Monday, August 15, 2011

A Night in Paris

When the waiter at the restaurant overlooking Notre Dame suggested my husband and I stay for un cafe or another glass of wine, perhaps we should have listened.  I'd been sitting with my back to the river and he had a perfect view of the oncoming storm.  Hand in hand, JP and I strolled across the bridge while to our left the clouds gathered.

"Those clouds look ominous, maybe we should go back?" one of us suggested but the other waved the idea away.  We'd already been caught in the rain once today and scurried under one of the bridges crossing the Seine where we stumbled on an impromptu street magician show.  It turned into a entertaining foray -- damp Parisians and tourists huddled around a man with fewer teeth than buttons on his morning coat as he spent time queuing up C+C Music Factory on his iPod.

"We'll just dash back under a bridge if the storm breaks," we decided as we moved farther and farther away from the shelter of the restaurant awning.  Besides, the hour-by-hour weather forecast we'd checked that afternoon indicated the night should be clear.

The first drops hit as we crossed the bridge from Ile de la Cite to the right bank of the Seine.  We ran for the steps down to the waterfront only to find them barricaded with a guard to dissuade entry.  Our next best option was a row of trees dotting the road.

"It can't storm as hard as before," one of us said as my husband put his back to the tree, tucking me in his arms while the spread of branches above kept the first stirrings of rain from reaching us.

When the wind began and the water came at us sideways, we knew we were in trouble.  We were still against the Seine and the other side of the street was nothing but a parade of blank facades -- not an awning or overhang to be seen.

There was a moment we both wondered if this would ruin our night.  It had already been such a fantastic day -- we'd arrived in Paris just before noon and had time to stroll around this brand new city before settling into a hotel that was even better than we'd imagined.  We'd spent the afternoon wandering -- every street a wonder of beauty and history that was overwhelming in scope.

I stood on my toes and kissed my husband, in the rain, under a tree during a storm in Paris.  We both laughed.  What does a little bit of rain matter when you're in love in a city that's designed for such a thing?

We assumed we were as drenched as we were going to get before we stepped out of the ineffective shelter of the tree.  We were wrong.  But somehow, that didn't matter.  As we strolled along the streets, cars splashing by, we wondered when the last time was we'd played in the rain.  Suddenly it felt so adult-ish to fear a bit of falling water -- we felt free and giddy as we passed by bus shelters packed full of half-dry people huddled against the wind swept drops.

Eventually the rain ended and the night cleared as we made our way back to the hotel holding hands.  A few people tucked neatly under umbrellas laughed at us when they scurried past but we weren't the ones to feel sorry for.  We were loving this night!

We stopped at a light and glanced across the street where a large stone arch stretched between construction sites and, on a whim, we decided to cross and check it out, not sure where it led.  As we walked through the stone entrance we found a group of Parisians, huddled away from the last dregs of rain and passing around bottles of red wine in white plastic cups.  Their laughter echoed, following us as we stumbled into a massive courtyard.

The rain washed everyone from the streets, those few who remained were still tucked under anything that could afford a bit of shelter.  But we were already soaked so what did a few wayward drops mean to us?

That's how we found ourselves, utterly alone, in the Cour Carree of the Louvre.  It was breathtaking, even more so for being totally unexpected.  We'd known we were close to the Louvre but during the day it had been so packed with tourists it was impossible to know that such a courtyard even existed.  It was by total accident we'd ended up here now.

Lights reflected off the fountain and puddles as we walked around, gazing through windows at ceilings covered with frescos.  With damp fingers we held hands, strolling through the night wondering what life was like hundreds of years ago when the ornately decorated walls protected kings and queens.

When we made our way into the Cour Napoleon, known for its steel and glass pyramid, a few more people were tempting the post-storm night, most of them setting up cameras to capture the emptiness.  We strolled among them, marveling how just hours ago this space had belonged to thousands who crowded through it and now it belonged to so few.

It felt like the night was ours, that Paris belonged to us.  The weather was clearing, the Eiffel Tower glowing bright across the Seine.  We tried to take a picture but the night was still too dark around us and besides, the memory burned deeper than any photo could capture.


Jenny S. Morris said...

Wow, that sounds like such a fantastically romantic night. Isn't it great when the unexpected happens?

Robin said...

Just beautiful Carrie. I'm glad you didn't let the rain get you down.

Luna said...

I loved this post. Not only did it sound like a magical night, but it was also a wonderful piece of writing that inspired me to write something of my own.

Unknown said...

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Anonymous said...

Absolutely beautiful. Thanks for sharing such a lovely experience.