By Jacqueline Harmon Butler
There’s romance on the menu.
Ernest Hemingway called Paris a “movable feast,” and I have always agreed with him. On my last night in Paris, I decided to have my own movable feast—a progressive supper, with each course in a different restaurant. I wanted the restaurants to be within walking distance from one another, the last one near my hotel in the 6th arrondissement.
I was feeling a bit lonely and disappointed that I hadn’t fallen in love with anyone this trip. I had already told my friends back home that this time I would meet that “special someone” while in Paris. Now, here I was, my last night in town, and still alone.
It was a perfect late summer evening. The sun set with an explosion of orange, pink and violet as I sat sipping my Kir Royale at the Café d’Flore. I took a leisurely stroll through the old neighborhood, pausing now and then to window-shop. I wandered across the Pont des Beaux-Arts and over to Les Halles and the restaurant Au Pied de Cochon.
As the maitre d’ escorted me to a choice table on the terrace, I stole furtive glances around the room, hoping there would be a single man within easy flirting range. Alas, there seemed to be only couples or groups of women nearby. My waiter, though cute, was far too young. I sighed and decided a little Champagne and oysters would cheer me up considerably. Nor could I resist a bowl of delicious onion soup, washed down with a cool glass of Provençal Rosé. Yes, I thought, I’m feeling much better.
I meandered a few blocks to L’Escargot Montorgueil for a few escargots. They were plump little darlings, swimming in garlic and butter and dusted all over with chopped parsley. I chose a wonderful old Burgundy red to accessorize the dish. Yummmmm, I thought, what a splendid idea. Suddenly, over the rim of my wine glass, I noticed an attractive Frenchman looking my way. Oh la la, I thought. Things are looking up. Then he smiled at me and I felt I would faint. When he got up from his table, I was certain he was coming over to meet me but he walked right by. With a sinking heart, I watched as he embraced a glamorous blonde. My beautiful escargots, so delicious a moment ago, seemed to coagulate on the plate. I paid my bill and left the restaurant without even looking at the handsome Frenchman and his friend chatting cozily in a corner of the bar.
My mood was somewhat dejected as I crossed the Pont Marie to the Ile St. Louis. Gliding along the Seine below was a grand sightseeing boat, a Bateaux Mouche, its lights blazing against the old buildings. The decks were filled with happy couples laughing and pointing out the sights to each other. Romantic music came floating up to me and I could see couples dancing on the upper deck. Looking down along the quai I saw pairs and pairs of lovers strolling hand in hand. Others were sitting close together along the water’s edge, locked in tight and feverish embraces.
Somehow I didn’t feel hungry anymore. My plans to go to L’Orangerie for a leg of lamb and a rich Bordeaux no longer seemed interesting. By now I was feeling absolutely wretched and sorry for myself, so I decided to wander back toward the hotel.
The Pont Neuf looked beautiful with lights reflecting off the stone facade. I had photographed the bridge earlier in the day and decided to capture a few night images. Working took my mind off my loneliness and the lighting was perfect. I photographed the bridge from one side to the other and then from the top and from the bottom. Wanting to get some long shots, I walked over to the Pont des Beaux-Arts. Looking through the view finder I caught my breath. The wide-angle lens had captured the entire bridge shining golden in the night light, with the sparkling Seine below.
Ah Paris, I sighed, how could any city be more lovely than you? I stood there, body tingling and heart swelling. Tears came to my eyes and I forgot all about my loneliness and depression. Then, as if on cue, a deep, sensuous voice said, “Bon soir, Mademoiselle.” I turned around to gaze into a gorgeous pair of laughing, chocolate-brown eyes.
Jacqueline Harmon Butler is an international award-winning writer and the recipient of many press awards, including Italy’s prestigious Golden Linchetto Prize for best foreign journalist and the Lowell Thomas Gold Award for Internet publications. Her books include the 7th edition of The Travel Writer’s Handbook, Taking a Chance on Love (a memoir which chronicles her 20-year romance with a much younger Italian man), and a romantic novel, One Last Trip to Paris. Most recently, she won the Silver Award for Travel and Food in the Tenth Annual Solas Awards.