While you were serving in the US Army, you were stationed in Germany. You had focused on German History for your undergraduate degree, so this was a perfect placement for you. Your job was to coordinate all things mechanized going to Vietnam, so your rare personal time off was precious. When you were able to have a weekend off, you used this opportunity to travel as much as you could to see as much of Europe as possible in this limited amount of time.
After we got married, you talked often about taking me to Europe. You, of course, wanted to return to Germany. I had my heart set on France and, of course, Paris. I picked up a course in the French language and would listen to tapes every day. You knew enough German to get by and I remember telling you that I thought it was bit of “The Ugly American” to go to a country and expect them all to speak English. It was my obligation to learn enough French to at least negotiate a meal, a hotel room, the location of the Metro and, in moments of desperation, a rest room.
We had an opportunity to go to an industry convention in Monte Carlo, Monaco! We would fly from New York to Paris. Connection was Paris to Nice and then we would motor coach to Monte Carlo. The attire every night was black tie and evening dresses. Thankfully, this was before the airlines limited baggage or there would have been no way to pull off a weeks’ worth of evening attire in one suitcase each.
As we landed in Paris, I could see the Eiffel Tower but knew that we had a tight connection. We would not leave De Gaulle Airport to visit the city on this trip. When we arrived in Monte Carlo, the first thing that we saw was the yacht owned my Aristotle Onassis parked across from our hotel and we both knew that this was how the “other half” lived!
So, we got to experience Monte Carlo. The glitz. The glamour. The jewelry. The gambling. The phonies. The uber rich and those pretending to be so. We got to check that off of our bucket list. It was nice for a week, but it was not for US.
On the day prior to our departure, the French people had “A General Strike”. I had no idea what that was and was informed that the folks just got ticked off at the government now and then and decided that one day they simply would not go to work. They shut down government services, industry, hospitality, retail, and transportation. They walked around with picket signs being hostile and then the next day went back to their jobs. Oh well. Not our problem. We did not depart until the next day anyway.
We caught our short flight from Nice back to Paris. We got our boarding passes for the Paris to New York leg of the flight, and we were eager to get back home because you had LSU vs Notre Dame football tickets in your pocket and Tiger Stadium was our destination before even going home! So, our flight was boarding and as we stepped up to hand our boarding passes to the flight attendant, the doors closed on the airplane. Wait—-we have boarding passes as do the 30 other people standing behind us! Bedlam ensued in several different languages as we were informed that due to the general strike the day before that preference was being given to the people who had missed their flights the prior day. But we have boarding passes!!!
Needless to say, chaos followed as people realized that all of our bags were on their way to New York. We had no clothes or toiletries and no guarantee that we would be able to be seated on a flight the following day. People argued and screamed, and you had seen enough! You stepped forward and became the self-imposed leader of our motley gang. You demanded that we all be taken to a hotel immediately and that our transportation for the next day be scheduled. I knew what you had in mind! I was thrilled!
We were finally put on a bus and brought to a hotel. We had tickets and boarding passes for the next morning and a hotel key. The airlines gave us each a small bag with toiletries. You suggested that we go to our room and at least brush our teeth. We did that and then we hit the streets of Paris!!
It was around 9PM but the city was still buzzing. We got a city map, familiarized ourselves with the Metro system and we were on our way! Eiffel Tower. Arc de Triomphe. Napoleon’s tomb. Champs-Elysses! I was in Paris, and I was with you!
We walked the streets of Paris all night long and knew that soon the sun would rise, and we would need to return to the hotel in order to depart for the airport and our trip back to America. We knew that we had missed our football game, but this experience was a reasonable trade off!
You planned this adventure by keeping the best for last. As the moonlight twinkled on the water of the River Seine, you walked me onto one of the beautiful Paris bridges to the finale of the night; Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris. It was a breathtaking sight in person as I had seen it a million times in pictures. You stood with your back against the bridge and pulled me into your chest with your arms wrapped around my waist. You whispered in my ear, “I promised to take you to Paris, my love”. It was unplanned. It was spontaneous. It was perfect because I got to experience an unanticipated evening in Paris, and I got to do it with you.
I miss you, my love,