Fay and I had been there before--Fay twice with her mother, I once as a soldier--but now we were there together. It was early autumn, and the trees were losing their leaves already along the Champs Elyseé. An enterprising young man was catching them in mid-air, dipping them in "gold leaf", attaching a pin at the back and doing a brisk business selling them to sentimental passers-by. Fay brought him her own maple leaf to gild, and we watched in fascination as he converted it to lovely costume jewelry!
Our hotel was a delight--the Regina, at Place des Pyramides--with the gleaming, golden statue of Jeanne d'Arc astride a mighty steed and waving her sword in the ???light just outside our window.
The lobby was like Louis XV's salon; all marble, gold, and crimson brocade. We had a tremendous, high, four poster bed, suitable I'm sure, for Napolean and Josephine. Parquet floors, ?rugs like tapestry, gilded fixtures in the bathroom. We couldn't find bath towels but concluded that the ?big, clean, fluffy, white terry-cloth robes were in lieu of bath towels. Fay finally dared to experiment with the bidet. She said it made her nervous!
We had a ?courtly, friendly concierge and a good map of Paris, so we took several happy walks nearby in the Luxemburg Gardens, the Tuileries, past Notre Dame, and along the banks of the Seine. The book stalls and art dealers there looked just the same. Of course we spent hours in the Louvre with the Venus de Milo and "La Gioconde"--Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. We litened in rapt attention as a docent explained the celebrated portrait to a group of French school children. I got chills down my spine as I came again under the hypnotic spell of the ?haunting state of the Winged Victory of Samothrace. Fay had, literally, to pull me away!
Our last morning while Fay was having her hair done, I hied myself to the Opera House where in 1945 I had heard a stunning performance of Mozart's "The Magic Flute" Now, it was "Il Trovatore", and I asked if there were any seats left for that night. Sadly, "No!" but as I turned away a man returned two box seats, and I bought them, paying plenty!
I was floating on air as I walked back to the hotel, but FAy quickly defalted me wailing, "I can't go! I don't have the right clothes!" She was firm about it, and I glumbly returned to the Opera box office.
The nice woman said she would refund my money, but she urged us to go, saying "'Il Trovatore' is a great success! And it's not like in the old days when everyone wore formal dress. You will see everything--ball gowns, evening ?p?j???s, short skirts, slacks, and maybe even blue jeans!"
Once again I went back to Fay, and she relented and had her pretty blue-green dress pressed. As we ascended the grand staircase at the Paris Opera, Fay stopped about half-way up and said, "Now I know why I was afraid to come! Right about here, when I was ten years old, the strap on my black patent-leather Mary Jane shoes broke, and I was embarassed in front of the whole world!" (An awful nightmare to a little girl!)
We had wonderful seats in a box for six, with individual armchairs. At the first internmission, the other two couples introduced themselves in French. One man, smooth, dark, and distinguished, said, "I am Roger Vadim and this is Mademoiselle So-and-So!" It didn't mean anything to me, but Fay whispered, "That's the guy--the director--who married Bridgette Bardot, Jane Fonda, and some other French bimbo--and then wrote a book about them! (Ships that pass in the night!)
We were swept away by the glorious music of "It ????te??" with the thrilling "Anvil Chorus" and the soaring tenor voice of a new young sensation from Spain--Placido Domingo!--and that's the last time I saw Paris!
Curtiss H. Anderson