Oh Paris, what can I say about you?
Paris – the ultimate dream destination for hundreds of millions of people around the world, the city of love, the city of lights. But Paris – a city that has never called out to me.
I’m not sure why but I’ve never felt a huge desire to visit Paris. When asked where I’d like to go in the world, I can come up with dozens of places I’d like to see ahead of Paris. I want to walk through the Costa Rican jungles, cruise down the Amazon, see lions on a safari in Africa, drink wine in the rolling hills of Tuscany, and swim in the pristine clear waters of Thailand.
But not Paris. Not to see a hundred churches or a cold, steel tower.
But of course, when planning a summer tour of Europe, especially as a 1st timer on the continent, it’d be a shame to skip over Paris. And besides, D would never hear of it, as Paris is one of his favorite cities. So we booked a little apartment for 5 nights.
It’s been hard for me to come up with words to describe my Paris experience. First off, Paris had the misfortune of being followed immediately after London. More precisely, only 3 days in London. But 3 days where I fell madly in love with the city and wasn’t ready to move on. (But seeing how London was seriously draining our wallets, it was probably for the best that we had to go.)
“It’s ok, we’ll come back,” D tried to cheer me up. “And we’re going to PARIS!” But as I sat on the bullet train speeding towards Paris, I kept on waiting for the excitement to hit, but it never did.
And then as we stepped off the train to change lines, a massive sea of people engulfed us. We were dumped off the train right into the madness of a Parisian rush hour. The crowd felt suffocating as I wheeled my luggage (over people’s feet) through the maze of narrow underground corridors, while struggling not to lose D. And oh, the entire train station reeked strongly of urine. I immediately missed the super clean and orderly London Underground.
After we found our apartment and dumped off our luggage, we ate dinner at a local cafe (on a recommendation from our host), where the prices weren’t all that affordable, the food wasn’t all that amazing, and the service wasn’t all that smiley. First impressions can account for a lot, and I wasn’t getting a great one.
Oh, and it was raining. I know that’s not Paris’s fault, but still.
Later back in our apartment, D asked what I’d like to do for the rest of the evening. I couldn’t come up with anything.
“Great, we’re in Paris, and we’re spending our first evening inside.”
So yep, that’s how we spent our first night in the City of Lights. But by the next morning, I was ready to explore.
Could my first impressions of Paris change in the next 5 days?
For my first time in Paris, I had hoped that I would just simply BE in Paris and soak up the magic. I envisioned sitting in a cute little sidewalk cafe, whiling away hours people-watching. Or grabbing a baguette and cheese block, and picnicking in front of the Eiffel Tower. Or just simply getting lost through windy cobblestone streets. But it turned out that my first time in Paris was spent much like any other tourist’s… rushing from site to site, and battling the crowds at every attraction. (But I did get to experience the awesomeness of a freshly made crepe and had more baguette sandwiches than I can count, so I’m not complaining.)
It was hectic, busy, and quickly drained the energy out of me. I had to constantly remind myself that I’ve finally made it to PARIS! – the place of everyone else’s dreams – and that we were spending big money to be here, so it wasn’t acceptable to NOT run around like a madwoman, hitting up as many sites as we can. Quite honestly, I really hate to travel this way. I feel like it takes the joy out of traveling to be simply ticking off a checklist of must-see’s. But somewhere in between my third Nutella crepe and seeing the Notre Dame light up at night, the magic finally happened.
As we sat at the far end of the plaza (the first time we’ve relaxed since getting in) and watched Notre Dame slowly light up one tier at the time, the light transforming from at first a ghoulish green to a light softwash yellow, until the entire cathedral is awash in a golden glow against an indigo sky, I finally understood.
This is the magic of Paris. This is what hundreds of millions of people come to see and experience. This is what they hope to feel, when basking in the glow of a beautiful ancient building.
And I knew that this would be a sight that will be forever ingrained in my memories also.
Paris, I may not love you still, but I get you now.
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