Seriously, Greg wins the Husband of the Year award.
Our plan was to stay home in Lagos for our first October break. With the crazy start of the school year due to the Ebola outbreak and continued issues in West Africa, we just really weren’t too sure if we’d actually be able to fly anywhere come October. Some African countries have closed their borders to folks from West Africa so a regional flight, say to Cape Town, was out. We had briefly flirted with the idea of driving to neighboring French-speaking Benin, but decided against any move that would take us closer to the virus especially since Nigeria is still proudly, Ebola-free. I will resist the urge to harp too much on the irony of the present situation we find ourselves in knowing that some countries in the western hemisphere, ahem…like the United States….are not Ebola-free. But I digress. The plan was to stay home, and spend some time relaxing and exploring a little more of what our new locale has to offer.
Imagine my surprise when Greg nonchalantly passed me a little white envelope containing a card congratulating me on finishing my Administrative Certificate. This was given during a lull in the action at the annual Red Sea Dinner held at the Lagos Yacht Club just three weeks ago. As a side note, I wore a scandalously short dress; Greg dutifully admired every missing inch of my creeping hem line. Reading through his card, I came to the line “To honor and celebrate your successes, and finishing your programs, let’s go to Paris. We’ll leave next Saturday night” I blurted, “Are you serious?” He was. Greg had arranged for tickets, a hotel room, the borrowing of a wool coat and scarf for the potentially chilly late autumn weather, recommendations of sites to see and restaurants to try, all without my knowledge. Our amazing friend from Delta arranged an impossibly easy trek through the Lagos airport complete with an expediter to whisk us through passport control, upgraded seats and a pass to the Delta lounge before our flight left. It was the perfect start to our trip.
We’ve been back two weeks and our time in the City of Lights is a blurred memory of afternoon walks in the trendy neighborhoods surrounding our small hotel, a night cruise on the Seine, a three-hour whirlwind tour of the Louvre, window shopping and the luxury of afternoon naps. We had no agenda, no place we had to go; we simply needed to be. I luxuriated in long, hot showers after chilly walks, a pleasure after the constant humidity and heat of Lagos. I took a run along the Seine through the crisp autumn air and golds, reds and browns of falling leaves signaling the turning of the season. My landmark was the Eiffel Tower and served as my turn-around point. I took another long morning run through the gardens surrounding the Louvre, still splendid despite the final death throes of autumn. The packed gravel path conveniently spills on to the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, I reluctantly turned back once I reach the Arch de Triomphe. The anonymity of an unfettered run along safe city sidewalks with crosswalks and pedestrians pursuing agendas all their own that did not include “words of encouragement” for me, was bliss.
Oh, and the food. One cannot properly share memories of Paris without couching the telling within the sensory details of food. Our route through the neighborhood was a slow, circuitous wandering in the loving search of our next meal. Day by day, we either made it up and out of our hotel in time to locate a bistro offering a simple menu of omelets, croissant, baguettes and espresso, or we lazed in bed. In lieu of breakfast, we gladly settled for an early lunch: cold butter, cheese and ham baguette sandwiches for Greg and a hearty salad for me. Soon, a tidy line of locals began snaking its way out of the neighborhood boulangerie. Another late morning we sat in a window facing the street enjoying our “fast food” meal of cooked-to-order fresh ricotta tortellinis smothered in a choice of sauce and side salad. We finished with a shot of strong espresso to aid us as we stumbled out the door and across the street in pursuit of dessert.
Our iconic meal was had at the local Fromagerie & Charcuterie shop; a hole-in-the-wall across the narrow street and down a bit from our hotel. The specials menu was scrawled in chalk across a small blackboard, a trio of cheese and meat sets to choose from. We pointed and pantomimed our choice, the “Corse” at the recommendation of the decidedly non-English speaking proprietor. A rough, black rectangular slab of slate served as the backdrop for our indulgent meal. Luscious stinky cheeses coupled with cuts of dried and cured, then thinly sliced meats splayed across the surface. A crisp Romaine salad was lovingly dressed in a light Caesar dressing and dominated one corner while a basket of warm baguette was generously refilled throughout our meal. A glass of house red wine for each of us put the finishing touch on an already perfect memory.
Check out this youtube video of Greg’s take on our meal, and Paris in general.
I discovered my time spent working in upper end restaurants was not for naught; I could make my way through the high points most menus deciphering part if not all of the proposed plat du jour; we made a semi-educated guess from there. Though, I remembered too late that poivre means pepper, and not pepperoni which explains why Greg’s brick oven fired sausage pizza came with bell peppers rather than the slices of spicy goodness he was hoping for. Most afternoons in between our late breakfast/early lunch and dinner, we had a glass of the champagne that Greg had arranged for (another surprise) with berries, pears, grapes and dates that we bought at the local fruit and veggie stand. We discovered the joy of raspberry tarts and the bitter-sweet caramelization of Tarte Tatin. We realized that an after dinner cheesecake and scoops of dark chocolate mouse pair equally well with espresso or cups of black tea with fresh milk. We ate everything and anything we desired knowing that waistlines and heart health must stand by the wayside for one short week. I’m hungry.
On a morning run, I found the bridge referenced during our night time cruise where lovers affix a lock inscribe with their names and declarations of unending love. We couldn’t pass up this opportunity so we bought our own heart-shaped lock from the locksmith across the street, inscribed our initials on one side and our declaration of love on the other.
We took just a few pictures during our visit, I think mostly because our time was spent enjoying each other and the ease of being someplace where the pressures of our work were put aside for a short time. It was wonderful, relaxing, romantic and quiet; it was perfect and just what we both needed. I’ve shared the few pictures and one video we took, but mostly, Paris will remain in mine and Greg’s memories.