Waking up on Bastille Day was pure torture. I had the hangover from H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks, and to add insult to injury, it looked seriously overcast outside. My room was dark, dry, warm, and cozy. If I could have stayed in bed all day, I would have welcomed the looming thunderstorm with open arms. But I couldn't stay in bed all day, and to pile on further insult to further injury, I had forgotten to pack my umbrella—my favorite umbrella featuring French poodles prancing in Paris! Such a shame.
I bid adieu to Dan (you know, my new fiancé!) and swallowed a handful of Tylenol. It was time to meet the rest of the group downstairs. To my dismay, everyone else looked alive and chipper (had they really resisted the urge to pillage the mini bar?), and I gave myself permission to hate them just a little bit. One particularly motivated writer-friend had even gotten up early and marched over to the Champsâ€“Ã‰lysées to watch the Bastille Day parade. I made a mental note to kick myself later (after the hangover was finished with its own brutal beating) for missing this unique opportunity to witness the exciting annual celebration.
Oh, well. Perhaps a delicious (translation: greasy) meal while hobnobbing with the Paris elite would help make me feel better. Lucky for me, we were off to the city's newest It restaurant: Ralph's. Buzzing with stylish businessmen and gorgeous ladies who lunch, Ralph Lauren's elegant eatery is the hungry prepster's dream come true. Sharing a courtyard with the Ralph Lauren store on Boulevard Saint-Germain, Ralph's is an intimately inviting space with a warm and tasteful ambience that's at once glamorous and low-key. Blooming bunches of red roses add color to the dark-wood tables, and textured paintings of horses adorn the brick walls. Everything about this place epitomizes the rustic charm that is Ralph Lauren. Even the bathrooms were flawlessly manicured. The prim staff and proper patrons looked as though they just stepped off a magazine shoot. (Really, a little bit of mascara wouldn't have killed you, Lauren. And perhaps running a comb through your hair would have been a decent idea.)
I hemmed and hawed over the menu: Maine lobster, crab, or a good old-fashioned hotdog? But who was I kidding—I needed to indulge my inner carnivore and devour a Ralph burger. I wolfed down every last crumb and french fry. From the ooey-gooey melted cheese to the juicy medium-rare meat to the soft, saturated bun to the vinegary coleslaw, it was pure perfection on a plate. And with a month of hangover-less clarity behind me, I can claim with absolute certainty that it is not the booze talking when I say: Best. Burger. Ever.
We had the rest of the afternoon off, so I wanted to cab it back to the hotel for a bit and collapse in bed for a few more blissful hours of sleep. But Mother Nature had other plans altogether. The weather had gone from dubious to disastrous. The sky was black and the rain was relentless. And I, sans French-poodle umbrella, was about to get drenched. But something about running through the pouring rain in Paris felt silly and liberating. Yes, I was freezing. Yes, I was soaked. And, yes, finding a taxi in a rainstorm is like trying to spot a male Parisian not wearing skinny jeans. But still. When is the next time I'll get to desperately race and giggle through the streets of France? I had to appreciate the moment.
I finally got back to my room and no longer felt the need for naptime. The rain had jolted me out of my funk, and I felt revitalized. And since the downpour had turned to a light drizzle, I decided to take a jaunt to the macaron store to buy some sweet souvenirs for family and friends. When it comes to the famous French cookie-cake, Laduree is the créme de la créme of pastry shops. Walk in and take a deep breath—that's the smell of happiness. I bought a few adorable gift boxes to bring home and got two macarons for myself as an afternoon snack. I've got to admit that under normal circumstances I'm not the biggest macaron fiend. But, when in Paris .... The cappuccino and rose flavors were subtly soft and deliciously divine. Mmmm. I'm starting to get this whole macaron craze. I returned to Le Grand and stopped in the lobby to have a soothing latté to wash down the dessert. It was our last day there, and I wanted to soak up the grandeur of the fancy French hotel and enjoy the simpler pleasures of being in Paris.
An hour later, with wet-from-the-shower hair, I embarked on the Bateaux Parisiens dinner cruise. The gorgeous boat is surrounded by windows and features a sky-top roof so that you can admire all the sensational sights the city has to offer. We sipped champagne and pointed at every historical landmark, beautiful building, and romantic couple kissing. After our lavish meal, we went to the middle of the dance floor to watch the colorful Bastille Day fireworks. What a perfect party! It was a marvelous way to end an incredible trip.
The regal hotel, the fabulous food, the decadent desserts, the endless champagne, the surprise proposal, the sparkling tower, the chic shopping, the cobblestone streets ... I fell head over heels in love with the City of Light. I can't wait to return. And next time, you better believe I'll remember my poodle umbrella.
From Paris With Love,
P.S. You didn't think we were done yet, did you? Oh, no. Not even close. We got on a plane from Paris and headed to (drum roll, please) ... Istanbul, which was named the 2010 Cultural Capital of Europe. We ate like sultans and partied like, well, rock stars. Check back on Monday to find out more about our titillating trip to Turkey.