Monday, February 29, 2016

Paris is Always a Good Idea

In the famous words of Audrey Hepburn, "Paris is always a good idea."  I first visited Paris when I was in high school and immediately fell in love with the city.  The architecture, the lights, the cafes, the history... everything about Paris made my heart sing.  Last year as I was sorting through some of my old mementos I found my travel journal from my first trip to Paris.  As I read the entry describing the first time I saw the Eiffel Tower I actually teared up.  I remember that magical moment so vividly and it was fun to remember what Paris looked like through my teenage eyes.  During the semester that I studied abroad and the year I taught abroad I made countless trips to Paris where I visited the same sites over and over with friends and family members.  By time I returned to the United States in the spring of 2012 I was "sick of Paris."  Instead of seeing the beauty of the city that once captured my heart, all I could see was the trash on the streets, the homeless people in the metro, and the frustrated looks of the Parisians as yet another tourist demanded to be seen and heard.  Needless to say, in my mind, Paris was no longer a "good idea."

The Eiffel Tower

Fast forward four years and I am now living in Bordeaux just a short 3 hour train ride from Paris.  Despite the short distance and multiple trips to France over the past fews years I had yet to return to Paris, so when my dear friend Kathy suggested she come visit and we meet up in Paris I jumped at the idea.  I was so curious to visit Paris again.  I guess the saying "absence makes the heart grow fonder" is true because as we planned the five day trip and worked on our itinerary I was overcome with excitement at the thought of visiting Paris again.  Although Kathy and I had already both seen Paris, it was going to be the first time for her children.  The idea of reliving Paris for the first time through the eyes of her kids added another element of excitement for me and I counted down the days to our trip with great impatience.

The Moulin Rouge

I will be honest in saying that our trip got off to a rocky start due to some mean men in the metro, and just hours after arriving in Paris I had yet again a bitter taste left in my mouth.  However, after regrouping with Kathy and making the conscience effort not to let a few rude men ruin our trip we headed out with her children ready to conquer Paris and conquer we did.  We saw and did so much and even did some new things that neither Kathy nor I had ever done before such as eating Macaroons at the infamous Laduree on the Champs-Elysees or climbing the to the top of the Notre Dame bell towers.  Every Parisian we came in contact with was so kind and helpful and little by little the sparkle of Paris returned.  By the fifth day I could honestly say that it was my favorite Paris trip to date.    

Notre Dame Bell Tower

Paris is not perfect.  I will be the first to tell you that, but ask me what my favorite city in the world is and nine times out of ten I will tell you it's Paris (I mean Bordeaux is pretty great too!).  I always get a little sad whenever I talk to people who have visited Paris because they always seem to say the exact things: Paris is "dirty" and the people are "rude," but I like to say that they don't understand Paris.  Paris is flawed, complex, beautiful, and mysterious.  Paris is what you make it.  And I don't care what anyone says, I stand by Ms. Hepburn in saying that Paris is ALWAYS a good idea.

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