Paris, France (Part II of 2011 Academic Travel)
Lots of stuff happened to me in Paris - some of it fun and exciting and some of it…well some of it just wasn’t.
First allow me to say that this was all my own individual experience and no way reflects the general experience of travelers to Paris. That being said, I was not a big fan of Paris.
For me, the atmosphere was like wet clothes that you just can’t convince to dry. I didn’t feel any warmth from the general public and the city didn’t really seem “alive” to me. It’s like everyone was just going through the motions. However(!) I did meet some cool people in Paris including a tour guide, some waiters (tour guides, waiters and small shop keepers were pretty much the coolest people I met on travel), and one college student from Spain.
I don’t speak French, but I smile a lot and I like laughing so the people were really happy to try to teach me French and then ask if I wanted to practice. They were also really patient and allowed me to try out my Italian with them and they responded in French (how this worked is still a magical mystery to me). And when I really needed it, most people would be nice about it and oblige me with English. I had only two experiences were I was berated for a) being American and b) needing to use English.
One of these experiences occured at the Louvre. The Louvre is really a must see. While it’s famous for housing the Mona Lisa, there are so many other amazing/beautiful/gorgeous/awe-inspiring/soul-resonating/imagination-capturing pieces in the museum. And it’s so huge! Really if you love and/or are interested in art this will be an amazing experience for you. And please, if and when you find yourself in Paris - do go see the Arc D’ Triumph and the Eiffel Tower. They are truly breath-taking structures and just so incredible when you are there in person. I cannot begin to describe for you in words what it was like literally being there. There is also many more historical sites and features of Paris that are definitely worth checking out.
By the way, it also didn’t hurt that I was with my friend, Emily, who does speak French and I strongly encouraged her to exercise her French language abilities while we were in Paris. So if you have friends studying the language or who just happen to speak it, it probably won’t hurt you either to have him or her around. ; )9