It has become apparent to me that the first time I was in Paris I was dreadfully unprepared and did not yet know how to travel (ok, it was the first week our backpacking adventure, it's understandable), and therefore my opinion of it being a relatively unfriendly and overwhelming city was probably unfair.
Suffice to say that my opinion has changed, and I now view Paris as a lovely metropolis, not entirely unlike New York but so much higher on the "old city coolness" factor. Maybe it helped that for 2 of my 3 days I was with an American fluent in French (who, by the way, managed to get us free wine everywhere we went just by chatting it up with the locals- gotta love Brian), and maybe it helps that I have now traveled most of Europe and lived in arguably one of the least outwardly friendly cities in the world (thereby skewing my opinion of what is and is not friendly), but I must say that I fully approve of Paris in all its European glory.
In my free time after our client meetings I was able to (finally!) go to the Orsay which we missed our first time there because we didn't know museums are closed on Mondays. Basically the Orsay is my idea of an ideal museum- all impressionism all the time. Yessss. I was so excited, I can't even tell you. Other than that, I spent 9 hours wandering around the city- eating sorbet, croissants, drinking coffee, stopping in parks to read and watch people, and... shopping. As I said, the last time I was in Paris I was backpacking, and it was our first week, so anything I bought was going to be carried with me for the remaining 5 weeks. Needless to say, I didn't buy much in Paris that time. But given my recent birthday and the fact that I had some extra suitcase space, well, I just decided that I would embrace Parisian attire and jewelry and art in all of its glory. Love it.
So yes, Paris was great. Whenever I'm in Europe I'm reminded of how entirely un-American it is. First and foremost- It's calm. There aren't advertisements on every square inch of space. The food is fresh. And not genetically modified. You don't walk down the street and see every person either on their phone or with an iPod. Or both. But I always also forget how Americans are everywhere, and this is brutally obvious due to the stark contrast between (many) Americans and (many) Europenas. In many cases I want to punch said Americans in the face for being obnoxious and loud and rude. It disgusts me, and I don't understand why people don't understand their impact on people's impression of our country. Seriously, represent.
Oh, and the election happened my last day there, so everyone was abuzz about Sarkozy and Royal. And the likelihood of riots. And the fact that 50% of the entire country's police were stationed in Paris for election day. Special.
And I think that Paris is to France as New York is to America... it is what people think of when they think of the country, yet it is so unlike anywhere else in the country that it's kind of both intriguing and unfair that people make their decision about the country as a whole based on their experience in the city. The food, sites, architecuture, shops, people, everything. It's not like that everywhere. Just a thought. I had many thoughts as I was by myself wandering the city. I like traveling alone. Which is something I would not have said one year ago. I mean, of course I would prefer to share the experience with someone else, but you know, it's also now entirely fulfilling for me to be alone and do my own thing, fully embracing it, even in a foreign country. Funny how things change.