Can-Can with Strangers - My Family Travels
Sacré-Coeur Basilica
Stairs to Sacré-Coeur

The French culture has always been present in my life. My fascination stems from childhood; family members and friends constantly told me that the French culture was refined, the people were sophisticated, and that the cuisine was exquisite. Naturally, I began to form romantic views of France; I imagined myself strolling through green parks filled with flowers, stuffing down several buttery croissants, and drinking hot chocolate at a café all the while listening to Joe Dassin’s “Champs Elysées.” When the opportunity to go to France came, I grabbed it! I was going on a Spring break tour of Paris with my mother, teachers, and a few classmates. On the bus ride there, I couldn’t help but wonder “How will my great expectations of the City of Lights be met by reality?”

When we arrived in Paris, we were immediately met by dreary weather and a foggy view of the Eiffel tower. This spring break proved to be extremely cold and unforgiving to my sun kissed Floridian skin. Throughout the following days we packed as many touristy adventures as we could into our four-day tour. We visited Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral, posed with the Eiffel tower, roamed around the beautiful palace of Versailles, ventured through the never-ending Louvre and took a snapshot of the Mona Lisa (seriously someone could get stuck in there and not be found for days!), window-shopped at the Galérie Lafayette, and took a dreamy nighttime boat-ride on the Seine River. To say that I was exhausted would have been an understatement. While groggily returning back to our hotel, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed with this trip; despite discovering all of these famous places, I didn’t experience anything unique and wanted to get off of this superficial and beaten track.

When we arrived in Montmartre I didn’t expect anything different from the other beautiful attractions that we had previously seen. The white Sacré-Coeur Basilica was perched upon a high green hill. Some people took cable cars up to the butte, but I preferred to take the long way up the stairs. When I made my way up, slightly winded, I sat down on the steps and watched a cute children’s puppet show. From there, I could see a lovely panoramic view of the city. We went inside the church and witnessed another one of Europe’s many examples of fine architecture.

My mother and I left the church and walked down a cobblestone street on the side. The area had a bohemian atmosphere with several souvenir shops and restaurants. Painters and portrait artists created original pieces of art and crowds surrounded street performers. While listening to a woman surrounded by flowers play Charles Aznavour’s “La Bohème” accordion-style, I was pulled into a can-can line by four random French strangers. It was as if we were old friends reunited by the sound of music.  I was shocked but eventually gave into the silliness of the moment and began to enjoy myself. At that point, I realized that this was what I had been looking for all along. Who knew that my Paris was waiting for me in that hidden village on a hill!

Moments like these, when you discover the unexpected and experience something truly unique, make travelling worth it. It doesn’t matter if you take the road less travelled or the road trampled down by tourists. What matters is what you make of your trip and what you learn from your environment. Can-can dance with strangers in a foreign country!

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