Thursday, September 27, 2012

Tea at the Plaza with Eloise and Madeline

Autumn in New York means a return to elegance and time-honored traditions; and having tea in the Palm Court of the Plaza Hotel is one of my most cherished and delicious traditions.

Every autumn, when I was a little girl, my Mother’s Aunt Annie and I would take the train from Philadelphia to Manhattan.

First on the agenda was a stroll through Central Park to admire the beautiful fall colors.

Around every corner was something to delight the eye, while the crunch of fallen leaves under my black mary janes was sweet music to my ears.

But the best was yet to come!!

At 4:00 pm, precisely, we would meet Annie’s Sister, Emily, for tea in the Palm Court of the Plaza Hotel.

Aunt Emily, a tall, elegant woman, considered to be handsome rather than pretty, worked in the men’s fashion industry. She would arrive in a perfectly-tailored, pearl grey suit with a flamboyant scarf anchored to her lapel by a big, jeweled brooch.

Emily chain-smoked, drank Manhattans and had absolutely no tolerance for a man in an ill-fitting suit.

“Look at that man over there,” she’d sniff, waving her cigarette in his direction. “His tailor should be put in front of a firing squad and shot at dawn.”

As I sipped my tea and drank in the beauty of my surroundings, I always expected the elusive Eloise to jump out from behind one of the huge potted palms.

Although she springs entirely from the imaginations of Kay Thompson, who created her, and Hilary Knight, who illustrated her, Eloise is arguably the Plaza’s most famous resident.

Eloise is a six-year-old girl who lives in the “room on the tippy-top floor” of the Plaza Hotel with her Nanny, a pug dog named Weenie, and a turtle named Skipperdee.

The irreverent Eloise taught generations of little girls how to be adorably naughty in oh-so-genteel surroundings and get away with it.

Her portrait hangs in the Palm Court, and the table underneath is the Court’s most coveted table, especially dear to the hearts of well-dressed little girls everywhere, her biggest fans.

While Eloise was my special friend in New York, I, also, had a very special friend in Paris; and I spent hours fantasizing about bringing the two of them together for tea at the Plaza.

Darling, red-haired Madeline, the smallest in her class, lives in a boarding school in Paris run by the nuns.

We had much in common, and I adored her and her dog, Genevieve, who rescued Madeline after she had fallen into the Seine River.

Madeline loves to travel, so I was sure I could persuade her to visit Eloise and me in New York.

After all, there was plenty of room in Eloise’s room at the “tippy-top floor” of the Plaza for Madeline and Genevieve to stay, and everyone would have a grand old time getting to know one another.

Eloise, Madeline and I would sit down together for tea in the Palm Court. I, of course, would act as translator.

What fun we would have!

By the time the last pastries were consumed, I knew Madeline would have invited Eloise and me to join her for hot chocolate and macarons at Angélina’s in Paris.

What adventures we would have!

I couldn’t wait to introduce my Goddaughter, Kyra, to my two special friends, Eloise and Madeline.

To my delight, she was enchanted by them both, particularly Madeline, my very special friend.

When she was six years old, I took Kyra to her first tea at the Plaza, and she insisted on wearing a hat that looked just like Madeline’s.

We sat under Eloise’s portrait.

I find it difficult to believe that my little Kyra will soon be starting law school. I have barely noticed the years slip by.

Last week, I got this e-mail from her: “Dear Aunt M-T, I miss our teas. Could we please have tea at the Plaza soon? Maybe you could ask Eloise and Madeline to join us. What fun we would have!"


  1. Bonsoir M-T. What an absolutely delightful post! I could just picture you as a little girl, sipping tea with your aunt at the elegant Plaza. She created a wonderful tradition, that you were so happy to carry on with Kyra. I love it. Thank you for sharing these special memories with you, and for the delightful illustrations! Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

    1. Lovely comment, Véronique. I knew you would relate to this post.

      Traditions are so very important. The wonderful thing about them is that, if you do not inherit them from past generations, you can create them for future generations.

  2. Coucou M-T!
    Though Eloise, Madeline, Kyra and you were all "adorably naughty" little girls, my heart falls for Aunt Emily: smoking, wearing a scarf and a perfectly tailored suit... and looking down at men with ugly suits. She was one character! It reminds me of my great grand mother - whom I never met - and who had a strong reputation too... A kind of Aunt Emily look alike...
    Enjoy fall in Central Park and tea in the Palm Court. I was in NYC two years ago beginning of October and it was delightful. The colors of the trees were stunning. Oh... I miss fall so much... Will have to move to NYC ... Tu es libre pour prendre un petit thé???

    1. Coucou ma chère Anne, I just love and so look forward to your comments.

      You and Aunt Emily would have adored each other - you would both have been on the same "longueur d'onde" and had some wonderful chats together.

      Au sujet de prendre un p'tit thé, ça va sans dire que je serais ravie de me mettre entièrement à ta disposition -- bientôt, j'espère?? Central Park et le Plaza nous attendent.

      xoxo, M-T

    2. J'espère vraiment que ça se fera ma chère M-T. Tu es adorable :-)))
      Bon weekend,
      Ta cop de Floride

    3. Je l'espère bien aussi.

      Bisous de la part de ta cop du New Jersey.


  3. Wonderful post! I try to make as many traditions for my son as possible.

    Elle x
    Hermes/French style blog

    1. Dear Elle, your son is a very lucky lad to have a Mother who knows the value of traditions.

      You will both be the richer for them.

      Thank you for stopping by. I look forward to paying you a return visit.

      Enjoy your week.

      xo, M-T


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