Beep, beep, beep, BEEP, BEEP the alarm resounded. Ugh. Make it stop. The bed was comfortable and warm and I didn’t want to get up. Ten more minutes; I’ll just lie here ten more minutes.
I sat up and swung my legs over the bed, dragged myself to the bathroom and splashed cold water on my face.
It would be much colder now than it had been this afternoon, so I dug through my bag until I found the cashmere scarf, hat and mittens set that Emma had given me for Christmas as a going away present. A little Pink Blush lipstick, a quick check in the mirror and I was off.
I stepped out onto the busy Parisian sidewalk and buttoned my coat against the cold, crisp air and began to explore the streets of the ‘City of Lights’, wandered around, going nowhere, in particular, just wherever the whispers of the city led me.
Like so many others I was drawn to the Eiffel Tower; it was exactly what I had expected, the sheer size of it was awe inspiring. It wasn’t tourist season yet, so the line to ride the elevator to the top wasn’t too long. Standing on the upper deck, the wind whipped down my collar despite my scarf; my teeth chattered and I’m sure my pink lips had turned blue.
Back down in the park I sat for a while, just staring at the tower. How could anyone ever get tired of looking at this seemingly eternal symbol of France?
Anxious to see more of the city and, dying to try some of the famous Parisian cuisines I set off again.
Gilded bronze sculptures of winged horses greeted me as I strolled across the Pont Alexandre III. No wonder this is one of the most famous bridges in Paris; it’s breathtaking. This would be the perfect place to watch a sunset.
I paused to take a selfie while a boat loaded with tourists making its way down the Seine, served as my background.
My seemingly small side street opened up into a big intersection with shops, people, and cafés all around. What this marvelous place? It wasn’t too long before my eyes fell upon a street sign that, to my delight, read “Avenue des Champs-Elysées.”
I could not ignore the growls coming from my stomach any longer so I ducked into an attractive restaurant on the corner.
Le maître d seated me at a booth in the back, and handed me a crisp, white, folded napkin. “The soup of the day is Cassoulet, Madame.” He poured me glass of wine, and brought a loaf of crusty bread and an assortment of cheeses to enjoy while I waited.
In the corner of the room, a young couple caught my attention, sitting both on the same side of the table, sipping their wine and laughing. There was also a table full of men in suits. They talked as though they had a lot of important things to say, all of them speaking at once and none of them listening to the others.
The waiter brought me a bowl of steaming soup; the fragrance of which made my mouth water. He described it as a delicious combination of white beans, duck, and sausage. He poured another glass of wine and enlightened me that the wine was from the lle-de-France region, and that each little town or village since the middle ages, had its own vineyard.
By the time I finished eating I was rested, warm, and ready to set out again.
I paid my check and left the waiter what I thought was a nice tip. With a kind smile and broken English, he said “Merci, Madame, c’est très gentil, but euh, here it is not nécessaire, euh necessary to leave a big money, only a little euh, change, you call it?”
“Merci Monsieur,” I replied. I didn’t know much more to say in French, but the look and smile we exchanged said more than either of us could have in any language.
As I was gathering my things, a group of Americans in the front were practically shouting, “Hey, waiter, we’ve been waiting for the tab for ten minutes!”
He quickly dropped a piece of paper on the table, quietly said, “Désolé,” and walked away without ever making eye contact with them.
As I walked out of the café, I saw him picking up the change, and the generous tip they left him. He didn’t bother to give them the same advice he so kindly shared with me.
I pulled my coat closer, slipped on my gloves and then stepped back out into the cold. Window shopping along the beautiful Champs-Elysées was quite different than shopping in Savannah. The large bright store windows with their displays of designer dresses and shoes fueled my desire for a new wardrobe, a more Parisian look.
As the sun was set, excitement quickened my step on the short walk back to the Champ de Mars. I joined the others who had gathered on the long grassy field that stretches out in front of the Eiffel Tower. For years, I had watched the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night from my computer desktop and now I was going to see it in person.
From that position, I watched the sky grow dim and the Tower light up for the first time. As I stood in awe of the laced-iron work of the tower; I was filled with a mix of emotions. My heart was heavy, missing my children and wished they were here. But, I was proud of myself for taking this step, for getting out and making my own dreams come true.
The sky grew dark and the Tower began to light up from the bottom all the way to the top. In just a quick second after, as if the Tower herself were welcoming me, she began to sparkle, and at the same moment I felt the tickle of something cold on my nose. I looked up and the sky had let loose a stream of white confetti. It was snowing.
I stood in front of the Eiffel Tower, like a child seeing something for the first time. No matter how many times I see the Eiffel Tower, I will always remember the feeling of that night.
I will always be enchanted by the beauty of her presence.
If I had written the perfect ending to my first day in Paris, it could not have been any better. It was the right decision to come here.
That night, I called each of the kids to tell them that I loved and missed them. Emma was excited and wanted details of my day. Jack was still angry and had little to say. I understood it would take him time and I was OK with that.
I pulled the delicate crocheted coverlet on my bed back, and slipped into threaded bliss. I was asleep before I could even reflect on all I had seen and heard in this magical city.