“We’re getting too old for this caper,” Betty said, puffing as she climbed the steps from the Metro. “I’d rather catch the sightseeing bus.” The pair had queued for the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and the Grand Palais – and that morning had floated along the Seine, multilingual headphones clamped to their ears and admired ancient buildings in shades of grey. Later they’d sheltered from the cold in Galeries Lafayette, sipping hot chocolate at a table in the gourmet foodhall, eyeing almond, vanilla and caramel tartlettes.
“Our flight leaves at six tomorrow,” Betty said. “What’s planned?”
Gordon patted her hand. “A surprise.”
After a breakfast of croissants and crusty baguettes at their hotel, they packed their bags.
“This okay for a day in Paris and the flight home?” Betty pirouetted.
“Except for the slippers.”
She frowned, looked down. “I’m so forgetful.’
They left their bags at reception and ambled along Boulevard Haussmann.
“What’s first on the list?” Betty asked.
At their favourite alfresco café opposite the Opéra, they sat in cane chairs and watched pedestrians dodge frantic traffic as they sipped café au lait.
“What now?” Betty asked as they wandered into Galeries Lafayette. “My legs are killing me.”
“Gifts for the girls.”
In the parfumerie Betty chose Arpège and Shalimar and had them gift-wrapped.
“Now for the surprise.” Gordon gripped her elbow. “I’ve booked a table at Le Grand Café Capucines.”
Her eyes sparkled. They’d often passed this elegant restaurant where waiters glided between tables set with sparkling silverware on crisp white tablecloths.
The maitre’d hung their coats in the foyer and ushered them to their table.
Betty opened the leather-bound menu. “It’s all Greek to me.”
Gordon grinned. “I’ll have French onion soup, followed by duck a l’orange.” He squeezed her hand. “Does mussel bisque and rabbit cassoulet appeal?”
“Oui, monsieur. My mouth’s watering.”
When the food arrived, they lingered over each mouthful.
“Like to try my bisque?” Betty asked.
Gordon sipped from her spoon, rolled it around his mouth. “A hint of garlic.” He kissed his fingertips. “Magnifique.”
Betty smiled. There was a time when she’d embraced the culture and language of this magical city. But her body and mind had slowed and she knew this would be her last visit. She raised her glass, determined to enjoy every moment.
Light-headed and giggling, the pair collected their luggage and sped by taxi to Charles de Gaulle Airport.
Betty watched the meter tick over. “It’s an extravagance.”
“But worth it.”
At the check-in counter, the airline representative shook his head.
“Non non,” he tut-tutted. “You’re a day early. Your flight leaves tomorrow.”
Betty looked at Gordon. Neither had thought to check the departure date on their tickets.
She paused. “Let’s stay overnight at the airport hotel.”
Gordon smiled. “It’s an extravagance.”
She chuckled. “But worth it.”
In their room they relaxed on the outsized bed and watched planes take off and land. She turned to Gordon. “Planned anything exciting for our last day in Paris?”
published 7 May 2012