We‚??re privileged to be having an abundance of special experiences this year. ¬†On some occasions though, it‚??s profoundly difficult when you sit down ‚?? laptop open ‚?? to know where to start. ¬†Sometimes I‚??m knocked for six and the euphoria freezes my typing hands. ¬†Day 290 was one such day. ¬†A surreal episode of fun, good food, even better company and inspirational beauty.¬†
The day before we‚??d woken in Amsterdam; sight seen in Brussels; golfed in rural Belgium; and laid our heads to rest in the middle of Paris. ¬†Friends Slambino & Smythe (whom we met in Melbourne, then stayed with in New Jersey) flew over for the occasion. ¬†From New York, for a couple of days. ¬†As you do. ¬†They‚??d arranged a night in Le Meridien Hotel, a stone‚??s throw from the Seine (left bank). ¬†Snoop Dawg guided us without error through the manic streets of Paris ‚?? where, like Burning Tree Club, there are no rules (except in this case, look after number one) ‚?? and after a long day, we found ourselves in the lobby. ¬†‚??Monsieur Sabino‚?Ě to give him his proper name met us outside our 12th floor suite, that familiar voice reverberating down the hallway with ‚??88-1‚?Ě (long story) as soon as we were within sight. ¬†Happy days. ¬†We sat in the hotel bar for a cheeky one then before long crashed out, knowing we had a big day ahead.
After what felt like 2 hours‚?? sleep the alarm did what it was supposed to do (which ironically is what I didn‚??t want it to do). ¬†Battle stations. ¬†Downstairs the lobby was alive with activity, and not short of glamorous people. ¬†It was quite a sight. ¬†Alas when the final troops gathered themselves people watching had to cease and driving had to commence ‚?? at this stage, just a couple of miles away to The Ritz. ¬†25 minutes later we arrived, alive. ¬†But of frazzled nerve. ¬†Taking a motor car around Paris is a nigh on suicidal affair ‚?? insurance must be expensive. ¬†‚??Twas however a bluebird morning so there was plenty to ogle at (in the way of jaw dropping architecture) as we putt putted tentatively along the cobblestones. ¬†
The Ritz? ¬†Just a good place to park your car (we didn‚??t spend a night there because...they were full). ¬†Our five wandered around the streets of Paris (which sounds so much more appealing when pronounced ‚??Par-ee‚?Ě) en route to the Louvre. ¬†Of course we grabbed an espresso on the way, and did a bit of recon on where we might grab breakfast. ¬†That part of the city is breathtaking. ¬†I‚??ve never seen anything like it. ¬†So beautiful were the sights that I won‚??t try in vain to describe them ‚?? just check out the photos in Goldy‚??s video.
In The Most Tremendous Boulangerie De Le Monde we feasted, and feasted gooooooooood. ¬†A calorific paper sack was filled at Slambino‚??s instruction with baguettes avec fromage et jambon, brioches, pain au chocolat and so on and so forth. ¬†In fact I think that walk back to the car ‚?? past heavenly stone beauty ‚?? may be among the fondest of my short but getting longer life. ¬†puregolf2010 was in its element. ¬†Then of course we hovered around outside The Ritz while our Lamborghini (read: grey Opel) was fetched for us by the valet guy. ¬†Russian oligarchs and Saudi princes looked on quizzically as the five of us piled into something they wouldn‚??t let their deputy shoe polisher be seen dead in. ¬†To us underlings (I exclude our American friends from that description) it was luxury.
What should‚??ve taken 55 minutes took over 2 hours. ¬†Motorways were closed (without warning); the odour of road rage was pungent in the air; there were strikes on (how French); and general anarchy was the order of play. ¬†Given there are no tee times at Golf de Morfontaine though, we weren‚??t overly stressed. ¬†Our plan was to arrive, play the 9 hole Valliere course, have lunch and then take on the big course. ¬†Even taking the delays into account all was still Gravy. ¬†Through the petit rural villages north west of Paris we snaked. ¬†With contentment and wonder. ¬†And a slight apprehension that we may never find Morfontaine, which is notoriously difficult to locate, even with Snoop Dawg in your corner.
‚??Golf de Morfontaine‚?Ě eventually revealed itself on a wooded bend in the road, more or less in the middle of nowhere. ¬†What happened next will be hard to appreciate for those who haven‚??t been to Morfontaine (which I expect is the very vast majority of you). ¬†But I‚??ll try for a moment to capture it. ¬†You creep almost nervously along a lengthy driveway, past a few holes on the back nine. ¬†The course looks sublime ‚?? like Sunningdale, except with a few distinctive boulders (some mid-fairway). ¬†An understated but elegant ivy dressed clubhouse appears in a clearing on the edge of a wooded hill (it‚??s all wooded, actually). ¬†There‚??s no sense of anticipation quite like it. ¬†I drop the lads off out front, then after parking the car walk with a deep sense of satisfaction up the pine needles and into the lobby. ¬†There I find Jean Dulout, the club manager whose family have been faithful servants of the club for generations. ¬†And friends of the Michel family (Betsy Michel being our very gracious host) for just as long.
Our lateness is not a problem. ¬†We remove our jackets, change into our spikes, and hit the putting green. ¬†As planned we will play The Valliere first, then have lunch. ¬†It‚??s an absolute delight. ¬†More severe than the big course, in the sense that the greens are like crumpled duvets left on the side of a hill. ¬†Perhaps not unfair, but certainly challenging. ¬†The footage will do the talking. ¬†After 5 holes something remarkably French happens.
Two relics of another age ‚?? gentlemen who no doubt played their part in The French Revolution; evidently members of the club ‚?? emerged from the direction of the clubhouse. ¬†One in his own cart; the other (the more French looking of the two, and that‚??s saying something) pulling a trolley. ¬†Because the greenkeepers have ‚?? sacr√© bleu! ‚?? had the Gaul to punch the 1st thru 3rd greens, these chaps decide they‚??d start on 6, which we were about to play. ¬†They gesture that they‚??d like to begin their round without delay by playing through. ¬†Of course being guests and of generally good nature we oblige. ¬†And observe. ¬†The ‚??cart‚?Ě gentleman ‚?? who appeared the marginally more senior of the two ‚?? teed off into the heather, at least on the right hole. ¬†His chum blocks it down the 5th, some 50 yards off line. ¬†Fine. ¬†But then A FIGHT BREAKS OUT. ¬†The more French of the Frenchmen starts waving his arms around like a seagull on LSD, and blasting his mate who by this stage is seated. ¬†Who knows what happened (they were 50 yards ahead on a different tee block). ¬†Suddenly they start walking back towards the clubhouse at a sharp clip (by prehistoric standards) and en route past our bemused cluster wave some kind of gesture to carry on without delay. ¬†Hard not to laugh. ¬†
With time marching swiftly on we decide to call it a day on The Valliere and sit down to lunch. ¬†Inside the opulent but not decadent clubhouse we are seated by the kind faced Madame. ¬†Out on deck under ivy and stone are locals ‚?? some obviously not here for the golf but instead for a spot of brunch with their newspaper. ¬†Where better to sit for a few hours to while the day away? ¬†The menu is recounted en Francais, which presents problems for some. ¬†I ask, ‚??parl√© vous Anglais Madame?‚?Ě and receive a simultaneously direct and warm ‚??non‚?Ě. ¬†Bart orders ‚??l‚??escallops‚?Ě thinking this will be his first ever shot at scallops. ¬†Until his veal schnitzel turns up, that is. ¬†The fillet of beef (‚??griyade‚?Ě?) that Michael and I order is Out of This World; the Yankees order poulet and appear satisfied beyond all expectations. ¬†Life, my friends, was good. ¬†The fromage course added 6 inches to our waistlines, but it was worth it (I can still taste that sticky aged camembert...). ¬†Slambino being a man who likes to celebrate in style orders a bottle of red Bordeaux too. ¬†Hell, it was worth the significant respective trips just for the lunch.
Somewhat comatose after gorging ourselves we stagger to the 1st tee and get under way. ¬†The rest, all I can tell you, was tr√©s magnifique. ¬†And then some. ¬†Watch the video and see for yourself. ¬†Tom Simpson at his very best. ¬†Playable but penal. ¬†Idiosyncratic. ¬†Idyllic. ¬†Fun. ¬†Surprising. ¬†All of the above. ¬†And having Slambino and Smythe ‚?? and Bart ‚?? to share the experience was a true pleasure. ¬†Kids in a candy shop. ¬†Thank you Madame Michel for allowing us this once in a lifetime experience. ¬†As I said months ago in a thank you note to our host at Cypress Point: my great hope is that one day I‚??m in a position to make possible for others experiences like this. ¬†Through all the ups and downs in life ahead, I‚??ll be able to look back on my day at Morfontaine and remember just how sweet life can be. ¬†Thank you. ¬†And thanks a million to Slambino & Smythe for flying over, taking care of us, and generally being two of the most brilliant human beings that we‚??ve been privileged to meet. ¬†You are gentlemen and friends. ¬†See you in February in Nu Zillin!
JP ¬† ¬†
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