Did you see this in the weekend travel section of the New York Times? Fellow named Jim Haynes opens his apartment to complete strangers for Sunday dinner. How cool is that!
Hah! Cornichon wrote about this gent five years ago! Another expat, Patricia LaPlante Collins used to do the same, though she's now moved the gathering to a café on the Place de la Bastille. Here are their stories.
On the phone, Jim Haynes invites me to come for dinner on Sunday, something he's been saying to visitors for decades. By now, well over 100,000 people--most of them total strangers--have accepted his invitation. mostly, but not exclusively, American visitors. [Another 25,000 have been added over the past five years.]
In a not-particularly-fashionable neighborhood in the southeast quadrant of Paris, a high metal gate swings open. You walk into a courtyard and enter a high-ceilinged artist's studio. Jim is on a stool next to the stove, welcoming new arrivals (or on the phone, talking to strays who got lost). By 9 PM, the apartment is crowded with perhaps 75 or 80 guests.
The three-course menu is unpretentious and tasty: salad, boeuf bourguignon over pasta, ice cream with poached pears. On the landing, you help yourself to decent, bag-in-box wine. And you meet people, you converse. Jim makes sure of that. He calls out names. "Pierre, talk to Julie! Mitch from Cleveland, right? This is Suzanne. She lives in the neighborhood." He doesn't refer to his guest list, has it down pat. "Ronald, Seattle, Bruce, Seattle." Bruce ignores me; he hasn't come this far to meet neighbors.
A few of the guests are newcomers, some come regularly, others whenever they're in town. To be sure, some are just cruising, but many are couples. "It's a nice way to spend a Sunday night in Paris," says a Belgian expat.
"Ronald, you speak French. Sit over there by the bookcase with Martine and Danielle!" They live in the suburbs, tell me they've heard about Jim's soirées for years, finally decided to see for themselves.
Jim is from Louisiana, a theatrical type (as if you couldn't guess), clearly enjoys his role as stage-manager. Why does he do it, this whole permanent floating crap game of an international dinner party? A pause, a smile. "Why not?" he answers.
To reserve a dinner spot, call Jim directly at 01-43-27-17-67 in Paris, or visit his website, jim-haynes.com.
Patricia Laplante-Collins, born in Atlanta, embraces the hand life has dealt her: professional expatriate. From Sarah Lawrence to Italy to France, she's moved in unexpected directions. Eight years ago she started Paris Soirées, opening her apartment to foreign visitors and introducing them to local culture at twice-weekly dinners and cocktail parties.
We met for lunch (since it was a weekday) at a delightful, funky bistro on the Ile St. Louis, around the corner from Patricia's old apartment. Patricia arrives accompanied by her black lab, Eve, who enjoys the status of Honorary House Dog wherever she goes.
If she'd stayed in Atlanta, Patricia would probably have ended up with a perfectly decent middle-class career, a family and a house with a picket fence in a leafy-green neighborhood. Instead, she's in Paris, with a devoted following of artists and intellectuals, not to mention an amazing dog, at the very summit of western civilization.
To get on the list for one of Patricia's soirées, call her at 01 43 26 12 88 in Paris or send an email to ParisSoirees@gmail.com.