“DO you have a syringe in your bag? What’s in your bag?”
Not the most auspicious of starts to a romantic mini-break in Paris, I’m sure you’ll agree. But airport security doesn’t do romance.
Feeling guilty, even though I had nothing of interest in my bag, I stammered out a “God, no!” and started emptying out my belongings to prove my innocence, finally unearthing an umbrella (ella, ella) who’s spokes had shown up on the x-ray scan as a bunch of thin metal needles.
“That’s grand so, it was just this umbrella,” the security guard said, sighing with unrequited blood lust. I could tell he really wanted to work in an airport with a higher terror alert than Dublin. He wanted to bust someone, just once. I could smell it. But it wasn’t his lucky day.
Stuffing my toothbrush and spare pair of knickers back into the bag I cast an eye-roll over my shoulder at Yer Man who had come behind me in the security queue.
Sweat beaded on his forehead and slowly trickled down into his eyebrow as he feverishly watched his bag make its way through the scanner.
“Please,” he moaned under his breath “please don’t make me empty my bag.”
Oh God, I thought, my stomach lurching. He’s a mule.
Seconds later he was waved through and was all smiles, grinning brightly at me and pulling me by the hand into the Duty Free.
Later, of course, I found out that he was hoping they wouldn’t make him unpack his bag as he had my engagement ring in it, not that he had a stash of the finest Columbian marching powder in his socks.
I will admit to looking at him in a different light all through the flight though, wondering what I had gotten myself in for.
We arrived in Paris later in the afternoon and proceeded to get totally lost in the airport. There are three terminals at Charles de Gaulle airport (who knew?) and we spent hours shuttling back and forward between them trying to find the train that would take us to the Gare du Nord. Turns out our rudimentary Leaving Certificate French wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.
Freezing (it was October) and exhausted we finally arrived in the Gare du Nord where we spent several more hours working out the Metro system and where we’d have to change lines to get to our hotel.
I gave up somewhere around Pigalle and let Yer Man do all the work, trailing after him and moaning about my sore feet.
A quick word to the wise if you’ve never been to Paris. The Metro is underground. Very far underground. Which means there are millions, literally, of steps up to the surface.
Some of the fancier stations have lifts and escalators but many do not, so you’ve to hump yourself and your bags up flights and flights of stairs to get out to where you want to go.
So my advice: Get a taxi. It’s expensive, but seriously, trust me, it’s worth it.
Anyway, we finally reached our hotel hours and hours later, so tired that we barely even registered that there was no lift there either meaning we had to slog up a further six flights of stairs before getting to the room.
Shakily I lowered myself onto the bed. Sweating. Filthy. Smelly. I didn’t care, I was on the bed, that was what mattered.
“So will we go out to the Eiffel Tower now then?” Yer Man asked, full of beans, moving around the room unpacking his stuff. He stood up. Then sat down. Then stood up again. Then leaned against the wall. Looking at me. With his eyes.
“Out?” I moaned “You want to go out? Now? But it’s late! I’m tired! We’ve walked up 486 billion steps already today! Will you bloody stay still, what’s the matter with you?!”
“Nothing, nothing, I just thought it would be nice to see it at night. Come on, here’s your coat.”
So we shlepped to the Eiffel Tower in the freezing cold and queued for, oh, about six hours to get in, though the light show helped to pass the time. Obviously though it was worth it in the end as the view is incredible and it is quite wonderfully romantic up there – we wandered happily for a couple of hours snapping photo after photo.
After all my moaning, when the usher announced, close to midnight, that the Tower was closing and that they were starting to fill up lifts to take us back down, I almost didn’t want to leave. By that stage though I couldn’t feel my legs so after one last look, and with thoughts of delicious Parisian hot chocolate dancing in my head, I headed towards the lift.
“Eh, hang on, will you come over here?” Yer Man asked, beckoning me over under a dark deserted staircase.
“Mother of God what are you at?! The lift is going, I’m like a block of ice,” I muttered “Will you get up, what are you fumbling in your bag for?”
It was a ring.
He was down on one knee.
“I wanted to wait until everyone was gone so that I could do this properly,” he said seriously looking up at me. “Will you do me the honour of becoming my wife?”
I didn’t cry. I was too happy. And shocked. And a little nauseous if the truth be told.
This was huge. Like, HUGE. Engaged! I was getting ENGAGED! Here! Now!
I jumped up and down with sheer joy and grabbed the ring out of the box – white gold, three stones across, a perfect fit. It was love at first sight.
“Um, is that a yes then?” Yer Man asked “only this floor is solid cement and freezing. Can I get up now?”
“YES!” I yelled, my throat suddenly thick with tears “Yes, yes, yes! Oui!” Well, when in Rome (er, Paris) and all that.
We hugged, fiercely, breaking apart only when a persistent flashing light disturbed us.
Turns out the deserted staircase wasn’t so deserted after all. One side of it was the glass lift taking visitors back down to the bottom of the Tower and while we had been having our moment, it had slowly been filling with tourists, mainly Spanish students, who were now taking photos of us and cheering through the window.
“Did ju say jess?” one of them screamed through the thick glass, giving us a hopeful thumbs up.
“Jess!” we chorused back returning the thumbs up and receiving a round of applause.
We floated back down to the ground floor and – suddenly starving and wide-awake – found a tiny late night cafe nearby to eat in; we ordered French onion soup and crusty bread and sat back happily.
“There should be champagne!” Yer Man said suddenly, though neither of us drink “sorry, it should be better than this, it should be glamorous, not in a cafe…”
“It’s perfect,” I interrupted him, my fiancé, watching the lights of Paris bounce of my ring.
And it was.