For as long as I can remember, I have loved all things Paris. I can’t recall what started this obsession, but when I was 13 years old, I decided to paint my room hot pink, decorating my walls with Parisian icons. During holidays, I’d always receive French-related gifts, and I started studying the language in junior high. I’d often stay after class, learning from my teacher how to travel abroad. She taught me about the art of overnight trains, and how to choose a good hostel. All tips which came in handy this summer.
When we first decided that we were to visit Europe, there was no question about adding Paris to our itinerary. In fact, it was the first guidebook that I bought, and the first place that I planned. The hubs and I spent many nights dining on cheese, baguettes, and bottles of wine, watching favorite French films, looking forward to the arrival of our trip.
Arriving in Paris, I was a bit nervous. What if this city that I had perfected in my mind, failed to meet my standards? What if the people really were as rude as I had heard they were? What if the Eiffel Tower wasn’t really all that magical? Or if the the Louvre was just another tourist trap? I was terrified of disappointment…
When we arrived, I cried. A lot. I cried after eating lunch that our host family so beautifully prepared. I cried because their house was so perfectly French. I cried when I first spotted the Eiffel Tower. I cried during our picnic on the Champs de Mars. I cried when I drank too much wine, and I nearly cried when I ate my first chocolate croissant. Paris was everything that I had ever hoped it would be, and so much more.
Each day started with fresh bread from the local bakery, and a mean shot of espresso. We’d walk to the train in the morning, passing locals on their way to work. We’d wait on the platform for the subway, next to French lovers always in a tight embrace. I’d try to read a bit of the morning paper, and study our itinerary preparing for our day to come. We filled our time with museums and markets, and almost always stopped in the park for an afternoon nap.
We hung out with Monet at the Musée d’Orsay and the Gargoyles at Notre Dame. We strolled the Champs-Élysées and dined at the foot at the Arc de Triomphe. We walked along the Seine, shopping for antique books. We scaled the Eiffiel Tower, all 674 steps. We imagined that we were royalty in the halls of Versailles, and explored the king’s chapel, La Sainte-Chapelle.
The people were lovely, despite what I’ve always heard. A simple, “Bonjour! Comment allez-vous?,” to start a conversation always seemed to do the trick. I was obsessed with the Haussmann architecture that dominated the streets, and even more obsessed with the food, or at least the passion that went into each meal. I looked forward to meal times and the events that they were. We ate duck, and quiche, and full sticks of butter. We had stinky cheese, and souffles, and the most perfect of tarts. We sipped French wines and a green chartreuse, and fell in love with the French way of life.
Our three days there were much too short. Even my skeptical hubs fell for this romantic city that I’ve long lusted for. It’s nice to know that my French obsession wasn’t just a phase. I loved it when I was 13, and I love it even more today. I spend meal times scouring through my French cookbooks and swooning over my new Flame Le Creuset. At night, I study the language and plot how to one day live in France. I’m constantly listening to “I Love Paris! Classic Gypsy Swing and French Accordion Jazz” on repeat and longing for the day that I can return to find my own favorite little French cafe.
Oh, I’m so happy that you thoroughly enjoyed France and didn’t let the naysayers get to you. Every Parisian that I ran into was very kind and hospitable! I think it helps to speak French while in France instead of yelling (as if they are hard of hearing) at them in English. 🙂 I’m dying to return some day with Mr. Mister!