Several years ago, I had the privilege of covering the opening of the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas casino resort. It was a really wildly splashy affair (in the recession, no less) that involved a spectacular black-tie New Year’s Eve dinner designed by Colin Cowie, and a concert in a rather intimate ballroom by such up-and-comers as Jay-Z, Coldplay, Beyonce, Kanye West — you know, no biggie. Of course, the fabulous food and champers flowed, and surprises like poolside concerts and other treats popped up around the property all weekend. After that, David and I decided, “OK, we don’t have to do New Year’s Eve anymore. We can put the whole holiday to bed. We’ll never top this.”
Valentine’s Day in Paris was kinda like that. From the second deck of the Eiffel Tower after sunset, we declared, “It’s a wrap on Valentine’s Day.”
Given the racket that is February 14 dinner reservations — and many other details like the near-impossibility of securing them, plus the fact that I’m a vegetarian, plus my annoying pregnant-lady avoidance of unpasteurized cheese — we decided to opt out of that hustle altogether.
From our post at the tiny but chic boutique-y 7 Eiffel Hotel, we were situated very near Rue Cler, which is a charming-beyond-words market street in the 7th arrondissement. Starting right around sunset — with a rosy glow settling over the city on a clear evening after lots of rain — we started up and down the short street, gathering our essentials: baguette from the boulangerie, grapes from the grocery, and an enormous red rose from the flower shop. I was so pleased to find that a few of the cheeses in the amazing little fromagerie, simply called La Fromagerie, were actually labeled as pasteurized, and we picked a couple of delectable-looking wedges.
From there, we walked the 10 minutes or so (famished!) to the Champ de Mars, where we sat down on a bench to devour our picnic spoils. We enjoyed watching the serious entrepreneurial spirit of the guys selling roses without permits, and how they’d toss their loot into bushes and take off running if a police person got too near. It’s a higher-impact way to make a few euros than you might imagine. Same for the guys selling Eiffel Tower keychains, five for one euro. It’s a wonder I didn’t come home with a keychain for each and everyone of you, given my amazement at their price — you can barely use the toilette in Paris for under 10 euros.)
We sauntered over to the Eiffel Tower ahead of our 7:30 p.m. reservations to go up — which was the last time slot available when I booked online several weeks before. Tickets are essential in order to avoid long lines. (Reserve Eiffel Tower tickets here.)
While waiting, we saw a guy get down on one knee and propose to his girlfriend right under the base of the tower. The line of folks waiting to go up erupted in cheers. Of course I cried because I am a totally hopeless #suckerforlove, and I have never met an Internet proposal video that didn’t make me bawl, no matter how lame. Imagine how I reacted the first time I saw one in real life!
Then, we headed up. As the elevator was climbing to the second floor, we were thinking, “Ah, so this is actually pretty high off the ground, isn’t it?” That feeling certainly took any potential sting out of not being able to go all the way to the top — that level was closed due to winds that night (and I believe most of February). The view is spectacular, and really yields a sense of the city’s impeccably ordered layout.
But more than that, it was another extraordinary shared bucket list moment for hubby and me. And it pretty much summed up for me the best part of European Babymoon 2014: the togetherness. I’d call it the most romantic trip we’ve taken since our Tahitian honeymoon. I guess that’s supposed to be the point of such a trip — a chance to bond as a two-person family for the last time before everything changes. And for us, sharing umbrellas in the rain and huddling with hot chocolate, this trip allowed a whole lot more romance than our more typical hot weather adventure-travel preferences which often involve, say, under-water spelunking in Belize, or injurious river rafting in Bali.
But of course I love those things all equally. I love the diversity of travel in general, and of the travel we’ve done in the first three-plus years of marriage as just a duo. (Which, OK, was pretty tropical island heavy, but there was other stuff too.)
To wit, traveling with kids will be different. We know that. (And, duh, we have feared that. We have visited at least five countries since we declared the first “last hurrah.” We’re no fools.) But I’m excited to see what kinds of new things we might see together as a family with kiddos, and how we might see everything with different eyes.
And anyway, Valentine’s Day is in the bag. So we’re moving on to the next big (and little) things.