A Different Sort of Creme Brulee - My Family Travels

The crème brulee served in Paris is the best crème brulee I have ever tasted.

It’s creamy and smooth, and of course, like other crème brulees, has a perfectly glazed top. However, after trying an assortment of crème brulees throughout my life, I noticed a subtle difference between the ones served in Paris and the others: an almost indistinguishable spice involved. Was it cinnamon perhaps? Or maybe a sprinkle of nutmeg? As I am not a cook, I couldn’t tell precisely. Nevertheless, it was delicious.

I viewed Paris in very much the same light as I viewed Parisian crème brulees; after traveling through an assortment of European cities as part of a Cosmos four-week tour in the summer of 2009, I noticed that there was something–some spice perhaps–that made Paris so very different for me.

I found out what that “spice” was during my stay there. It was the famous Parisian’s “joie de vivre,” the ability to always enjoy life with grace and passion, despite the circumstances. Regret was not an option.

For me, this was an unusual change from the hectic pace of American life.  Compared to Parisians, Americans seem to think that living means rushing around with a to-do list. We seldom have time to truly stop for a second, enjoy life, and contemplate. Which, in Paris, was what I finally did. During our stay, my mom and I would spend hours walking the streets, talking about family, fate, and its unexpected role in our lives.  It was only in Paris that we could sit down at cafes for hours on end and listen to our inner souls without feeling a need to do something more “productive.”

I came home a different person, freer and wiser, perhaps. I gained a deeper appreciation for the present. Before the trip, I was obsessed with working and achieving the expected, feeling uneasy every time I took a turn “off the beaten path” expected of me as a teenager.  After Paris, I realized that to truly “live,” I must work and play hard, and allow myself to dream.  It was with this new attitude that I learned to balance my life, to be the master of my hectic schedule and not just its slave.

Equally important, I realized that the journey is just as important as the final destination. My mom and I had arrived with a lengthy list of “must-see” attractions. However, instead of following that list as we initially planned, we found ourselves taking spontaneous walks along the cobblestone streets, pondering in the Tulleries gardens, and embarking on detours in the country. Our list became a list of suggestions, rather than a mandatory one. I have taken this new outlook back to America, realizing that while it is necessary to have goals, they should serve as guidelines, not dictators, of our destiny.

The trip wasn’t perfect; there were some things that could have been better. Staying in a hotel without a safe, for example, is one of them. Paranoid, my mom made me lug around a 5-lb laptop in my backpack all day, which, while a great way to burn calories, was not exactly fun. We also quickly realized that not all hotels are created equal – the Campanile, located on boulevard Berthier, while beautiful inside, was located on the outskirts of Paris, a long trek home after a tiring day (I would recommend Best Western to anybody who visits). Nonetheless, as a traveler, you must learn to take the good with the bad, realizing that every experience is beautiful in-and-out-of itself. More crème brulee, anyone?


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