Ever since my childhood, Paris is a city that I have built up as a utopia in my mind. I blame it on the Olsen Twins’ movie Passport to Paris. Exploring museums, seeing the city on the back of a vespa, and shopping in some of the most regal stores in the world? What is not to love??!?!?!?! Insert embarrassing fan-girl moment. My infatuations with Gossip Girl and Audrey Hepburn, who said that “Paris is always a good idea,” further fueled my desire to experience this city in all of its glory. Athttps://wordpress.com/post/60486304/483 some points in my life, I thought my love affair with Paris would be forever unrequited, so imagine my elation when my study abroad friends and I actually booked our flights. We would be there for a mere 48 hours, and I planned to revel in the beautiful architecture, eat my weight in macaroons, and fall more deeply in love with this traveler’s mecca.
The old adage, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans,” definitely applies. My travel companions and I actually spent most of our first day in the city pining for our return to Spain. It took an hour for us to get into the city via bus, and our hostel was a nightmare to find. From getting rained on at Notre Dame to almost being pushed in front of the Metro by an intoxicated gentleman waving a bottle of Jim Bean in my face, my vision of Paris was rapidly deteriorating. As I skim the Internet for other travelers’ experiences, I have realized that my sentiments are widely echoed. I actually “lol’d” when I read this blog and nodded in agreement at almost everything the author wrote about her Parisian saga.
Eventually, our trip made a 180 degree turnaround and afforded me the Paris I had always dreamed of, but more on that later. First, allow me to tell you about the events that ensued after we left Paris. Apparently, the city made such an impression on us that my friends, Darien and Natalie, and I began seeing it everywhere. No, we weren’t delusional. It was everywhere!
Our first post-travel run-in happened when we got back to Spain. In one of the little corners of Valencia where we hadn’t ventured until later in our program, we found a miniature version of the emblematic pyramid outside of the Louvre. Immediately, we began recounting our journey, the beautiful moments and the horrors, which felt like a lifetime ago, although virtually no time had passed. After several minutes of insane laughter (we probably looked like those American girls, if you know what I mean), Natalie finally asked, “Why did we even go to France?” Laughter erupted, and a new inside joke was born.
As soon as I got back from Europe, I left on a cruise to Mexico with my parents—yes, my life is that difficult ;). Of course, the first thing I did was hit the Lido Deck to begin my engorging for the week. I stopped in my tracks when I read the name of the restaurant on our boat… “Paris Restaurant.” I proceeded to text my dear friends to let them know that Paris had followed me back over the Atlantic Ocean and would be with me for the next week. I wish I could hear laughter through text messages.
Over the next year, it seemed like we could not escape France if we tried. I know it is not that rare to see symbols of France anywhere since it is such a cultural hub in Europe and around the world. But, not being able to evade it meant way more than running into a metal tower—usually a shade of black, which is entirely inaccurate to the real thing—or a glass pyramid. It was immediately being taken back to the trip that made me realize that I forever wanted to be a part of the culture of travel.
Paris was nothing like what I expected.
I did not stay in a swoon-worthy apartment like Mary-Kate and Ashley. But, I did stay in a rad hostel that made me realize that travel does not have to be expensive, and that the best memories are made in places not necessarily glamorous.
I did not go shopping in the posh boutiques. They were a bit too expensive for my thrift store fancies. But, we did score some pretty sweet souvenirs from street vendors, and I even found my “something blue” for my wedding at a famous flea market.
No matter how many locals I asked, I could not get directions to Pierre Hermes legendary macaroon shops, but I did purchase macaroons from a street vendor for the fraction of the cost. I still felt like Blair Waldorf with every delectable bite.
I did not spend the time in France with a lover who would cart me around on a vespa. But, I got to get lost on the Metro with two new, but life-long friends, and paint a picture of our trip to my then fiancé once I got home. I wish he could have been there to put a lock on the “Love Bridge” with me, but the beautiful letter he wrote me to read while I was there was perfect in itself. Let’s face it: I got to come home to someone much more handsome than the French boys Mary-Kate and Ashley left behind. They should be jealous.
I didn’t make a toast to life on top of the Eiffel Tower. But, the three hours I would have spent waiting in line to ride the elevator up gave me the opportunity to visit other places I would not have seen otherwise, like Moulin Rouge! Just seeing this structure from the ground was enough to give me goose bumps, and touching it made me feel like all of my other outrageous dreams were also in reach, almost tangible.
Speaking of the Eiffel Tower, we did not get to see its evening lighting, a breathtaking spectacle I’m told. But, we could see its illuminated beauty on our plane ride home, our final farewell. Paris, Je’ Taime! I genuinely feel like you love me back.
Paris did not go as planned, and even though my friends and I have asked ourselves, “why did we even go to France” multiple times, I would take back nothing about our little voyage. In many ways, it was actually better than the stereotypical visage of perfection I had in my head. Wanna know what perfection is? Boring, that’s what.
Paris is a lot of things, but boring is not one of them.
It gave me the confidence that I could plant myself in an unfamiliar city and make my way around. It showed me the true essence of travel, and I joined the masses of young adults who learn that getting lost in the world is beautiful. It gave me another little box of nostalgia to store away in my mind and revisit like my favorite books… savoring it for a different reason each time.
I even found Paris on my honeymoon in Aruba!