I’ve been told that I have “the gypsy in me” – probably from my Hungarian ancestors. Fortunately, several of my friends have the same wanderlust, so we found ourselves planning a trip to Paris for Christmas. Having a friend who is a former airline employee made “buddy passes” and first class flights a reality for four gal pals longing to see the City of Light (on a budget).
Never one to go hatless to a party, I brought berets for all to Shirley’s Pre-Paris cocktail party. French bread, wine and mustaches made excellent accessories as we met to hash out the details of accomodations and itineraries. Shirley’s dog, Vivo, insisted on posing with us.
I wasn’t looking forward to our all-day wait at the Charlotte airport but that’s when having a friend like Lucy is downright amazing. She got us into the U.S. Air First Class Lounge! We had all stocked our bags with little snacks but Renate pulled a bag of fried chicken right out of her purse. Now there’s a girl who knows the meaning of “discount dining”!
While our overnight first class flight was heavenly, the trek to our rented apartment in the 17th Arondissment was hell! Dragging suitcases and backpacks on two trains, two metro liners and several street blocks nearly did us in. Oh, and by the way, it was 26 degrees outside! But who cares. It was Christmas Day. And it was Paris.
Thankful for our safe arrival, we decided to make a Christmas evening visit to a sacred destination – Notre Dame Cathedral. This is the most popular monument in Paris – famous for its French Gothic Architecture, Romanesque sculpture and medieval stained glass windows. We walked in to a beautiful Christmas service complete with incense and chanting. As a good Catholic girl (kindergarden through college), I was overwhelmed with memories of other Priests, altars, choirs and candles – different and yet somehow the same. Yes, I am very comfortable with my regular doses of guilt and fear!
The next morning we headed out to see The Eiffel Tower. This engineering masterpiece of iron has stood there since being built as the entrance arch to the 1889 World’s Fair. It is not surprizing that this amazing tower is France’s most recognizable structure. Hoping to get our picture in Tampa Bay Magazine, we posed with a copy in front of the tower. If it weren’t so cold, you might have recognized our faces under the hats and scarfs. Oh well, at least there were hats!
A freezing open bus tour convinced us that we deserved at least one special lunch. Seated in a cozy cafe, Lucy noticed a handsome stranger “across a crowded room”. Michael was vacationing from his job at Paramount in California. He was charming, intelligent and funny and it didn’t take long to make him our “new best friend”. We walked to a nearby bar for conversation and Cosmopolitans. Lots of laughter later, we were already planning his visit to Tampa. And Michael graciously picked up the check!
I happen to love Opera! So, for me, the highlight of our next day was a visit to the Opera de Paris, a grand building designed in the “Baroque Revival” style. The theatre is decorated opulently with elaborate marble friezes, columns and lavish statuary. It is rich with red velvet, gold leaf, cherubs and nymphs. Imagine what it is like to weave through the sumptuous corridors, stairwells, alcoves and landings, socializing with other patrons during intermission. I’m sure that I would feel like “Pretty Woman”!
The rest of our week flew by. We had so many museums, galleries, churches and historic monuments on our list that we literally dragged ourselves back to our apartment each evening – stopping only for our loaf of french bread and bottle of wine. It was a party every night! We laughed as we reviewed the day’s events. Lucy had encountered a “pick-pocket” at The Basilica of The Sacred Heart. We had arrived at the O’Chateau Wine Tasting with – “oops” – no reservation! They seated us in the back like petulant children but we were just grateful to be tasting the wonderful French wines.
Paris is fabulous by day, but unforgettable by night! On the last evening, we took the boat ride down the River Seine where we had a beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower with its brilliant lights. It was magical. Staring wistfully at the stunning sight, we could hardly believe that our trip was coming to an end. We had experienced the joy of unlimited sightseeing with our “Paris Pass”. We had seen the grandeur of some of the world’s most spectacular and enduring architectural styles. And we had sealed our friendship forever because – “We’ll always have Paris”!
Normally I would end My Hat Affair blog with a comment about what was “on my head”. But upon arriving home, I was so exhausted that I slept like the dead for three days. It made me think of those Kings of France and their families who, for centuries, were buried at the beautiful Basilica of St. Denis. I was struck by the cold, stone effigies on their tombs.
All I can say is that, if anyone had wanted me to leave my house, it would have to have been “feet first”!