The Time I said "Merci"

My heart aches whenever I look at my photos. I miss the Eiffel Tower, I miss the croissants, I miss the city and I miss the history. I miss the accordion music and the surreal, idealized image of Paris from the 1920s. I cannot believe I was there just over a week ago.

I didn’t think I would enjoy it as much as I did, but I learned a lot not only about the city but about cheesy life stuff.

Like the best adventures happen when you least expect them. Whenever we planned out what to do on any given day with an agenda, sure we got it done and had fun, but that was it. Yes, we did this, check. But when things went wrong? That’s when we had adventures. When it rained so we had to sit in a café all afternoon. When we got lost at night walking back from the Eiffel Tower. When we couldn’t find a restaurant using Google maps, so we stopped at a random one and it was amazing. When we almost died from the heat at Versailles. When we walked for hours and our feet hurt in sultry summer weather wandering the streets of Paris at dusk.

But those were the times we learned how to be on our own, how to appreciate the small beauties of the city and what it means to be Parisian.

I love the French lifestyle of being relaxed and serene. It’s not bustling, there is no hurry. They sit in cafés for hours. Dinner doesn’t start until 8 and doesn’t end until 11. They do ride bikes with baguettes in baskets.

There were also some misconceptions that I’d like to clear up. Namely, that French people aren’t rude or mean. No one was rude to me the entire time I was there. Now, I’m not saying the Parisians can’t get snippy – but only if you’re being an annoying tourist who’s blunt and loud. I’m convinced it’s not that the French are rude, but the opposite – they are so polite that everything we boisterous Americans do is offensive to them, and then they get short. My tip: say bonjour, merci, au revoir and pardon, and you will be fine. They were always so friendly and funny to me, even though I only speak basic French. “Pardon” will become your best friend.

Nine days ago I was eating ice cream along the Seine. I don’t like exaggerating, so I don’t often act excited, and I’m probably downplaying how much I liked this trip so as not to seem dramatic. It was truly great and quite literally unbelievable now that I am back home. Part of me wishes I could’ve done more – oh, if only I could’ve done this one more time, or gotten a picture here, or spent more time here. But in the moment, I was happy and satisfied with my trip and somewhat ready to return. Now of course I feel like I want to go back and do more things, but I saw some beautiful sights, tried some amazing food and learned about a culture that is completely different than my own.

I still feel like there are many personas of “Paris,” when I think of the word in my head. I can think of the fancy Paris tea party with designer handbags and macarons. I can think of the touristy Paris with Eiffel Towers and the Louvre. I can think of the accordion Paris with rainy streets and cafés. That’s my favorite, because I think it’s the most Parisian. That’s the one I will try to keep with me.

I miss it. It’s a magical city. I can’t wait to go back. But I’m glad, as Teo has reminded us, that Hemingway said Paris is a moveable feast because you always carry a part of it with you. And beyond that, some of us developed our own motto for the trip: pourquois pas. Why not? Because, as I said, those misadventures were and are the best adventures. Go with the flow and try new things, always. Pourquois pas?

Merci Paris, for everything.

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