August 15, 2008

Pinch Me

Breaking news: Paris is a fantastic place to get married. You read it here first.

I could've sworn our boarding passes said "Depart Skopje / Arrive Paris," but it turns out they truly read, "Depart Peace Corps / Arrive Lap of Luxury." Perhaps you remember that TV show Quantum Leap in which everyman quantum physicist Sam Beckett would "leap" into the bodies of various people through history and live their lives for a few days. Each episode would begin with him making the leap and then muttering, "Oh boy," as he takes in his new situation.

Well, Jillian and I felt a bit like Sam Beckett as we made our way down Champs-Élysées towards our hotel. We had "leaped" from Macedonia on to la plus belle avenue du monde. And as we set down our oversized backpacks in a hotel room complete with His 'n Hers matching bathrobes, we didn't so much as mutter "oh boy" as we did exclaim, "Holy s--t!"

So it was a pretty magical weekend. The occasion was the wedding of Jillian's sister Alexandra (San Diego transplant living in know those voice menus you get when calling 800-numbers? "To pay your parking ticket using your Mastercard, please say or press 1." Yeah, she makes those) and Markus (Finnish-born puppet-master of financial markets). A small contingent of immediate family and close friends were on hand for three days in one of the finest cities in all the world.

This was my first time and it was Jillian's second time in Paris, so I'll spare you all the pretentious, "Ignoring the mindless herd of tourists, I set out to find the real Paris" b.s. We went to the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Arc de Truimph, Montmartre, the Louvre, and Musee D'Orsay. Like any great city, Paris exceeded my already high expectations. The architecture--which I had seen echoes of in Quebec and, to a lesser extent, New Orleans--makes every street a photogenic panorama of wrought iron and balconies. On the night of the wedding, after the reception had wound down, Jillian and I joined Aline, a friend of Alex's who had performed the ceremony, on a 3am jaunt over to the Eiffel Tower. Unlit at that hour, it nonetheless cut a rather imposing figure against the cloudy evening sky. The streets surrounding the tower were hushed; the evening's last wine had been poured.

At Sacre Coeur

Sitting in swanky Parisian bars, sipping cafe au lait along a sidewalk, eating fresh crepes in a cobblestone square--I just had to let myself giggle a few times at what an incredible time we were all having. The families were together for an instant classic, one of those "remember when" weekends. On our last day together, we ascended Montmartre to see Sacre Coeur, the beautiful Catholic basilica, and to walk the narrow streets for some shopping (ladies) and enjoying beverages (men).

But let me back up: the wedding was just incredible. Held at a hotel situated nicely between Champs-Élysées and the tower, it was elegant in every sense of the word. From getting ready to the ceremony to the drinks-and-hors d'vores reception to the formal dinner reception, the wedding party and guests just floated along on a cloud of comfort and jubilance. Alex looked downright resplendent in her dress, which included a bonafide train. Jillian took it upon herself to be the unoffical, um, train fixer-upper for all of the couple's official wedding photos. The photographer was beside himself with gratitude.

Dan with the Auckland sisters: Jillian, Alex & Jaime

Markus, meanwhile, looked as though he couldn't have been any less surprised that the wedding and reception--in fact, everything surrounding the event--went perfectly. Just a couple of hours before the ceremony, he and I sat down for a couple of beers (at least I think that's what we were was called Monaco and it was apparently fruit juice-infused beer) as he pulled some last minute levers to arrange for a bridal bouquet and flowers for the mothers. Totally in control. In fact, the evening's most memorable line proved to be perhaps the single best summation of Markus. As we all climbed out of our wedding attire late that night, a well-imbibed Markus responded to a query about flights the next day with, "Baby, I make things happen!"

That he did. And Paris did the rest. Alas, all things must come to an end. Even Sam Beckett finally made the leap home.

[As always, lots more photos can be found by clicking on "Our Photos" on the right sidebar.]

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