By Denise Mattia
Several New Yorkers were invited to the French Institute, Alliance Francaise (FIAF) on January 8th to celebrate the Epiphany — the twelfth night after Christmas. The event was a continuation of an 800-year old tradition known in France as Galette des Rois. Little did I know that the event would end with two Queens and a Princess.
Regarded in France as an opportunity for families and friends to meet and enjoy wine and cake, the fete began in the Middle Ages with the special Twelfth Night “King’s Cake” — Le Galette des Rois — which contained a small charm within. The person who found the charm received a paper crown and was crowned King or Queen. At FIAF, executive Pastry Chef and Partner of Financier Patisserie Eric Boudacha created two special, 40-inch flat pastry cakes, made with puff pastry and filled with a buttery smooth frangipane and pastry cream. Fourteen tiny porcelain figures were hidden inside the two cakes. Takeaway boxes were handed to the guests.
My Galette traveled with me to Long Beach California, where I checked into my stateroom aboard the permanently docked Queen Mary.
Launched originally at South Hampton, England on May 27, 1936, she was the largest (2X larger than the Titanic), fastest luxury liner afloat. During WWII she was converted to a military transport and reconverted to a passenger ship at the war’s end. With air service growing in popularity, the Cunard Company fell into deficit, and the Queen Mary, which had carried the rich and famous, was purchased in 1966 for 3.45 million dollars. Housing the largest Art Deco designs in the world, the thrice-converted floating hotel was placed recently on the roster of the Long Beach Cultural Heritage, with an ongoing program of reconstruction and preservation.
I felt like one of the elite during the era of elegance and grandeur with my morning pot of coffee and my delicately-wrapped Galette. I immediately planned my day aboard the Queen Mary. The ship’s managers had partnered with the Pink Ribbon Crusade to present an exhibition of Princess Diana’s legendary royal wardrobe and memorabilia. She remains a style icon for people around the world.
I’d forgotten about the prizes hidden inside the Galette when suddenly I bit lightly into something hard, It was a prize — a little porcelain figure draped in a royal sash.
How fitting it was to be Queen of the Day (sans crown) and going to see Princess Diana’s collection — aboard the Queen herself.
About Denise Mattia
A writer and photographer, Denise Mattia’s works are published nationally and internationally and include all aspects of leisure travel: art , culture, resorts, spas, food and wine and sports’ activities. She's the founder of the soon to be launched Yum-Yum-Traveler, a site devoted to reviewing restaurants in addition to her travel articles from around the world. She lives and works in Manhattan, where she was born.