This actually happened a couple of weeks ago, so consider it a delayed post. I’ve subscribed to Adrian Leeds‘ newsletter for years. Adrian is an expat who is, among many other ventures, is a French property consultant. If, like me, you’re addicted to House Hunters International, you’ve seen her on most of the Paris episodes. Each month, Adrian holds Après Midi, where a guest speaker talks about various topics of interest. I made it a point to be in Paris during one of them and attended the most recent one.
The speaker was Jim Haynes, a colorful and fascinating man who has hosted a Sunday dinner in Paris for over the past 35 years. That’s every Sunday, even if it’s a holiday, with the exception of a couple of weeks in August, when he attends the Edinburgh International Festival. During the summer, Jim has about 120 people each Sunday as it spills onto the garden outside his home. During the winter, about 60 people attend and there is usually a waiting list.
After hearing Jim’s stories about his life and how these dinners came to pass, I spoke with him briefly and said that I was in Paris for a short time and would know for the next time to get on the waiting list. Jim then told me to come to dinner that Sunday. Considering it was my birthday and I didn’t have anything planned, I jumped at the chance to go. And it did not disappoint.
It’s a relatively small space so everyone gets to know each other really well really quickly. On one wall is lined of books by authors who have in some way been a part of Jim’s life over the years. As for the guests, what a eclectic mix of interesting people, from American college professors to British theatre directors to a couple of Australian kids halfway through a global trek. The dinner is so well known, especially in ex-pat circles, that people all over the world plan for it. And yes, they all speak English. I don’t think I heard a word of French all night. The food is good but it is really the social interaction that made it special.
I honestly have to say it’s been the highlight of my trip so far and I highly recommend anyone coming to Paris to plan to get on the list in advance.