Although we often stick out worse than a Shetland pony in the Kentucky Derby, sometimes just being an unabashed tourist is worth it. This last weekend, I went to Paris, one of the top 3 tourist destinations in the world and we decided to just bite the bullet and go full out Hawaiian t-shirt, selfie stick, souvenir-buying mode. We saw everything from Notre Dame and the Louvre, to the Red Light District and the Arc de Triomphe, to of course, the most iconic landmark in the world, McDonald’s. I do admit to feeling a bit uncomfortable when I feel like we’re broadcasting to the world: “Stupid Americans, right here!” but these landmarks are actually worth seeing. It’s mind boggling the amount of history behind this city and France itself. I’m currently living in a continent with recorded history dating back hundreds of years before anything was really written down in the Americas. The Notre Dame cathedral in particular literally stunned me into silence. It was a profound experience being able to view this testament to sheer human willpower and ingenuity.
However, there is another side to traveling. These famous buildings and pieces of art that Paris is known for are truly awe-inspiring. However, these things only make up the superficial layer of what the city really is. With only 2.5 days I can’t say that we really got to know Paris, but did try to get a feel for what the city really was while we were there.
While the daylight hours were taken up with trying to see every last famous piece of history in Paris, in the evenings we tried to relax a little more and explore the less touristy side of things. Despite how great the sightseeing was, I can say with certainty that my favorite part of our visit was Saturday night when we found a tiny little French cafe to eat dinner in. You know you’ve found something a little more real when you feel very out of place. We were most certainly the only non-locals there, and I could tell the staff was not used to serving people whose French closely resembled that of a 4 year-old ostrich. However, despite all that, they treated us extremely well and were the best hosts we could have asked for. We stayed at the restaurant for the better part of three hours, just enjoying our food and relaxing after 9 hours of walking (rest in peace, feet). Having conversations in broken Franglish with the locals while eating amazing French food was a truly great experience.
My first time traveling for the semester was exciting, humbling, exhausting, and incredibly rewarding. After so many hours walking in the bitter French cold, anything above zero degrees Celsius feels balmy and I’m fairly certain my feet no longer work, but I wouldn’t have traded that experience for the world. I can’t wait for a whole semester filled with traveling to interesting and historic places, and how much I will grow as a global citizen through it. Thanks for coming along on the journey with me, and I’ll see you next time!