Thank you for following my ponderings and wanderings this week! This post is more reflections than travel tips, alors faites attentention à cela :)
On solo travel: Paradoxically, I feel more at home in France when I travel alone. I find that I meet more people when I’m solo than I do with a friend or a group. I also feel more comfortable making spontaneous decisions and traveling without an itinerary when I'm alone. I love the flexibility, the time for reflection, and the freedom that traveling alone offers me. That said, this week I'm very excited to travel to Nice to meet my mom, because we always have a riot when we travel together.
On Paris: This trip has revealed how deeply nostalgic Paris can be. The monuments, museums and landmarks, while modernized for tourism, all speak to a deep and abiding love and respect for French history and culture. Everything from the palaces to the cemeteries to the masterpieces remain frozen in time. While this allows for a uniform experience when you visit the sites, it does breathe with the same life as you might find in a cafe or bar where the locals hang out. I appreciated staying in the 20e arrondissement, which is very residential, because it helped balance out the somewhat impersonal feel of the museums and monuments. Next time I visit Paris, I wonder if I'll spend even less time at the sites and more time in the neighborhoods and markets.
My only lingering question is if I were a young French citizen, would I see myself represented in the Parisian cultural sites? Today's France is very diverse, and I did not see that reflected in many of the monuments and museums that I visited. Are new artists and thinkers being given the same chance and recognition as those already in the French canon? My guess would be that they are, but that they are not in the spotlight and so not visible to a tourist like me.
On the French language: The more time I spend speaking French, the more I fall in love with the language. I love the way it sounds, the way it feels in my mouth, and the pride French people feel for the language. Mostly, I feel grateful that I had the chance to learn French as early as I did, because it has given me the opportunity to explore more deeply and communicate more easily in France. Thanks, Mom and Dad for believing in the power of a bilingual elementary education!
On Parisians: You've probably heard the rumors about rude Parisians who dislike Americans. I have never experienced this, but I do think that my experience is fairly unique. What I have seen is that Parisians are very excited to have tourists back in their city, and that they appreciate it when foreigners make an effort to speak their language. Parisians are stylish but approachable, and they make the best tour guides (other than Rick). Also, they love it when Americans speak French with an American accent. I had never considered this, but I guess it makes sense! I would highly recommend getting to know at least one local, such as your Airbnb host or a local bakery staff member, who can give you helpful recommendations for your area.
On French pastry: I'm obsessed with butter. So are the French. It's a match made in heaven.
À bientôt Paris, je t'aime!