Paris Surprise

She walked into the Hotel de la Tour Eiffel on New Year’s Day, arms full of packages, chattering to her family about the sights, the croissants, the shopping.  The dashing young man, who had been waiting in one of the chairs in the lobby, rose and walked toward her. She stopped dead, as their eyes met… “Nathan?!” Dawn and Nathan had been a serious item for several months, but he’s been a “definite possible” since both were in elementary school.  He arrived on New Year’s Eve aboard a US Merchant Marine ship.  In La Havre, he called Dawn’s cell phone and heard her message.  She playfully spoke with a heavy, faux French accent explaining that she was off with her brother and parents on a spur of the moment, though long-awaited first visit to Paris. She added that she’d be staying at the Hotel de la Tour Eiffel because it sounded so authentically Parisian. After listening to her message a few times to decipher the so-very-French name of her hotel, he set out immediately for Paris on a mission to give his girl the surprise of her life. And somehow, never having traveled France on his own before, he made it from the coast to Paris, and to the hotel lobby with a graceful stem of purple phlox to await the moment. The desk clerk smiled a knowing, Parisian smile as Nathan extended the flower to Dawn. She walked over, stunned, her limp arms unable to muster more than a stoic, tentative hug, looking up as if to make sure it was really him. “Dawn!” her mom chided, thinking Nathan would be dismayed by her tepid welcome. “But Mom, how did he GET here?” Dawn (who had been studying French for several years) and her family were discovering the joys of Paris, having made the last-minute decision to come (airline employees travel this way- living on the edge!).  They had arrived a couple of days earlier, after securing a hotel reservation through Bonjour Paris’s France Hotel connection early on the morning of their departure (Mom said NO WAY are we going to Paris during New Years Week without a confirmed hotel.  Although dad and my brother the adventurer might have chanced it). With a list of must-sees, they’d filled their days with the Arc de Triomphe, croissants, the Louvre, the Champs Elysees, croissants (food is an ongoing theme in our family), Notre Dame, open-air markets, Sacre Coeur, all of which made them eager to return for more. Dawn was thoroughly entertained, “I enjoyed just people watching. It was fun to hear people talking about what we’d normally talk about here…just in another language!  The area around Notre Dame was very beautiful to me – I loved the stone buildings and everything!  I didn’t get to enjoy too much of the Louvre since my feet were dying, but the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo were very cool.” And then came Nathan. After a family dinner in the Latin Quarter, the two of them wandered Paris together.  After countless visits to Paris, and nearly thirty years of marriage, my husband and I still consider Paris our favorite romantic wander. What memories these two are making.  Walking along the Seine, finding a hidden triangle of a park, strolling under the holiday-shimmering trees of the Champs Elysees…relishing unexpected time together ‘til the wee hours of the morning. And just a few hours later, up early, and out in the rain to the nearby Eiffel Tower. Riding the elevator to the second level, they walked out onto the platform just as the sun broke through the clouds. In Dawn’s words, “All I can say is WOW, my life is like a book!”” Bonjour Paris is pleased to have Anne Woodyard as a contributor.
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