The first time I visited Paris was in 2001. I had an awful experience. It seemed that where ever we went people were rude and unhelpful. I found the cafes with their tightly packed tables unromantic and stifling. I found the city filthy, and the subways stinky. As we sat in the Jardin des Tuileries, I kept thinking, “Why is there trash piled up in the fountain in this beautiful garden!!?” I couldn’t get past it. I was very disappointed.
What was suppose to be a 7-day stay in Paris, turned into 4 days. On day three Roland said, “Do you want to blow this off and go to Amsterdam?” Uh yea!! So, we spent the last day in Paris touring the Louvre, and that night we celebrated with cigars, and champagne that we were getting the hell out of Paris. On one hand, I was happy that we were going to Amsterdam, but on the other hand, I was disappointed that I didn’t like Paris and that I wouldn’t be there on Bastille Day, which is my birthday, and our reason for going to Paris to begin with.
We arrived in Amsterdam, and it felt like a God send. In Paris, we were in a fabulous boutique hotel located on the Rue de Rivoli, one of the most famous streets in Paris, directly across from the Jardin des Tuileries, and the Louvre. The baloney from our room overlooked the garden, and had a superb panoramic view that included the Eiffel Tower. In Amsterdam, the last minute accommodations we found had an entrance in an alley located in the Red Light District, and our window looked directly into an apartment that was so filthy that the only excuse for such a mess in my mind was drug addiction. Yet, I fell in love with Amsterdam. That love affair continues to this day. But, back to Paris.
As the years went on, occasionally I would have the opportunity to speak to other people who loved Paris. And, of course, when I spoke about my experience, I was given all sorts of advice on what I should have done, or could have done, to improve my experience. Still…I wasn’t having it. My disappointment ran deep, and I hold a grudge forever.
Well, the more I traveled, the more I’ve developed as a person. And, the more I talked to other people about Paris, something strange started to happen. I started to entertain the idea of giving it another try. This is strange for me as I don’t typically give anything a second chance to disappointment me. Once I’m done, I’m done. But, apparently I wasn’t done, because now I was making plans to dip my foot in the pool to test the waters.
When it came time for us to decide where we wanted to go for our Fall 2013 vacation, I knew that Europe was top on deck. We thought about other locations, but we settled on Europe. It was close, and it would allow my husband to visit family and friends in Stockholm. So, now I had to decide which cities we were going to. After all was said and done, Paris was added to the list. Not only was Paris added to the list, it was also given the most time allotment. Talk about jumping into the water!
I started to take some of the advice I had received over the years about Paris. So, the first thing I did was rent an apartment in Montmartre, I heard the area was friendlier, with a younger, hipper crowd. I found the perfect apartment. It was fabulous!! It was located at the top of a hill that had wonderful views from it’s four (Yes four!!) balconies.
The next thing I did was make an attempt to speak the language. The first time I visited I was so self conscious that I really didn’t make much effort. This time, I didn’t care about embarrassing myself (and trust me I did), and I was received so much better. I found the people to be helpful, and nice. What is this trickery? Is this the same Paris that I was in just 12 years earlier?
I even had an incident in which I had some serious health concerns. This all goes down in a restaurant that isn’t quite open yet, and the staff couldn’t have been more understanding, and helpful. Seriously? Am I in Paris? Yep, I was.
We enjoyed our stay in Paris so much that we extended it an additional two days. And, guess what? I want to go back!!
What do I think is different this time around? My attitude. I think that I’ve grown as a traveler. Is the city still filthy? In my opinion, yes. The Metro is gross, and the smell of urine may hit your nostrils at any turn, regardless of the neighborhood you’re in. But, it doesn’t matter. I now love this city. Bonjour (Hello, Good Morning, Good Afternoon), Bonsoir (Good evening), Merci (Thank you), S’il vous plaît (please), Parlez-vous anglais (Do you speak English), goes a long way.
The biggest lesson I learned from this trip is to give a city a second chance. I also learned that it was me, and not them. And, thirdly, I learned that I feel fabulous when I’m speaking french, even when I’m botching it up. 😀
Have you ever given a city or country a second chance?