The second I took the final step out of the Franklin D. Roosevelt metro stop and onto the Champs-Ã‰lysÃ©es in Paris, I knew that I would fall in love with France. I never could have imagined how much of an impact a trip abroad would have on my life.
Paris was the first stop on our two week tour through Europe last summer. This, my family later realized, was a big mistake. Parisian architecture was too beautiful, the people were too kind, the food was too delicious! In the three short days we blissfully spent roaming the streets of Paris, our standards had been set too high. It was impossible for any other city to outdo the “City of Lights”. After we left, we found ourselves comparing everything to France. In London it was exciting to try to keep up with the rush of businessmen riding the underground, but remember how the women in Paris rode bicycles with flower-filled baskets in skirts? In Edinburgh the haggis was . . . different, but it was nothing compared to the crispy warm baguette and fresh strawberries in France.
People that live in the city often claim they need a break from the hustle of city life. In Paris though, I could never imagine anyone ever having this same complaint. It seemed that Paris was an oasis all its own. Although I may have been wide-awake at 5:30 am, ready to seize the day, the French were clearly not as eager. The streets were practically desolate in the early morning. By the second day of our trip, I realized that if I ever wanted to embrace the Parisian lifestyle, I too would need to slow down and leisurely enjoy all that France had to offer.
It was evident that the Parisians have a love of their culture as well. As my family and I strolled down the Rue du Champ de Mars, we noticed that all of the chairs at the outdoor cafÃ©s faced the Eiffel Tower. Nearly every Parisian we met seemed thrilled to be able to share a bit of their culture with us. Waiters took a seat at our table to boast the chef’s latest creation. One waiter in particular, absolutely delighted that we enjoyed our meal, voluntarily brought us out second helpings at no charge! This hospitality was the same everywhere we went.
If I have one tip for prospective Paris visitors, it is to learn basic French etiquette and language. Our meager attempts to fumble through a conversation in French were not only memorable, but definitely paid off. Even if we completely butchered the language, this seemed to be the key to getting extraordinary service. In fact, I was so enthralled with learning the language that upon my arrival home, I immediately bought Rosetta Stone FranÃ§ais so that when I one day move to France I will be able to fluently communicate with the people of my newly beloved city.
As I meandered down the vendor filled alleys with a cafÃ© au lait and croissant in hand, I realized that I would give anything to live in France. Whether it is an early morning pastry and cafÃ© au lait at the Rue Cler farmers’ market, an afternoon bike ride along the River Seine, or enjoying the late-night eclectic offerings of the Latin Quarter, the French clearly have a passion for enjoying life. Even a rich cup of chocolat chaud cannot warm my heart as much as the thought of making France my second home.
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