Yep. Here we all are, my friends, stuck at home, spring outfits languishing unworn in our closets. And longing to wear our spring clothes. And longing for the company of someone other than our spouses or partners or children… much as we love them. Or maybe we’re just longing for company, period. I know I am. So, what could be better than an imaginary trip to an afternoon tea party in a lovely setting, with lovely food, and even lovelier friends? I mean, I ask you, what could be better?
Well. Let me wave my magic wand and tomorrow morning will dawn sunny and slightly crisp, a perfect spring day. The world will miraculously open up for readers of High Heels in the Wilderness. Women of a certain age all over the world will hop a flight, stow their chic hand-luggage under their seat on the plane, and graciously accept a glass of champagne from the handsome steward in first class. They are off to a very exclusive event. An afternoon tea party at the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa, Canada.
When their flights touch down in Ottawa sometime around noon, these women will make their way in taxis and limos to downtown Ottawa. They will check into their rooms at the historic Fairmont Chateau Laurier overlooking the Rideau Canal, and a few steps from Parliament Hill. Some will have a rest and a room service snack, others will go for a walk, to stretch their legs. But around 2 o’clock everyone will freshen up, change their clothes, and make their way downstairs to Zoe’s lounge where afternoon tea will be served at 3 o’clock.
Here’s what I’ll be wearing. I’ve been shopping my closet and, oddly enough, shopping Hubby’s closet too. Ha. Now that’s a turn up for the books. I hauled out and pressed my old Max Mara navy pantsuit. I’m so glad I had the pants let out last year. There’s room to tuck in my shirt and still allow for the afternoon’s indulgences. I’m also wearing Hubby’s lilac pink dress-shirt. I bought this for him years ago when we attended my friend Erica’s wedding. I had a new party dress, and he needed to smarten up his wardrobe. He was a trifle concerned about the colour at first. I’m wearing my collar out as per this season’s trend. It’s not quite worthy of the term “disco collar”, but it looks good, I think. I added this old pink and green silk scarf which I love. I feel spiffy and still comfortable.
Hubby will drive me to the Chateau Laurier; I’ll be way too excited to pay enough attention to things like traffic lights, and cyclists on the road. In fact I’ll be so flappy, as we say in my family, that I won’t shut up for the entire afternoon.
Now, let me set the scene. The lobby of the Chateau Laurier is all marble floors, chandeliers, and artfully arranged sofas and side tables. Off to the right as you come in the main door is the lovely, oak-panelled Reading Room.
That’s where my friend Susan always meets me when we go to Zoe’s for tea. I generally arrive breathless and a bit late to find Susan sitting calmly reading her book. And today is no exception .
Susan is wearing her very smart black St. John suit. Well, the jacket of the suit anyway, which she’s paired with her black NYDJ jeans. I love this outfit. As well I should; I was with her when she bought it. We proceed together into Zoe’s where others have begun to gather.
The first person we spy is Wendy from York, who is checking her lovely tweed coat. She’s been out for a walk before tea. I’ve met Wendy before; we had a wonderful chatty lunch in 2017 when I was in England. Coming from Yorkshire she knows how to dress for the capricious Canadian spring weather. Dottoressa waves from just inside the door. She’s wearing her Max Mara dress which I covet. Last fall Dotoressa and I spent a happy hour together coveting all the Max Mara stuff in the stores in Zagreb, before we met Hubby for lunch. It’s wonderful to see them both again. I introduce them to my friend Susan and they fall immediately into conversation… about books.
David the waiter, whom Susan and I both taught, appears with a tray of sparkling wine. He assures me that the tables are ready for tea, but there is no rush as we will have the place to ourselves. I do believe David pulled a few strings for that one. So, there is time for a cocktail and mingling.
My friend and book club buddy Janet waves and brings over her sister Patty who has flown in from Virginia. I met Patty last year when she was visiting Janet and came to a book club meeting. I love Janet’s fascinator. She rolls her eyes, always so self-deprecating. She’s a wonderful artist, you know. Patty is wearing her new birthday dress. Since the lock down she hasn’t had an occasion to wear it. Thank goodness we cooked up this party, eh? David hands Janet and Patty each a glass of champagne.
Oh, goodness there’s Rosie. I wave. Rosie’s no stranger to the Chateau Laurier. She and her husband and son stayed here a few years ago when they were in Ottawa. That’s when Rosie and I met for the first time. We had lunch in the Byward Market that afternoon, and we’ve both been regretting that we didn’t shop together afterwards. I think we might remedy that this visit, eh Rosie?
Rosie has been chatting with Ann from Missouri. They both love to travel. They talk about where they’ve been this year: Switzerland, Korea, Paris, a river cruise in Europe. And about the joys and perils of naturally curly hair. I’m not sure, but I think we might persuade Ann to join us for some shopping later. Miraculously, my friend Liz appears at my elbow. We hug. Maybe she might be able to arrange a little private shopping event this evening at Nordstrom? Liz laughs, “All in hand, Sue.” She’s so great.
And there’s Robin. Robin has been reading my blog since we discovered that we shared the same favourite book as children. Robin has the most gorgeous silver hair. I only hope that mine will look as good when it grows out. Ha. Fat chance. Robin’s son lives in Europe and she and Ellen from The Hague have been chatting about Robin’s trip last year. Ellen looks great in that animal print skirt, doesn’t she?
We chat about travel and clothes as we finish our champagne. And then I nod at David and he announces that tea will be served presently if we’d all like to be seated.
Oh, look. There’s Mel from Vancouver. I think she started her tea without us. Or maybe she has champagne in her teacup. Ha. Mel has flown in from Vancouver with my blogger buddy Frances, from Materfamilias Writes. I just knew that Frances would make it. She already knows several people here.
So we all progress to the tables. I see other blog readers: Lynda, Judy, Noreen, Faina, Elaine, Maria, and Ali. Ali and I were almost neighbours, but we never knew it at he time. Lots of my local friends and former colleagues are here. I’ve asked them to mingle and sit with ladies who might be a little shy, not knowing anyone else here. Erica, Arlene, Margaret, Joanne, Liz from New Brunswick, Peggy, Alicia, and the two Nancys fan out around the room. My sister Connie has managed to find Deborah from the blog Daily Plate of Crazy. They both love poetry.
David bustles between the tables. He brings us all the most delicious complimentary cheese tray. Oh those runny cheeses, with fruit chutney, and crisp crackers go down well with a second glass of champagne. Then onto the main event, afternoon tea. We choose our teas. Steaming pots are delivered and poured. Tiered trays appear at each table. Tiny sandwiches: egg, shrimp with fresh dill, smoked salmon, radish carpaccio. Buttermilk scones, plain or cherry, clotted cream, strawberry jam. Sweets: black currant tarts, shortbread, rum and brown sugar cake, chocolate choux.
We indulge. Chatter dies down for a bit. David brings more hot water to freshen up the tea pots. When the plates are cleared away several people, including me, table hop. We want to chat with as many friends as we can. And after all there is no hurry.
Eventually, I clink my spoon against my cup and announce the second half of the afternoon’s fun. Liz has arranged a two-hour private shopping event at Nordstrom. And for those who don’t want to shop, my friend Erica who has connections on the hill, has organized a private tour of the spectacular Library of Parliament. Books, and more books, and history: I know many of you will be interested in that. Janet and my friend Margaret who is an artist and a former art teacher have kindly consented to give tours of the National Gallery. We will meet back at the Chateau Laurier for drinks and dinner at 8:00 PM. I know, I know… it was supposed to be only an afternoon party… but I could not bring myself to say good-bye so soon.
We divide up into three groups, and head off chatting happily, feeling like old friends already. For even though we’ve only met in real life this afternoon we are old friends, in a way, aren’t we?
Later we’ll freshen up, change into jeans, maybe have a quick nap, and meet again downstairs at eight. So happy to gather together again one more time. We exchange stories of our afternoon, talk about books and travel, and shopping. I think that some are even wearing their afternoon purchases. Good food, and wine, and great conversation make the time fly by all too quickly.
Then sadly, it’s time to say good-night. A few eyes tear up, mine in particular, as we say our farewells. Hugs are exchanged all round. Ottawa friends head out to their cars, or to taxis. Out of town guests who all have early flights make their way across the lobby to the elevators to return to their rooms.
I don’t want to go home, but Hubby has been waiting patiently in the Reading Room with his book for some time now. I reluctantly reclaim my coat from the coat-check. Then I notice that Dottoressa has spied Hubby and has sat down beside him. She waves at the other women in the lobby to come and meet Hubby. They all converge upon him. He loves it. David, who somehow still seems to be on duty, appears with a tray of coffee and brandies. Would we like an after dinner drink?
“Maybe it’s not quite time to go home… just yet,” I think, as I happily join them.
What an afternoon and evening I have wrought with one wave of my magic wand! Sigh. I do wish that all this was possible. And maybe one day it will be. 🙂
If you joined us in spirit, but did not have time to send a picture of your outfit, please tell us in the comments what you were wearing. And what part of the day was your favourite.