Monday, August 17, 2015

First Impressions

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly 2 weeks since I bid France adieu. The trip seemed to take forever to get here and then was over in the blink of an eye. It’s taken time to come down from the vacation-high and get back into the swing of the 9-5 workday grind, probably because I’m so reluctant to leave France behind. When can I go back? Tomorrow? I’m just going to go repack my suitcase. I wish.

Luckily, I have close to 1500 photos from my trip and a head full of memories to last me a lifetime. There was so much to take in—the tastes, the smells, the sights, and the sounds. It was amazing to share those memories with my mother too. If you think about it, it hasn’t been just Mom and me since my sister was born twenty-one years ago. But it was really just the two of us from the moment we woke up until the moment we closed our eyes for 10 days. We got along well too except for a few bickering matches when we were lost, hungry, or exhausted.

Anyway, now that I am somewhat recovered I’ll be pulling together some travel related posts. And, you guessed it, this is the first.

Baguettes. Crepes. Cheese. Berets. Wine. The Eiffel Tower. Flâneurs. Poodles. They’re all clichés, but that’s how I envisioned Paris. Granted, there are a lot of baguettes, crepes, and wine, and you can’t miss the Eiffel Tower—La Dame de Fer has the habit of poking her head out when you least expect her—but that isn’t what Paris is about, not by a long shot.

The first thing I noticed about Paris is that everything is bigger—grander—than what you ever imagined. You know that the Eiffel Tower is tall, but you don’t feel its grandeur until you’re standing at the base or taking the two elevators to the top. What’s crazy is that the tower was supposed to be taken down after six months. Why would anyone have ever wanted to do that? The Arc de Triomphe is also this vast structure with a 287 step climb to the top, but it isn't until you're standing under the vault and looking up thinking “Wow!” that you can truly appreciate how massively impressive it is. And Notre Dame? Well, it’s impressive from far away, up close, from the inside, from the outside, from the top of a 387 step climb, and from its base. Every inch of it is intricately carved. It was one of those places where, even for someone who isn’t incredibly religious, I felt like I was in the presence of something much greater than myself. It was awe-inspiring.

There is something to say about a culture where stopping to smell the roses, so to speak, is a way of life. Living in New York, everyone always seems to be in a rush—to get to work, school, home, the store. Parisians walk at a leisurely pace (except during rush hour) and will just sit on the edge of the Seine or on the lawn of some park watching the world pass them by. Meals are events that last several hours and are meant to be enjoyed over pleasant conversation and a glass of wine. Life is to be savored, and I think that's something Americans need to learn.

Every inch of Paris is worthy of a photograph or a painting. Arguably, the only unsightly thing in Paris is Tour Montparnasse which I think smacks of the Tower of Mordor. The rest of Paris has this classic, elegant feel and striking facades. I loved that the city hasn’t been overrun by skyscrapers and glass facades. It’s quintessentially old world.

Have you ever been to Paris? What were your first impressions?

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