An Engaging Trip to Paris: Part II

CLICK HERE to Read Part I

There are very few things that can get me out of bed in the morning. And a wakeup call is not one of them. But our Tuesday itinerary was jam-packed with meetings, activities, and cocktails, so I reluctantly emerged from my delicious king-size cocoon to prepare for the busy morning ahead. After a fast shower and a major fashion emergency (seriously, what does one wear for a Paris shopping spree?!?), I had little time to spare. I ascended one floor to the Intercontinental Club Lounge for a light bite and a quick dose of caffeine.

It was 10 a.m. and I had been in Paris for 28 hours. Somehow I had failed to eat a single croissant in one whole day. It seemed shameful and almost absurd that I would deprive myself of the flakey, crusty, buttery pastry for so long. I grabbed two plains and two chocolates from the buffet spread (you know, “when in Paris”) and filled my coffee cup to the brim with a steaming hot whole-milk cappuccino. There was nothing fancy or special about my morning meal. It was simple and fuss-free. But it was perfect in every way. Each bite and every sip made me smile. “I'm eating a croissant in Paris. I'm sipping espresso in Europe.” Life doesn't get much better.

Things That Make You Go Oo-la-la!
I stumbled upon many a designer store throughout my stay in Paris. (A little Chanel here, some Hermès there.) And, of course, they all taunted and teased me with beautiful window displays and large banners promising big-time “soldes.” (French for sales. I'm a fast learner.) And while part of me was tempted to throw caution to the wind and blow my whole budget—or lack thereof—on the latest and greatest from Yves Saint Laurent (“Oh, you likey? I got it in Paris!”), I decided to save my money—or lack thereof! —for more uniquely Parisian shopportunities. Lucky for me, we were heading out on an exclusive VIP tour to see a few of the newest, trendiest, and coolest concept stores the City of Light has to offer.

First up was Hôtel Particulier, a contemporary boutique boasting avant-garde fashion, artsy accessories, and kitschy-cute home decor by the likes of Alexis Mabille, Quentin Veron, Kris Van Assche, Rubin Chapelle, and other exotic international names that I can barely pronounce. Funky and fun with a sense of humor, the bold and colorful store has something for everyone, and it's an ideal destination for scouting uncommon gifts and silly knickknacks. I particularly liked the perfume by Etat Libre d'Orange ironically named Nothing. (“You smell nice. What are you wearing?”… “Oh, it's Nothing.”) Crystal-embellished clutches and sequined dresses add a little glitz and glam to the store's unconventional inventory. Basically, Hôtel Particulier is a one-stop shop for the awesomely eccentric Parisian party girl. (Whoever she is, she's my idol.)

The next time I have a black-tie affair, I might have to fly to Paris to find a dress. I could spend hours trying on the fabulously sexy silhouettes at Metal Flaque. Everything is just too pretty for words, especially the saucy numbers from Jenny Packham—oh, how I love her punchy little pieces! The decor is clean and modern, and the staff is cordial and accommodating at this super-high-end luxury boutique. And downstairs, the wedding salon boasts the only selection of Vera Wang designs in all of Gay Paree. I sipped my complimentary glass of bubbly and admired the white-as-snow lace, tulle, and bows! Oh my! I could never get away with drooling over bridal couture at home. (What if someone saw me playing dress-up?) Before we left, one of the employees handed me a pin that said “Marry Me. I'm Gorgeous.” How could I know that this gesture would be so prescient? (That's some foreshadowing for what's to come in today's random ramblings.)

With multiple locations, L'Eclaireur might just be the most bizarre chain in all of Paris. Each shop has its own unique theme and inventory and feels like a completely separate endeavor. There's an eclectic mix of designer clothes, accessories, home decor, and furniture. Whether you're in the market for a crazy neon chandelier that changes color or a pair of slamming knee-high boots, you might just find it at L'Eclaireur. Or maybe not. Either way, bring your wallet. Cheap is not an option.

Things That Make You Go Mmmm!
After our tour de stores, we were starving. (Those four croissants were on the small side!) Fortunately, L'Eclaireur in Galerie Royale boasts its very own restaurant, L'Etrange. With my second champagne glass half-empty, I decided to get adventurous. The menu was in French, but I was sure I could somehow decode the dishes. Miraculously, I managed to order sweet melon with thinly sliced prosciutto for an appetizer and grilled scallops for my entrée. Both were exquisitely presented and unbelievably delicious. But the real highlight: a thin Fabergé egg made from milk chocolate. Our waiter poured a hot caramel sauce over the delicate creation, which made it crack in half. Inside, the decadent dessert spilled sorbet, ice cream, and fresh strawberries. It was sinful. And I'm pretty sure it was laced with drugs because after a few mouthfuls I felt like I was floating on air. I couldn't imagine feeling happier … well, I was in for a surprise.

My Headline Finally Makes Sense
Fueled by a dreamy lunch, the other girls were eager to shop for souvenirs. I, on the other hand, was ready for a nap, so I excused myself and took a taxi back to the InterContinental Le Grand Hotel. I was making a beeline for the elevators, calculating exactly how much time I'd have to sleep, when suddenly I heard my name.

There, sitting on one of the deluxe seats in the stately lobby, was my boyfriend, Dan. He stood up and presented me with a dozen roses while I, jaw to the ground, remained completely speechless and confused. I decided that I was hallucinating. (Dude, what was in that Fabergé egg?) I just couldn't grasp what Dan was doing there. At Le Grand Hotel. In Paris. In France. In Europe. During a press trip. It took a few moments for my soul to drift back from this out-of-body experience and my vocabulary to return to my brain. “What are you doing here?” I asked a little too harshly. Rather than answer my accusatory query he led me to the elevator. But I could barely push the button for the fourth floor—my hands were trembling, and my insides were in knots.

We got to the room and I asked, this time more enthusiastically, “What are you doing here?” And his response sent butterflies to my stomach. “I think you know what I'm doing here.” Within seconds, his laptop was open, a Beatles song was playing, and Dan was down on one knee. I was getting proposed to. At Le Grand Hotel. In Paris. In France. In Europe. During a press trip.

Needless to say, I never did get that nap in. There's something sort of hilarious about the whole situation. Dan made a sweepingly romantic move. He flew to Paris for 24 hours just to say “Hi. And by the way, will you marry me?” And rather than taking me to the Eiffel Tower or somewhere fabulously clichéd, he just popped a squat in his sweaty airplane clothes smack in the middle of my hotel room. It couldn't have been better, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

A few hours later, I coolly made my way down to the lobby to rejoin the rest of our group for a museum tour and dinner. I shoved my left hand in the middle of our circle and told them all about my Paris surprise. They insisted that my fiancé (ahh!) join us for our elegant evening plans. (How funny would it have been if I had just left him alone at the hotel on the night of our engagement?)

Sparkly Things
It would take a lot to pry my eye off my bedazzled finger. But I was pretty sure that the Baccarat Museum and Gallery would have a few things that sparkled even more than my new bling. Our private tour guide told us all about the enchanting history behind the iconic crystal company, as we ogled phenomenal chandeliers, goblets, perfume bottles, and jewels. We saw the amazing ballroom where Eva Longoria and Tony Parker were married (sadly, out of my bridal budget). And I even got a few ideas for my shower registry.

A little while later, we retired to the majestic Baccarat Crystal Room for dinner. This regal restaurant belongs in a fairy-tale castle. It's dripping with (duh) Baccarat crystals, adored with lush pink fabrics, and decorated with stunning furniture fit for aristocrats. We feasted on fabulous food and drank glass after glass and bottle after bottle of wine. It was a wonderful way to celebrate with my new friends. I felt as radiant as my ring, as brilliant as my Baccarat surroundings, and as bubbly as the champagne I was downing at record speed.

The City of Night
It was 10 p.m., and Dan was leaving in the morning. We barely had time alone to soak up the reality of our romance. But the surprises were not over yet. Dan had rented a car so we could explore Paris at night. We drove down the windy streets and oohed and aahed at the sensational sights. We went to the Eiffel Tower and kissed at midnight. We watched as the tower shimmered with lights. I felt a twinkle. We braved the rotary traffic to admire the Arc de Triomphe. And then we just enjoyed getting lost in this charming, exciting city. Later we parked the car back at our hotel and went for a walk. We found a café that was open late and ordered yet another bottle of champagne. He laughed (and I screamed) as a mouse peeked its small head from behind a banquet chair. I pictured the kitchen scene from Ratatouille, and instantly found humor in the situation.

We got back to the hotel room and ordered room service and raided the mini bar and racked up a ridiculous incidental bill. (Euros felt like fake money anyway!) We called our loved ones and I sobbed and giggled and stared some more at my slightly-too-tight ring. I finally fell asleep sometime after 3 a.m., dreading the early morning wake-up call. Getting out of bed was going to be pure torture.

The phone rang and a chipper recording informed me that it was time to get my drunk butt up. I had a head-banging hangover and mascara stains all over my face. The only thing that motivated me was the thought of that steamy cappuccino and those fresh warm croissants. Okay, waking up wouldn't be so bad after all. And, hey, who knew what my last day in Paris would bring.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's Bastille Day post! Find out how I celebrated like a proud Parisian.