A quandary in Paris

In S.O.L.O. Stories, S.O.L.O. Travel by trishlist

By: Ursula Rudorfer

“We don’t have to get married. We can be like the Europeans, staying together forever without tying the knot. Even having children!”

We’d been together for almost five years at that point, and it was something he probably didn’t care to hear over a shared soufflé, but if I was going to be honest with myself — marriage seemed unimportant to me. After all, we were so happy together and changing anything seemed like a disservice to the relationship.

On the flight from Los Angeles to Paris, I had passed the time with an interesting book. It was written by Elizabeth Gilbert of “Eat, Pray, Love” fame and was its unofficial sequel called “Committed: A Love Story”. In it, she details her road back to matrimony after having sworn it off forever. The reasons are unique and interesting, but it reconnected me with my ambivalence toward marriage.

Here I was. The love of my life sitting across from me. The two of us eating a soufflé together. By the Eiffel Tower. And yet the ambivalence was still there in full force.

It was a cold, rainy Spring day (but the most beautiful, and dare it say it, romantic kind of weather in Paris). It was a long day, as well. We had taken the high-speed Eurostar train from London that morning and proceeded to explore the grounds of Versailles after check-in. There were some things on our itinerary that I’d specifically wanted to share with him based on a previous visit of mine. Specifically, the Queen’s Hamlet, a peasant-inspired village created for Marie Antoinette to serve as a refuge and private meeting place for close friends, meant to mimic farm life and create a sense of being in the countryside. It’s essentially something out of “Alice in Wonderland”. Completely magical!

Last time, it had taken hours upon hours to get around the property. It’s unbelievably huge but truly an adventure. In order to save time, we invested in a bike rental at 7 Euros/hour. Totally worth it when you think about how much more you can see! So, we hopped on the bikes and started our adventure.

There’s something about riding a bike, one of the simplest modes of transportation, around these old structures and designs, the towering trees above you, hundreds of years old. It’s like being transported to another time.

Once we arrived at the Hamlet, I couldn’t hide my excitement. I immediately started pointing out all the architectural details and explaining the timeline of the construction. You just don’t see stuff like this in Los Angeles!

Then, it began to rain…

While rain seems to put many people off, we love it. When you stand in the full openness of the drops hitting you from above and surrender to the moment, it’s truly exhilarating. We were in the gardens of Versailles and the rain was pouring down. Nothing but miles of greenery and beautifully historic buildings around us.

“Let’s keep riding,” we said.

Within fifteen minutes, everyone else was out of sight, seeking refuge in the chateau or wherever there was available shelter. We just kept riding through the property, clothing soaked and laughing wildly. It felt like we had the whole place to ourselves.

Eventually, all things come to an end, and we retreated to a restaurant by the Grand Canal for a bite to eat, still dripping wet, but we didn’t mind. The whole experience had been incredible, what’s a little bit of wet clothes to show for it?

We returned to the hotel, changed our outfits and spent some time walking around the city — stopping for a Café au Lait here and an ice cream there. We rested for a bit on the Batobus, a river boat that circles nine popular spots along the river and a relaxing way to see the city from the water.

Fast forward to our lovely dinner and current topic of conversation: marriage. After experiencing one of the most romantic days of my life, the idea of still never occurred to me.  “What does it matter?” I thought, “It’s not like we’re planning on getting married soon, anyway.”

After dinner, we took a ten-minute walk to the Eiffel Tower, then continued further, back to the Seine River, and sat down on the steps that lead into it. Our energy was beginning to drop and we sat in a few moments of silence, digesting the day and looking over photos taken.

He began reaching in his bag, nervously looking for something, and began talking about us and how much the relationship meant to him. Still scanning through the photos on my camera, a box caught my eye. Is he holding a jewelry box? Earrings? A necklace? He knows I don’t wear jewelry!

When he finally opened it, the most magnificent diamond ring stared back at me.

I was shocked. Speechless.

“But we had just talked about how we’re good! How we don’t need all this!”

It was his plan the entire trip. Of course, I was excited and happy, but also scared and insecure. What does this mean for the future? How will we change?

I cried. We hugged. And my answer?  I said ‘yes’. And now looking back on that magical moment, it was always going to be ‘yes’. I realized that regardless of my thoughts about marriage, it was his desire for that commitment meant more to me than anything else. He was willing to take that risk with me.

And so it was there in that old, gorgeous, tasty, romantic city, where we began the steps toward the rest of our lives.

Ursula is a yoga and meditation teacher in her native Los Angeles. With parents who encouraged travel from a young age, she’s adventured across the globe, soaking in different cultures and lifestyles. When she discovered mindfulness meditation as a young adult, travel became less of an external stimulation and more of an internal one. Her most recent trip was to Iceland right after discovering she was pregnant. Having been overtaken with nausea and fatigue, she can’t objectively comment on the wide availability of fish and lamb offered at almost every restaurant. She’s happiest when sleeping, writing, and laughing. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter

SHE ONLY LIVES ONCE is a collection of photos + short stories empowering women of all ages to travel S.O.L.O. in pursuit of adventure and self-discovery. This part of the blog is committed to building a strong and resourceful community of female travelers who share their memorable lessons, from their most delicious adventures to their most awkward of moments . Interested in contributing a short story or photo? Please contact the Trishlist and/or hashtag #trishlist and #sheonlylivesonces for a chance to be featured.

Trishna Patel aka Trishlist is a cultural curator, photographer, and host specializing in travel and the human experience. Follow her latest adventures as she explores Los Angeles and beyond.