me an invitation (I knew him from  singing group I was attended while studying abroad—connections are important!).

In a sort of hilarious homage to American culture, the front garden was converted into a Route 66-themed affair, with different cities along the famous highway represented in photographs and various forms of “American” food, which included hot dogs (instead of serving cocktail wieners, which would have been appropriate, they cut hot dogs in half and served them with cornichons—gherkins, or, as I’ve heard them called, “gay pickles”), chips and salsa, empanadas, gaspacho, and basically lots of food that had nothing to do with the U.S. of A. But, best of all, they had cases of Sam Adams, my favorite beer which I was certain I wouldn’t be visiting until I returned to America. On either side of the palace huge American and French flags were draped, to the surprise of many of the returning guests.

Rivkin gave a nice (if unmemorable) speech about the two countries in both languages, after which an Air Force jazz band played standards, like In the Mood, and Sinatra’s New York, New York.

Although getting in the guards barely glanced at our invitations, apparently every year there is drama about who gets an invite, and who doesn’t in the American community in Paris. This year the line was negligible (it was really hot out), but my very verbose host told a great story about a year when the line was full and even Henry Kissinger had to wait to get in, which drove him up the wall. I love the idea of an angry Kissinger, “but don’t zey know who I yam!”

Now, I realize that this posting isn’t that informative for travelers, but what I did learn is that this year almost everyone who just asked politely was able to get in, as long as they were American. Or perhaps even not. So get in line, tourists! Just remember, that it was on July 1. Why, oh why is that?

Because: July 4th is on a Sunday, and even though France is a supposedly laïque country, it is inconceivable to ask a French person to do any kind of official anything on Sunday. So, we swear it has nothing to do with the Catholic holy day. Also, it could have been on July 2, but since that’s Canada day (and I agree with this), there is no reason why the USA needs to take over Canada’s holiday. You’re welcome, Canada! Or, je vous en prie, les Québecois.

It was a fancy suit-type affair—there were some beautiful dresses and suits there, including one Esther Kamatari, a Burundian-French woman who wore a wispy white, feathery dress that flowed with the air. Along with her dredlocked hair, painstakingly wrapped in white muslin strips, she was by far the most striking lady. Because I am not a masochist, I opted for light cotton shirt and linen pants, with no socks and penny loafers. I got quite a lot of looks (my deep sky blue glasses and matching shirt were a little loud, I guess) but by the end everyone was too tispy and sun-stroked to do anything but grin.

Interestingly, there were no smokers for the first hour and a half, and then once the jazz band started up little blue clouds began puffing up over the guests heads. The whole affair went from 6:00 p.m. to about 8:30 p.m., and guests left with a swag bag full of (ready for it?) peanut M&Ms, Terra Chips, and Tommy Hilfiger cologn.

A la prochaine!


5 Comments leave one →
  1. Elaine permalink
    July 2, 2010 16:30

    Isn’t Canada Day July 1?

  2. July 2, 2010 16:56

    Oh, you’re right! I was repeating what my host was telling me. How strange! I wonder why they did it then. Well anyway, it’s over now. And wow, it’s about to thunderstorm here! I love summer rain!

  3. Alex permalink
    July 3, 2010 06:04

    Good to see they picked a quality beer. I wonder if they served (*shudder*) Budweiser before they got bought by InBev?

  4. anna permalink
    July 3, 2010 17:19

    Joseph! Love the blog – it is wonderful to re-visit Paris through your eyes – I shall be a daily reader! Thanks

  5. July 4, 2010 21:56

    Joseph I want YOUR LIFE! bisous, la maman juive p.s. hi anna dear!

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