The stars in unanimous alignment, your heart afire with passionate conviction and the proposal joyfully accepted, you decide to elope. Maybe one of you is a Montague, the other a Capulet. Maybe there are mothers frowning and forbidding, fathers ordering lassos and horsewhips off eBay, exes vowing murder-suicide or mobs of paparazzi in the garden: for whatever good reason, you decide to go.
When I go on the run with my one true love, we will head straight to Paris, of course, on the last train, caught with seconds to spare. We will arrive late, the streets around the Gare du Nord quiet. No luxury hotel for us then – too many enquiring glances and knowing looks. We will go for a little three star, the kind with carpet on the walls and wallpaper on the ceiling, dim curving stairwells, a receptionist as sympathetic and discreet as a divinity offering rooms with long histories, starched sheets and bolsters in the bed. We will find we are not so tired after all… And in the morning, south! South to the sun.
We will take the TGV to Marseilles, first class, where the Mediterranean glitters like a promise, the mistral tousles the Aleppo pines and the city, as wise and wild as a gypsy queen, glows like a dusty crown. We will have eaten well at breakfast and now we will be in the mood for relish. So after choosing a hotel overlooking the Vieux Port we will lunch on oysters and the kind of sea bass you cannot get anywhere else, fresh and succulent. A deep siesta in each other’s arms will turn to languid and tender entwining as the twilight turns violet and the lamps of the harbour come up. We will dress eventually and make ourselves beautiful and go out to dine on Provençale lamb and a glass of the best Rhône red, and soft conversation, the candlelight dancing in my beloved’s eyes.
The next day will be Sunday and so we will climb the hill, holding hands, up to the basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde, and whatever our faiths we will kneel together, in that sacred place of sun, sea and the sky. As the priest intones the mass in Latin we will make private vows to one another that will never be broken. In the evening, because short haul is OK on very special occasions, we will catch a plane from Marseilles to Palermo in Sicily, my favourite island in the world. A night at the Villa Igiea hotel, a Belle Époque magnificence overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea, with the windows open, a breeze off the water and the shush of waves lapping away the heat. Then a hire car and so many choices – a mission to Etna, the great volcano, or Syracusa, one of the most beautiful towns in all the world, or a meander down into the deep southwest of the island, at the gentlest end of Europe.
And whenever people ask us we will tell them what we are doing, and when we return, eventually to our lives, and they say ‘Where did you go!’ we will say, ‘We eloped!’ – but nothing else will we tell them. Some adventures are really only made for two.