Paris: An Introduction

Paris. How does anyone find sufficient words to describe it? Never has a place made me feel so adjective deficient.

If anything, I’d been set up to be disappointed rather than impressed by Paris. I spent six years in French classes reading and learning about Paris, which, now that it’s been 14 years since I first started learning French, was a perfect recipe for inflated expectations. Having been to other wonderful cities (see the sidebar listing my favorites), I know what great cities look and feel like. How could I have known that Paris stands in an entirely new class of perfection?

Let’s also not forget how much Americans like to hate the French, which I always thought was due at least in part to the sense that they don’t like us much either. Aren’t the French, and especially the Parisians, famous for being snobby and superior? I’ve heard countless times that Paris is the only place where the locals will judge rather than thank you for speaking their language if you speak it poorly.

I also think that as far as my own perspective is concerned, when I chose to major in Hispanic Studies rather than French, I made a conscious decision to shift my allegiance from francophone to Spanish-speaking countries. That’s influenced everything from travel priorities to which football team I support during international tournaments. For some reason I’ve been thinking that French and Spanish are almost mutually exclusive… I could only truly love one or the other.

No longer! After 48 hours in Paris, I’m now on a mission to reacquaint myself with French and the people who speak it. Paris lived up to all of the positive hype and absolutely refuted all of the negative stereotypes. It may be cliché, but Paris is now my favorite city. I will struggle in the posts that follow to do it justice.

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