One can only get away in theory. I took a two-week hiatus from my story department job at Universal so that girlfriend Tater and I could lose ourselves in France, and the first Parisian bus I saw was nearly totally covered with a big green Uni ad for Hulk.
But our trip on the whole was blissfully free of much to do with movies. And I could leave it at that, but do you not know me? Mais, oui! We had to live our own bit of real-life romantic comedy.
Tater and I have been a couple for nearly two years; we live together but separately (adjoining apartments in one two-unit bungalow, with a wrap-around garden so the dogs can roam between) and by and large get on so well, that talk of marriage had already come up for us long before this trip was planned. We'd discussed a wedding and even set a date -- the only item missing from our ongoing casual-but-committed plans was an actual engagement ring and a formal proposal.
Note to Old School Romantics: a diamond ring, even if exhaustively vetted as to its politically correct provenance, nonetheless retains "blood diamond" associations, and is no longer the way to go. Since my honey is dedicatedly mindful of such matters, we'd picked out a beauty of an alternative together, online -- an ecologically responsible blue sapphire mounted on a white gold ring. What Tater didn't know, however, was that I'd bought, sent for and received said ring before we left the country.
Thus I was packing an engagement ring every time we went out together over there, waiting for just the right moment to spring this little surprise on her. Opportunities were rampant, because Tater, an unparalled vacation planner who'd once lived a year in France and who, having brushed up on her Pimsleur's, was able to book hotels and other venues in French, no less, put together a killer itinerary for us. We had three days in Paris followed by two in Lyon, where friend Simone White was doing a concert, then three days in the French Alps, and back to Paris again for our final four.
On top of this came those fortuitous moments where we ditched the plans, since pretty much whatever you do seems the right thing to do, when you're in Paris. For the record, despite stereotype, the French are actually friendly when you're at least trying to speak their language; the many amazing people we met in our travels were trip highlights. Because we didn't want to support American stereotype by shoving a camera in their faces, I can't post photos of them, other than this close-up of one native resident encountered in the mountains:
Beyond friendly, probably -- what's French for Hello, would you milk me? And just case you don't believe that native New Yorker Mernitman really did go backpacking in the Alps (the most spectacular scenery I've ever hiked through in my life, though it nearly killed me), here is photographic proof, portrait of the writer as a dazed outdoorsman:
Back in town, we spent many a happy hour on the streets, by the Seine, in museums, in cafes, and all the while, I had this little jewelry box (as the ring-maker's invoice assured me: comprised, at least in part, of recycled material) burning a hole in my pocket. Every adventure was a search for the ultimate Magic Moment. Floating down the river in a barge under a nearly full moon? (Too many tourists present.) The first time we saw the Eiffel Tower together? (But it was starting to rain, and the Tower deserved its own moment, so I took a neat photo of her instead:)
Days went by with me keeping the little box hidden (sometimes not an easy task, in those little hotel rooms), yet always on my person. Quite a few significant moments presented themselves, yet none quite... perfect.
Meanwhile, the alloted holiday hits kept coming. On our second night in Lyon we had dinner at Paul Bocuse, considered to be literally one of the world's best restaurants, me in a suit (that's rare), Tater in a chic dress I'd bought her for the trip. Awaiting dessert while already sinfully sated, as we finished off a second bottle of too-good wine, we had a "it's nice to be us" moment. Wasn't it great that we'd done this nutty thing -- blown our hard-earned money on a vacation in France when so many people in their more-right minds had prudently settled for "staycations?" Pleasantly besotted, with a rosy grin, Tater asked playfully, "Will you marry me?"
Only pausing for a half-second of incredulity that my partner-to-be had set me up so beautifully, I reached into my jacket pocket, pulled out the little box, and saying "Okay," plunked it down on the tablecloth in front of her.
The look on Tater's face made it well worth the wait. And now, as they say, we'll always have Paris -- and Lyon, and those cows, et al -- due to an assist from the one woman in the world who was evidently meant to be in this with me. Couldn't have written it better if I'd tried.