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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Stranger than Fiction

When Brandon joined the Foreign Service, and I learned that he was officially a 'diplomat,' visions of cocktail hours, embassy balls, and galas passed through my mind. With over a year of diplomatic life now under my belt, life has been similar to what I really knew diplomatic life would be like. Life is remarkably similar with three small children no matter where one lives or what one's husband does for work. A black silk cocktail dress that I bought upon Brandon's job offer still hung in my closet, with tags attached.

Until recently. Brandon's boss, the deputy consul-general, is leaving soon. As is usual in a tight-knit community of expatriates, various going-away parties have been thrown for her. So when Brandon sent an email detailing one that was being hosted by some friends at the Kempinski hotel, we RSVP'd and arranged for a babysitter.

I pulled out the dress, put on some impossibly high heels and my pearls, and we headed up to Garden City. Brandon told the cab driver the name of the hotel but he hadn't heard of it, so he drove us to the cross streets listed, and we got out at a building that could be a hotel. When we came to the front door and were asked our business, we named our quest, expecting to be directed to this or that ballroom.

Instead two gentlemen at the door warmly shook our hands and welcomed us both to the Kempinski hotel. What enthusiasm, I thought, the hotel must fairly new and have people to spare to welcome guests. When we were ushered into the entryway and given cold towels to wash our hands with upon entering the foyer, I realized that we were being hosted in the hotel entryway. I wondered what the other guests were doing; perhaps using the back entrance? This must be some party.

We soon found out that the party hosts were the hotel owners, and that the hotel itself was not yet open. After being served our non-alcoholic apple-ginger cocktails so happily fetched by a waiter, we found out that the party was also to include a tour of the hotel itself. Never one to turn down a tour of somewhere I'll never have the money to go myself, I happily followed the Ambassadors American and German up the stairs and dodged their security as we were ushered into The Blue.

Brandon and I waved off proffered glasses of white wine, and followed the confused crowd that soon found themselves with plates of beef carpaccio salad with balsalmic vinegar and parmesan cheese. Everyone found themselves a seat among the gleaming silver cutlery and Tiffany-blue chairs and enjoyed the elegance of a restaurant that would likely cost an Egyptian's month's wages to eat at.

After finishing our salads and making comments on the ability of decorators to make large bronzed chickens fit in a five-star hotel, we were herded out of The Blue into Osmanly. There, among the rich Turkish red walls, deep laquered seats, cut crystal glasses, and a new silverware pattern, we were given various dips and a red cocktail to accompany our Ottoman Turkish dishes.

Following that repast, we followed our guides around a few corners and into an elevator. The elevator carried us to the top floor, and out to the pool. We enjoyed a chocolate sorbet palate cleanser accompanied by champagne again (for some) and looked out over the lights dotting the Nile under a full moon.

Being used, at this point, to not knowing what was happening next, we found ourselves on the tenth floor with more gleaming silver, perfectly arranged flowers, and places set for dinner. Sherry was the proffered drink for this round, and to go with it lamb, braised leeks, and something small and mashed with an olive on top to the side. Upon finding that I didn't drink, the waiter practically danced away to find me a cocktail of mixed berries with mint to refresh instead.

Following the meltingly tender lamb and funny stories from the British School headmaster, we enjoyed dessert of various custards and mouses in small, chic glasses. The meal was closed by speeches, thanks, and an invitation to retire to the Jazz Club (with live jazz, of course) for cigars and Cognac.
At this point, Brandon and I (who had been expecting something entirely different and had planned to get in, get out, and get gone) looked at our watches to find the time closing in on 10:00 and declined both the cigars and Cognac.

On our way out, we were given a Kempinski hotel gift bag complete with commemorative ankh keychain. When the doorman found that we had come by taxi, he practically ran onto the Corniche to hail us one, and thanked Brandon for the kindness of his tip.

And then we came home and returned to real life where bums have to be wipes, noses noses, and dinner cooked.


PaulaJean said...

Wow! Now that's a party!!

UnkaDave said...

Sounds a lot like the last Christmas party at Atrium OB-GYN, except we wore tuxedos.

The Olsen's said...

OOOhhhh. Sounds like a great evening away from the kids. Sign me up...but only for that part of diplomatic life!

Bridget said...