Paris in the Fall | New England Destination Photographer

I have always wanted to go to Paris. Ever since I saw Sabrina when I was 11 years old, it has been on my bucket list. I wanted to stand beneath the Tour de Eiffel, walk along the Seine, eat croissants and drink coffee in a cafe and walk down the cobblestone streets. As a teenager, I bought a black and white print of the Eiffel Tower and framed it. It was hung up in my room in my parents house through my college years as a placeholder until I could get there and take my own picture. Paris has always been a dream for me.

Last June, I got a frantic text message from my husband while he was away on a business trip in Las Vegas, “I think I’m having a stroke, I can’t move half of my face.” I asked him if he could speak and if he could move his arms and legs and he replied yes and then I told him to face time me so I could see him. Once he did, I felt pretty confident that he was not having a stroke, but I had dealt with my roommate in college developing Bell’s Palsy and I told him I thought that’s what could be happening.

He asked the concierge for a good hospital recommendation and we will forever be thankful for him and for the doctors in the ER at St. Vincent hospital in Las Vegas. While we did not know it then, my husband would come home and be diagnosed not with Bells Palsy, but with Ramsay Hunt Disease. Ramsay Hunt is a complication of shingles and is almost always mis-diagnosed and mis-treated and can result in permanent facial paralysis, synkinesis (think trying to raise your eyebrows and instead your lips move into a smile), hearing loss, severe exhaustion, vertigo and a host of other really awful things. If you google it, it’s a bleak diagnosis.

After a dark few weeks of not knowing what the future held, to see his lips begin to move when he smiled and his eyebrows raise when he laughed just 4 weeks after the onset was incredible. The doctors at that Las Vegas hospital gave my husband the exact medication he needed within hours of his facial paralysis happening. Because of that, the projected recovery of 18-24 (at least) months to regain facial movement took only 6 weeks.

My husband turned to me one day in late July and said “I want to take you to Paris.”

Ummm….excuse me?

We were celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary in October and had planned to go away for a long weekend. Paris was quite a departure from the Vermont B&B we were planning on going to.

I told him no way. The kids are too young for us to be traveling internationally, it’s too expensive, who the heck is gonna babysit…I threw a million excuses at him and he looked at me and said “life is too short. We don’t know what the future holds. We don’t know how long we’ll have our health. We have the ability to go, we’ll figure out the details. You have always wanted to go to Paris and I want to take you there.”

So last October, we boarded a plane from Boston and headed off to Paris. And it was as magical as I had hoped it would be. I felt at home there. It was slower. Calmer. We put our phones away and soaked it all in. The light, the beauty, the culture, and each other. We realized that we had not been on a vacation, alone, just the two of us, where one of wasn’t working, in 8 years.

We spent a blissful 4 days in the City of Light and then a whirlwind 24 hours in Dublin on our way home. It was the trip of a lifetime.

Paris is always a good idea.

Melissa Ortendahl