In the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe, under the quivering leaves of plane trees stands a gleaming black bus ready for departure.
Welcome to Bustronome-Voyage Gourmand, an innovative addition to the tourism offer of Paris launched by entrepreneurs Jean-Christophe Fournier and Bertrand Mathiew, that takes passengers on a three-hour voyage through the famed City of Light while enjoying a delicious onboard 6-course dinner with accompanying drinks. Lunch options are also available.
Among the twenty sights the bus passes are Opera Garnier; the Louvre, the largest building in Paris and largest museum in the world; Notre Dame Cathedral; the Eiffel Tower; and Musee d’Orsay.
I have to make an admission here.
While I sensed it would be a reasonably enjoyable ride through one of Europe’s most elegant cities, I thought the trip might be a kitsch experience with dry boring commentary on headphones and a substandard menu.
Boy, was I ever wrong. The historical commentary is interesting, insightful and intriguing, a far cry from dry and boring, and the food excellent.
I mean did you know about the historic monkey penises of Paris? You certainly will if you take this excursion. You will also learn a lot about French literature and the power of a novel in creating strong literary tourism, especially the immense global success of Victor Hugo’s ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ and how it raised the prestige of the now-famous cathedral from its utter mediocrity.
Fascinating historical and cultural insights are imbued with the convenient use of an audio pen and interactive map. Passengers simply press the pen on key cultural sites on the paper map they are provided and listen to the commentary at their leisure.
Comfort is exceptional.
Leather seating, both armchair and banquette style, and polished oak tables anchored to the floor by a cast iron beam mean passengers do not shift around uneasily as the bus moves. A raised, tailor-made plexiglass table designed to hold plates and wine and champagne glasses and bottles firmly in place prevents spillage upon movement around the city. A curved glass ceiling and music emanating from speakers enhances the relaxing ambience.
As for food, chef Konte Gossy provided an excellent menu. My companion likened our gourmet journey to having different dishes in different places in Paris. And even better, as you have the best seat in the house right in the middle of the Place Vendôme.
For example, at the Arc de Triomphe and along the Avenue des Champs-Élysées we were served sea bass ceviche with guacamole, pomegranate and, surprisingly, popcorn, all with a mild spicy sauce, the popcorn adding not only a delightful roasty aroma but a little saltiness to the sweetness of the avocado and pomegranate.
Nearing Place de la Concorde, Place de la Madeleine and Place de l’Opéra, we were presented with a combo of asparagus and goats cheese, mousse-style, with little turrets of cheese and flags of asparagus and pickled onion.
And in front of Notre Dame Cathedral, we enjoyed a main dish of beef and risotto with carrots and peas.
Other dishes on our gourmet journey included cod with cauliflower, dried ochra and caperberries, cheese with quince gelée and a creative dessert, strawberry eggshell of white chocolate filled with strawberry cream and sprinkled with sable biscuit.
Aside from champagne, our fine dinner was accompanied by Ardèche Chardonnay from Maison Louis Latour in Burgundy and 6ème Sens, a red wine from Gerard Bertrand.
If you want to enjoy seeing Paris from a different perspective, think of Ernest Hemingway’s memoir, ‘A Moveable Feast,’ and hop on board the Bustronome.