A Honeymoon in Paris – Chapter One
She steps through the lush velvet drapes that frame the entrance of L’Hotel and blinks rapidly as her eyes adjust to the brilliant morning sunlight. “Come on!” she calls to him as she turns back to see that he has not yet made his way out of the lobby. She feels elated to finally be here and also a bit anxious to start exploring this magical city for the first time with her sweetheart. Her husband she thinks excitedly—that will take some getting used to, calling him that—and she smiles inwardly to herself at the thought. He emerges from the doorway embracing her from behind in a huge bear hug, making her feel warm all over and so very lucky that they are on this trip together
The hotel is located in the heart of the Left Bank making it the perfect location to discover things by foot. He has a “list” of places they should go, but she prefers to wander around aimlessly and hopefully even get lost a little bit along the way. Their noses lead them straight to a boulangerie, where the heavenly scents of freshly baked baguettes and croissants fill the space. After queuing behind the locals waiting to purchase their daily essentials, they leave the shop arms overflowing with warm goodies straight from the oven. “It will be impossible to eat all of this!” he says, laughing, “Hey, why don’t we find that park?” She does a delighted little jumping dance, trying to keep it as subtle as possible in case people are watching and moves hurriedly down the street to that little épicerie on the corner she noticed when they checked in. After acquiring even more delectable tidbits, including lovely sparkling bottles of Fentimans Rose lemonade, she consults her map—we don’t want to get TOO lost—she thinks, and they head to Jardin du Luxembourg for an impromptu picnic.
He hadn’t initially had the city parks high up on his list, but now finds himself very pleased that they decided to come here as he marvels at the meticulously landscaped lawns and the vibrant bursts of color and heady scents of everything in bloom. They have a languid, idyllic lunch as they sit on the large pashmina scarf that she had with her, spread out on the grass. Amid people-watching and observing the puffy clouds floating by overhead, they drift off into a light doze together.
Upon awakening they stretch out their stiff limbs, gather their belongings, disposing of their rubbish along the way, and walk along the Rue Bonaparte to the Musée d’Orsay, where she is eager to show him one of her favorite paintings that she knows is housed there. Once inside, he breathes in deeply, recalling how he has always loved the smell of the old artworks in their antique gilded frames. It reminds him of when he was a young boy and his mother would take him on museum outings, just the two of them, and she would buy him a piece of homemade fudge afterwards at the candy shop near the bus stop.
His new wife studies every piece of art with intense scrutiny as she repeatedly leans in close and then pans back for perspective, and he watches her with a bemused smile and feels a sudden rush of affection. This is her passion after all, as she was a fine art major and is a very accomplished artist in her own right. As they wander through the collection halls, she rounds a corner and nearly squeals, “There it is!” suddenly feeling herself redden in the face as other museum goers give her curious and slightly annoyed glances. She pulls on his shoulder and together they sit on a bench directly across from the large canvas hanging in front of them. It’s George’s Rochegrosse’s Le Chevalier aux Fleurs (The Knight of the Flowers).
As they gaze together at this masterpiece, he can finally understand why she is so taken with this piece. He too is also drawn in by the riotous burst of colors, and the astounding fact that some simple oil paints and a brush can transform a piece of cloth into such a realistic rendering of sunlight and the rolling hills as they are mirrored in the steel of the knight’s suit of armor. The longer he looks, he can almost believe that he can see their reflections in it as well amongst the wild flowers and beckoning maidens.
Having had their fill of museum time, the pair decide to explore a bit more of the Left Bank, taking the smaller side streets. They stop here and there along the way chatting about silly things and window shopping. She stops in her tracks as she spots something in a tiny shop window across the lane, transfixed.
She quickly steps inside and he watches her from his spot leaning against the door frame, as she animatedly gestures to the designer, enquiring in stilted French about it. He knows that they will likely be leaving the little boutique with a Maison M’Elise shopping bag and a special dress wrapped within.
Tired-out from the long day, they make their way back to the hotel to recharge for the evening and she swings her beautifully wrapped purchase back and forth as they walk, her other hand nestled in his. Tonight they will dine at the historic restaurant, Le Procope, which dates back to the 17th century and is the oldest in Paris. She can barely contain her excitement since she has read up so much on Parisian history, and this establishment is definitely a must-do. Or eat, as it were. The two were not disappointed, and after stuffing themselves with a positively decadent meal of classic French onion soup dripping with melted cheese, fresh crusty bread, escargots bathed in butter and garlic, and fragrant coq au vin, they left a bit of room for dessert. For who could possibly turn down heavenly crème brûlée?
Once back a L’Hotel, one with a rich history and also the last residence of the illustrious poet and playwright, Oscar Wilde, they disappear into the sumptuous, cocoon-like depths of their suite to enjoy their recent nuptials privately. Later, her head swirls with the sights, sounds, and emotions of the day, and images of her new dress fade in and out as she sinks into slumber.
– Valerie Torres
End of Chapter One