When I first came up the stairs from the underground metro onto a busy Paris street, I felt like standing in one spot and spinning in circles to take in the charming apartment buildings stacked on top of cafes amidst bustling (gorgeous) people. Had I traveled back in time? Was I thrown onto the set of a movie? Dreaming? Another planet? This being my first trip to Europe, it felt more than a little unreal. Planning a wedding for a year left me little time to plan for and anticipate this trip and it felt so sudden and foreign and thrilling.
I took great pleasure in being an observer of a new people and their ways. A fly on the wall at each place we entered. Being a sheltered American, I took notice of absolutely everyone with smokes. In America, smoking has become taboo, but in Paris, I was repeatedly surprised when beautiful, sophisticated women stepped outside to light up. People smoke right outside the restaurant doors, so the smell is ever present, even inside. I looked with curiosity at the French greeting of a kiss on each cheek. I never got used to climbing 4 flights of stairs to our 5th floor apartment (no elevator). I loved to people watch while navigating the metro and felt exhilaration when we had to weasel our way into a packed metro car with sardine-can-tight standing room only. We were glad not to be driving cars—the city of Paris issues 8 million traffic tickets every year, and 7.5 million of those are for illegal parking. It’s no wonder so many people ride bikes to get around town, even in high heels! The mix of nationalities, especially the prevalence of African-French people, surprised me. I don’t know why I was expecting purely French people in a big international city. Even the most basic French phrases made my brain (and mouth) tired, especially the throaty “r’s”. I felt very Seattle-like walking in the rain while everyone whipped out a fancy umbrella at the slightest drizzle. Umbrellas almost seemed proper, like an accessory.
More later today.