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Margaritaville in France

by John Mensinger on October 25, 2010

This is from our special correspondent in Europe, my friend Andy. He isn’t doing a home exchange but his experiences are similar. I enjoy his writing and hope you will.
Live from Paris… it’s Jimmy Buffett in concert
On a rainy Friday evening, as we enter the Olympia Concert Hall in Paris, surrounded by fashionably dressed Parisians, mixed in with Jimmy Buffett “parrot head” fans clad in Hawaiian shirts, leis,and wearing parrot hats, I wonder how we got here…
An aging American rock star comes to Paris, with his Coral Reefer band, and sells out a September concert in May.
This has become our year to “re-embrace” Europe. My wife and I have come to accompany our youngest son, who is spending his junior year of high school at a Swiss boarding school. We plan to see him on weekends. His boarding school is a very international school. At first his room-mate is Russian, but then is switched to be a Columbian.
For September and October, we are staying in Montreux, a small town on Lake Geneva. Our apartment is small but has a large terrace with a gorgeous view of the lake, the surrounding mountains, and the nearby Chateau of Chillon (a medieval castle).
Interestingly as part of the rock theme, for reasons that are hard to explain, on its waterfront, the town of Montreux has a large bronze statue of Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of Queen.
Sirius radio has an entire channel devoted to Jimmy Buffett, and while listening to it last May, I idly asked my wife to see if she could buy tickets for a Jimmy Buffett concert since it might be fun to attend one. She came back and said he was not going to be in our home town anytime soon, but not to worry, she had purchased the last tickets for his September concert in Paris. So here we are in the Olympia Hall in Paris.
As we enter the Olympia Hall, it turns out our fairly expensive “seats” do not actually include a seat to sit in. Every chair has been removed from the main floor of the concert hall so we can stand with an excited crowd, who are mainly holding large cups of beer and swaying dangerously with the music.
Jimmy Buffett is an icon about escape to Key West and St. Barts, sailing off into the sunset sipping Margaritas ideally on an adventure. Here is a man who has successfully devoted his entire life to having fun (and drinking), as per his autobiography, a Pirate looks at Fifty which I read several years ago.
Jimmy turns out to speak passable French and does his patter in French and English. However, one has to wonder why he chose to sing the song “A Cheeseburger in Paradise” in Paris. To buttress his French credentials, he was later joined on stage for one song by his French friend, Antoine, who he met sailing in the Caribbean, who in typical French fashion, assures the audience that Jimmy “aime la France” (“Jimmy loves France”) and is so thrilled to be on stage that he says that it is comparable to being on stage with Elvis or Bob Dylan.
The audience is a very enthusiastic one of mixed ages (20 to 60) with English, Americans and Danes waving their national flags, along with Pirates waving their skull and cross bones flags. Many have apparently memorized every song and feel free to sing along. Jimmy successfully transports them to a warm beach in Key West… “Come Monday” and “Son of a son of a sailor” are particularly big hits.
The journey to Paris from Montreux is amazingly easy. There is a train station a few blocks away from our apartment – once we board we are in Paris around four hours later with only one change of trains (and a 20 minute stop) in Lausanne. The high speed TGV trains are comfortable, with tables and power plugs for laptops. No security, no check in, just get on and off and we arrive in the middle of Paris, ten minutes by taxi from our hotel. They no longer even bother to check your passport.
Paris feels grittier but evokes many memories. It has been many years since I last spent a lot of time in Paris. I was a history of art student. The parts that I remember best are that my student ID allowed me free entry to every museum in Paris, enabling me to visit the Louvre 25 times, and that as an American who spoke decent French, it was the only time in my life that beautiful women who I had just met would immediately invite me to dinner.
In the interest of not being too long, I will end this missive here with one more comment. We have also enjoyed visiting Northern Italy (3 hours away by car) and have been to Lake Como and Cinque Terre taking advantage of the last good weather.


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