The first time my husband-to-be and I went out, he wore a bright blue raincoat and Russian-Army-style high boots. He offered no excuse for the flashy raincoat, but the boots, I soon found out, were supposed to show me how much he admired my culture (I am, originally, from Russia), and so, I decided to give him another chance.
Things did work out between us, and half a year later, I found myself planning our honeymoon in Paris. The first thing on my agenda was letting him to know that the boots were not going with us, nor would they be welcomed in our house afterwards. As for the raincoat, there was no time to find a substitute for it, and since the weather forecast for Paris was rainy, I had to put up with it.
I know what you think – a honeymoon in Paris sounds both indulgent and clichéd. Well, the only excuse I have is that I was already forty-five, and that trip to France was going to be my second overseas adventure – the first being my immigration from Moscow to Columbia, MO.
The weather forecast turned out to be half-true: it rained for three days out of six. During those days, we, armed with a guide book I’d checked out from the library, kept busy exploring numerous Parisian museums. (To our great disappointment, the Louvre happened to be on strike (!) for all but three hours of our stay in Paris :(.) The rest of the time, we spent strolling along the Champs-Élysées, exploring the Latin Quarter, climbing everything that could be climbed – from the Arc de Triomphe to the Eiffel Tower, and following other guidebook recommendations.
There was one thing, though, we never did – we never went to any fine restaurants. Not that we have anything against French cuisine, I just don’t like crème brûlée and get disgusted by even looking at fried frog legs, and my husband cannot stand the mere idea of pâté de foie gras :). Also, what’s the point in spending a lot of money on food?
In any case, we decided to put our money into music; we listened to chamber music in old cathedrals and went to the Paris Opera to watch Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin. The latter was performed in German (here’s an opera tradition for you!) with French subtitles, and the tickets were much more expensive than I care to remember. Yet we had a great time there, although it did take us some time to get over the sight of mythical medieval characters milling around the stage in the clothes of street people of the 1920s (we also feared that Lohengrin, a knight of the Holy Grail, would appear on a motorcycle wearing a black leather jacket). Still, the singers were good, and we soon forgot about the silly costumes and began enjoying the performance. And how could we not? After all, we were on our honeymoon, and the sounds of the famous wedding march (apparently performed at every British Royal wedding, too!) made me feel both tearful and special.
It was hard to leave the City of Lights – the weather gradually improved, the fountains in the Tuileries Garden sprang to life, and my husband put away his rain coat whose innocently-blue color raised quite a few Parisian eyebrows (they all wore black that spring). I’m not saying that we greatly improved our fashion sense – Parisian Chic never rubbed off on us. Yet we improved our understanding of another culture, another people, and also, of the city about which Hemingway wrote: “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”
P.S. By the way, Lohengrin never appeared on a motorcycle. To our great relief, he arrived on a boat pulled by a white swan :).