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In the summer of 2006, I traveled to Paris, France with my family. It was the trip that completely changed the way in which I viewed different cultures and people from other countries. Thankfully, I was able to speak a little French when I was there because I had taken one year of French class. Of course, the French-English dictionary is a travel necessity for every visitor. While there, we stayed in a quaint hotel in Central Paris right on the Champs-Elysees, and it was one of the best and most memorable experiences of my life.
The Parisian lifestyle is quite different from the American lifestyle, and actually being there helped me to realize this on a personal level. I decided to get the most out of my trip by trying to enjoy the lifestyle of a typical Parisian, meandering around the city and enjoying every exciting adventure it has to offer. A vacation traveler often does so as a conventional tourist, hopping from attraction to attraction and then returning home with a handful of souvenirs, yet never truly experiencing the authentic essence of the city. According to Hemingway, “Paris is a moveable feast” and I knew I wanted to enjoy every flavor.
When you imagine going to France, you can’t help but think of gourmet food. Eating habits are different in France, starting off with a light breakfast early in the morning, usually consisting of the fresh-baked goodies from a corner Boulangerie, such as delicious croissants au chocolat or baguettes with jam, and served with cafÃ© au lait. Lunch, eaten around 2:00 p.m., is the biggest meal of the day. Students get over an hour to leave school, go home and eat lunch with their families. My favorite lunchtime meals were served in the outdoor cafes of the Latin Quarter across from the Notre Dame. A light dinner around 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. could last about two hours. We all enjoyed delicacies of fine French foods served with the luscious desserts for which the French chefs are renowned. The cuisine alone is an experience to be savored and one that, once enjoyed, will be treasured forever.
The “City of Love,” as it is often called, shines with its many cultural and historical sites. We visited important landmarks in and around Paris; the most famous one being the highly esteemed EiffelTower. It is one of the coolest things I have ever seen up close. The steel structure is impressive, and visitors can either walk up the many flights of stairs or take the elevator. I recommend taking the elevator, especially up to the top where the view of the city is extraordinary. We took the elevator up at night and saw the entire city as the Tower flashed bright bursts of light in the dark sky, and then we took the stairs back down afterwards. It was a journey to remember.
Going to Paris was a life-changing experience for me; it gave me the opportunity to appreciate a different culture; one that is remarkably different from my own. Watching Parisians gather in cafes, socialize for many hours, eat lunch in parks, stroll alongside the Seine River, and simply take time to enjoy their city is what makes the culture so appealing to tourists from countries around the world. If you have the opportunity to go to France, make sure to visit Paris. Experience the joys it has to offer, from the delectable cuisine and artistic culture that has influenced many generations, to the awesome sights and structures that will leave you, as it did me (and Hemingway), forever changed.