This is not a very opiniated issue for me. I just came back from Paris
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yesterday, (which is why this issue is a bit late) so I figured I ought to
write about my experience.
Paris was absolutely incredible. The sights were beautiful and amazing, the weather was perfect. It was unlike any city I had ever been to.
When we arrived at the airport, my impression was that France was very strange. The Charles de' Gaulle Airporte was shaped like a circlular stadium and had no roof in the middle. Instead, we were glassed in and the escalators ran through clear plastic tunnels in the middle. The signal they used before reporting a message was odd at first, but it has grown on me and I like it now. Customs was no trouble at all. You simply had to show them your passport, then go under the "nothing to declare" sign or the "something to declare" sign. The French are very trusting. We took a taxi to the hotel, which was off St. Germain. The taxi went fast- 140 kmph when the speed limit was 90 kmph.
So we slept, then got up and walked down the left bank to Notre Dame. Notre Dame was HUGE! The stained glass was beautiful, the buliding's statues were beautiful; it was all beautiful! It's so amazing that people were actually able to build something like that, especially in the Middle Ages. We ate at an outdoor pizza cafe in the latin quarter, since we were still too off to be eating dinner. A drunken old woman hobbled past us and took my sister's glass Coke bottle. The waiter got it back for us, but it was odd just the same. She also tried to steal a pack of cigarettes, a wine glass, and 200 francs, but did not succeed. It was strange how the restaurant was actually tolerable of her, however. They did not kick her out. Instead, they gave her a cup of coffee, since she was able to find enough francs for one in her purse. Then, when she cried out for them to light her cigarette, they came and lit it for her. How very interesting...
The next day, we hopped on the Metro and headed for the Champs Elysees. All of a sudden, at a station, the train stopped. We looked out the window to see two men running off down the tunnel and a man shouting after them. The two men were pickpockets. Pickpockets are obviously very common in Paris, since there are signs everywhere that read "Beware of Pickpockets." The men were caught, since they had no where to go but the next station. Another thing I learned while on the Metro, was that the French were fascinated by my shoes for some peculiar reason. At least once, every time we were on the Metro,
some French person would look down and study my shoes.
Anyhow, the Champs Elysees was a lot longer than we had realized. It took us forever to reach the end. We were exhausted, but we did make some stops along the way, so it could have been worse. We had the best hot dog ever there. It was made from pork, not beef, and was inside half a loaf of French bread. It was delicious. Then we saw the Arc d' Triomphe, which was incredible, and headed back to the Metro. Next, we went to the Musee d' Orsay. I saw some lovely Van Goghs, Degas, Monets, Renoirs, and much more. By now we were more than exhausted, so we went back to the hotel, made dinner reservations, and took a nap.
We dined at Le Petite Cour that night. I had the best meal I'd ever had
there. My appetizer was a salad of melons and fruits, my entree was cooked tuna with zuccini, and for desert I ate an assortment of sorbets with a carmel cookie on top. Yummy.
The following day, we took a double-decker bus all over Paris. By the end of the day, I was chanting "Burn the bus!" Anyhow, we did get off the bus to go to Le Tour Eiffel at one point. It was so much bigger than I had expected! It was also a bronze color, which I hadn't expected either. We went to the top, and I took lots of pictures of the lovely Paris view. The interesting thing about the Eiffel Tower is the fact that they still use the same elevators from when it was first built. They have made no changes to it at all since it was build in the late 1800s. They only paint it every 7 years. I walked down the tower, since I wanted to let my legs get some excercise. It was pretty exhausting just walking down from the second floor of it! I also realized, coming down, that the people who had decided to climb up it were in for it. They would get to the end of one flight, pretend to stop to read the map, and breathe heavily, when they had only come up a few flights.
That night, we had dinner with the father of the French family I mentioned earlier and an American who is living in Paris. I was feeling adventurous, so I ordered the raw salmon as an appetizer. It was good! I really liked it! Then, (you'll love this one) I ate some snails. They were delicious! Now you probably think I'm nuts, but I'm really not. You just have to try it. Anyhow, I had scallops for dinner, and creme brulle for dessert. That was a good, and interesting, meal. I also learned a lot, for the American was very knowlegdable. I've learned all sorts of things.
Finally, it was our last day to tour Paris. So, we took the RER out to
Versailles, which took awhile since we had to walk all over Paris just to
find an operating station. (The two closest stations were down for some
reason...) Versailles was very incredible. It was raining lightly, but I
still enjoyed it. We only saw part A, since we were exhausted from walking around to find the RER and were becoming even more tired from walking around part A. The Hall of Mirrors was probably the best part. My family didn't like it, (they thought it was a waste of time) but I thought it was gorgeous. When we got back from Versailles, we simply walked all over Paris, taking it in. We got more French pizza at that cafe in the latin quarter for dinner, then went home to get packed.
When it was time to go that next morning, I wished it wasn't so. But, we had to go, so I reluctantly got on the plane and we came back to America, and here I am now.
Paris was so incredible, and I cannot imagine life without it. I've really
changed now. I'm feeling more creative and artistic. I'm starting to dress
like a Parisian, and I'm eating like a European. My friends continue to ask
me "What happened to the other Jen? Where did she go?" I'm not sure. All I know is that I feel very different. But, it is a different that I like. Now, all my options are open. Where as before I had a secure plan to be a journalist, I now have no idea what I want to be. I would like to be
bilingual, so I will try very hard at that, for one. I do know this however:
I must go back to Paris. I must go back. Whether it be to visit, or to live
there, I must go back. My life is not complete without a Paris anymore.
-Jen (September 2, 2001)