Why did I learn French? An American in Paris

In middle school, I decided to take French. I spent three years learning critical tips like the difference between Garçon and Garçon (one refers to a boy and one refers to a waiter). I also watched in-depth French instructional videos that helped me with the proper pronunciation of words like Fromage.

Even as a young boy watching commercials like Muzzy, I became convinced that one day I would learn this language, visit Paris and converse with the locals.

But when my wife and I arrived the first time, I found out that when you speak to a Parisian in French, they will usually speak back to you in English. Call it a habit concocted from hearing countless tourists from around the world butcher their language, but even with my several years of practice with basic greetings, I found that many locals weren’t accepting of anything less than perfect French.

But despite my minimal usage of the language, we found that Paris was still a city of romance. When we were dating and visited in 2011, we put a lock on the famous Pont de l’archeveche bridge to signify our love. This year, approaching our 5 year wedding anniversary, I was reminded of that first trip as the flicker from the Eiffel Tower shimmered at midnight and reflected like stars. I caught a glimpse of the sparkle in her eye and knew that the only passion that eclipsed my love of travel was my love for her. With her, every day is a vacation. No matter where we are.

Tips for a visit to France:

Everybody knows the classic sights you’re supposed to see in Paris:

The Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, L’arc De Triumph and of course the famous museums like the Louvre or Musee D’Orsay. Of course you should visit the classics. However, if you have a short time in Paris and have to choose between the two museums, I’d choose the Musee D’Orsay. I found that the airiness of the space and the modern architecture created an open experience that perfectly highlighted the artistry. While the Louvre is historic and famous for the Mona Lisa, it can take multiple days to see it all and requires advance planning and obtaining timed tickets.

After you’ve visited Paris, if you have the time and plan ahead, I highly recommend a trip out to Versailles. There are a few options to get to Versailles including the train, but we recommend obtaining a guided tour that allows you to skip the incredibly long line.

There is so much to see and do in Paris that you should make a plan for the larger sights and then wing it. We find that the simplicity of finding a restaurant with outdoor seating and sipping on a Café au Lait, taking the time to pop into the boutique shops or spending a few euros on a sweet Crêpe can be just as memorable. Like any city, the greatness of Paris lies in finding the time to explore the unique history and make the journey your own.


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