Paris goes by many names: “The City of Light,” “The City of Love,” “The Place Where I Got Engaged!” Just two weeks ago I spent the weekend in Paris, and in addition to seeing the sights and wonders that Paris would normally bring, I got to say yes to my love of over four years when he asked me to marry him. So Paris could have brought thunderstorms and earthquakes and horrible food, and it still would have held a special place in my heart. It didn’t though, and the whole trip was wonderful.
Flying for the first and last time as a dating couple, Henry and I took off early Thursday morning from Gatwick airport and touched down at Charles de Gaulle, about fifty minutes outside of the city centre. While waiting, I saved several sights onto my phone’s Google Maps, including palaces, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and Sacre-Couer.
In regards to the places we went and sights we saw, we started early afternoon on Thanksgiving and made our way from Opéra towards the Louvre – not stopping to visit the museum yet, but saw people taking pictures outside of the iconic glass pyramid, played with dogs out with their walkers, and passed along the Siene. We were going to stop by Le Petit Palais, but then suddenly…
Henry proposed! We were talking about Thanksgiving and thankfulness – especially after the past year – and suddenly (at first I thought he might be fake proposing), he was down on one knee. I was so surprised (generally I even plan for surprises, but this one took my breath away). I was intermittently sputtering and becoming silent, while Henry proposed, and finally I was able to say “yes.” We headed back to Montmarte, where the hotel was, to call our loved ones, and then had dinner right outside of Moulin Rouge!
The next morning, we started towards the north of the city to Sacre-Couer. It’s a beautiful cathedral, rivaling Notre Dame in my opinion, and the harp player on the steps made us feel like we were playing extras in a romantic comedy. We were almost caught in a swindler’s tourist trap when a group of young men tried to tie a bracelet around Henry’s arm – and then make him pay for it – but his new fiancé effectively put a stop to that.
After Sacre-Couer, we started walking back into the city and then making our way to the west side, where the Eiffel Tower sits. We met my friends Temperance and Victoria and bravely climbed all of the steps up to the second floor of the tower! They were the first to congratulate us in person on our engagement, and lovingly took our first engagement photos. The view from the top of the tower was lovely, though since it was late November everything felt grey. It was bitterly cold, cold enough to pop collars, hold hands that had forgotten mittens, and finally collapse into a French bistro with heat lamps in an outdoor tent.
We had a full meal and then walked towards the bridge that used to hold love locks. Now, the popular couple-tourist item is just clapped on to any random bridge, fence, bench, or thin metal object to lock a couple together forever. The four of us parted after finding a bridge with lots of locks – Henry and I heading off towards Notre Dame.
Already with sore feet, I was grateful that for a while Henry thought Notre Dame was closer than it actually was. Because, that meant that for half of the journey he was encouraging me: “it’s not that much farther!”, only to discover that it was actually much further down the road than he thought. We both thought it was worth it though – we found Point Zero – made famous to me in Stephanie Perkins’s Anna and the French Kiss – and got to see inside Notre Dame just before they closed for the night.
On Fridays after 6:30, all young people of all nationalities get into the Louvre for free. Henry and I wanted to see all of the major exhibitions without trying to figure out a map, so we downloaded Rick Steve’s “highlights” audio guide, and shared that between two earbuds. I had to hold Henry’s arm to keep him from walking away and yanking out my earbud, but we managed to see Lady Victory, Venus, and the Mona Lisa in just over an hour. It really was worth it, and that it is one of the few museums I would pay to get into in the future.
“A monk near his hut” according to Rick Steves.
The next morning, we had a few hours before we needed to be back in Opéra for the shuttle back to the airport, so we took the subway out to Peré Lachaise Cemetery to see Jim Morrison and Victor Noir (again, Anna and the French Kiss). Funny enough, you barely see anyone on those cobblestones throughout the entire graveyard, but once you get to Jim Morrison there is a crowd.
Lastly, we bought two eclairs from a small French bakery through gestures and saying “eclair.” So, so worth it. Inside the eclair was thick, chocolate pudding. On top, what could only have been pure melted chocolate. Flaky pastry. I can’t wait to go back!
Paris may not have had the prettiest or most forgiving weather, but the memories I will have of the city will stay with me forever. The City of Light and Love? Absolutely!