Tuesday, August 28, 2012

C'est Paris


Enchante. I was. 

Enchanted by Paris during my week in the city of light. 

It was my first trip and I wasn’t sure what to expect. 

I worried about pickpockets stealing my purse. 

I worried about finding my way around the city. 

I worried that I would be overwhelmed by unfamiliar customs. 

But Paris lived up to its illustrious reputation and offered me an adventure. 

I stood under the magnificent Eiffel Tower. I saw the frightening gargoyles of Notre Dame. I gazed in awe at the Mona Lisa in the Louvre. 

Everywhere I went I had to pinch myself that I was really in Paris. Experiencing all the culture, history and style of this city with such panache. 

I sampled cheeses at a fromagerie, chocolate croissants from a patisserie, a crusty baguette from a boulangerie, and foie gras and razor-thin slices of sausage from a charcuterie. 

Despite all I’d read that the French were rude, almost everyone I met was charming and kind. 

After a visit to a flea market on the other side of town, it was difficult to find a taxi stand. Stopping in a café, three men who spoke no English helped call a taxi and one man even came outside to make sure the taxi arrived. 

Lost on the way to meet a tour group asking directions of anyone in sight, an Algerian named Side appeared to walk alongside me and said, “I will show you the way.” 

He told me that he was a waiter and was studying to improve his English because it was his dream to come to America someday. 

When I mistakenly picked up the reverse directions for a gourmet food tour and went to the tour’s ending point instead of meeting point, the hotel staff called the guide and after a stream of French words, managed to arrange a rescheduled day even though the tour was prepaid.

Experiencing different customs was eye-opening too. 

I’m a Florida girl who likes ice in her drinks. A lot of ice. 

The French don’t seem to be interested in having cold drinks. Their cold drinks are in fact, lukewarm. At best. 

I never got ice with any drink I ordered. At one café, I asked the server for ice with my water – glasson – I made sure to ask in French – and he said, “Why? You don’t need it. Water is cold.” 

End of discussion. I didn’t get my ice. 

The only place I could find ice with my drink was McDonald’s. 

Yes, I am not ashamed to admit I went into a Paris McDonald’s and ordered Coca-Cola Light (what they call Diet Coke) with ice. Finally. Ice with my drink. Bliss.


Paris was as picturesque as I imagined it would be as I walked in the city of Chanel and the expat writers and artists of the 1920s. 

I found the apartment of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, imagining them walking the same streets I was. 

I marveled at the French women riding bicycles while wearing charming Audrey Hepburn-style dresses. 

My shoes, were however, a fashion faux-pas in Paris. 

Before leaving, I bought a pair of ballerina flats with a one-inch wedge heel. But before I’d even made my plane connection in Newark, the shoes rubbed my heels and gave me blisters. 


If I had known that walking through the Newark airport would be the most comfortable my feet would feel for the next week, I would have savored it more. 

Arriving in Paris at 7 am after flying all night, I departed for a full day of touring. Still wearing the same ballerina flats. I walked nearly six miles that day in those flats, touring the Eiffel Tower, cruising the Seine River and back to the hotel. 

For the rest of the week, no matter which shoes I wore, the results were the same. Blisters. And more blisters. 

I finally bought a pair of slides so my heels could walk without being tortured. 

C’est la vie.

What astonished me was that all I was apprehensive about before I left for Paris never materialized. 

The angst about the unknown almost discouraged me from taking a risk to experience the trip of a lifetime. 

Not this time, though. 

I dipped the toe of my ballerina flat in the pool of uncertainty and discovered that the treasure of Paris was worth the leap of faith. 

Hopping over the fence of fear is sometimes infinitely rewarding. 

Fear and risk seem so intimidating an ocean away, but meeting them face to face with courage, determination and an eagerness to experience life defeats them. 

Did I capture the joie de vivre in Paris? Oui, absolutement!

7 comments:

  1. Sounds like a great trip! Conquering your fear of the unknown led to an adventure you greatly enjoyed and will long remember. Love your picture!

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    1. Stepping out feels good when you're on the other side! Trying to encourage my spirit of adventure! :)

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  2. Beautiful pictures Valerie!! Looks like you had a blast! Great to have you back in the country though, we missed you!

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    1. Thanks Brittany! Quite a compliment coming from you on the photos! :)

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  3. Wow, what an amazing trip! I felt like I was right there with you after reading your blog entry. Thank you for sharing it with us! :)

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    1. It was truly an inspiring place to visit!

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  4. This "review" of Paris was so interesting! It should be in a travel magazine!

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