Friend: Tell me something cool about your Paris experience(s).
Me: I love that you asked about Paris - it is a long story that goes waay back. I grew up bilingual (English and Spanish). The summer before 7th grade, my mom took me to the jr. high to register for classes. The lady behind the counter offered me a Spanish class.
My mom: She already knows Spanish, what else you got?
Lady behind the counter: Well, we offer French but not for 7th graders.
My mom: Ok, sign her up for that.
I took French that year and the following. In the 9th grade, my jr high did not offer French 3 (I was the only 7th grader to have gotten past their policy) so my counselor sent me to the nearest high school. My mom drove me everyday for a year (8 am - local HS, 10 am - snack and back to Jr. High).
When I got to HS officially, as a 10th grader, I took French AP. The Moroccan teacher did not like me and gave me a C. I passed the AP exam (one of three students in the whole class - the other two were his favorites and one was a Vietnamese immigrant!) and he had to adjust my grade (B).
I would have continued taking French at a Community College for 11th and 12th grade but I couldn't put my mom through that again. It has been my dream since then to go to France and practice my hard-fought French (I love rolling those "r's").
In 1998, I started taking art classes and my instructor has become my mentor, family friend and a father-figure (both my parents died in the last 9 years). My art mentor tells me not to lay that trip on him (father-figure) but I tell him it's no use - I love him and look up to him - he is an awesome person and has a great spirit. He also loves Paris. What artist worth his mettle does not? He has been a couple of times. He had an art show about Paris a few years ago and practically sold out. He is planning one this year at the Fremont Gallery in South Pasadena - I encourage you to check it out.
I finally made it to Paris (May, 2005 - Ah, Paris in the Springtime). I went with my now ex-husband and daughter (she was 4). I would have taken my mother but she died in 2003. I told my daughter we were going for her birthday (May 8) - which was partially true. I get to celebrate the day of her birth too, no?
I loved the Art - especially at the D'Orsay. They had a neo-impressionist exhibit that blew my mind. I have an exhibit book with most of the paintings. I treasure it and the memories. I loved everything about the Louvre but it wiped me out. I liked the Pompidou but was bummed that one of the floors was closed (with modern stuff by Pollack and other cool guys).
I loved the food! I can't have butter normally but the French butter treated my well. I enjoyed every meal. God bless them and their culture.
I loved walking around - the architecture, the people (the immigrants living and working there were the nicest), the parks and gardens, the cafes, the air. I took lots of pictures and I treasure them too.
At first, I wished I'd gone on a tropical vacation instead (I was stressed out and the drive from the airport to the hotel was not very pretty) but walking around and being immersed in beauty, history, art, fine food, culture - well, it was meditative and I found myself profoundly relaxed.
I read the book, Paris to the Moon, before and during my trip and it was a wonderful companion. I recommend it if you haven't read it. I could go on but I will stop now.
Thanks for the question. I enjoyed going back there just now.