I thought about whether or not I should write something about Paris. On one hand, I feared this would come off as opportunistic, like this is me capitalizing on something extremely tragic and heartbreaking. But on the other hand, the recent events in Paris — a city very near and dear to my heart — has caused me to reflect a lot on what's happening in our world but also why I believe Paris will emerge stronger than ever. So, I chose to go ahead and write this with the disclaimer that my intention is not to take advantage but rather to honor and celebrate a beautiful city.
I've declared this before and will declare it again — I think I loved Paris before I ever visited. Perhaps it's because the city is my mom's favorite, and I was influenced by her affection for this place. Or, perhaps it's because of the way Paris is always portrayed in film and on television — elegant, timeless and forever a classic city.
So you can imagine my immense excitement when I first landed at Charles de Gaulle Airport as an ecstatic and slightly nervous 21-year-old study abroad student. I had finally made it to Paris! I would be the black, student version of Carrie Bradshaw and wear heels and fabulous outfits all day (yes, I realize this sounds a little ridiculous, but I thought it anyway).
I soon realized that heels are extremely impractical when you're running from la maison to class. I also realized that perhaps my astronomically high expectations had set me up for a little bit of disappointment.
Because I went there expecting to be charmed, dazzled and delighted as soon as I landed and stepped foot off the plane. Well, guess what? It didn't happen immediately — hence my initial disappointment — but it did ultimately happen.
I was charmed by the graceful architecture and the simple pleasures of Parisian life... a warm baguette from the boulangerie, fresh fruit from the neighborhood market, a melt-in-your-mouth piece of chocolate and a well-balanced (not to mention extremely inexpensive) bottle of Cabernet. I was dazzled by the way the Eiffel Tower stood tall and, as corny and touristy as this makes me sound, twinkled silently at night. And I was delighted at what it was like to spend a summer abroad in Paris — dance lessons along the Seine, enlightening conversations with effortlessly hip Parisians, belly-laughing picnics with friends, unexpected adventures around the city, amazing celebrations during the World Cup and quiet strolls on sunny Sunday afternoons. It was all of these things that made me realize Paris is not only what's shown on television and in the movies; it's often so much more.
That was nine years ago. Since then I've visited Paris a few more times and have continued to be charmed, dazzled and delighted.
And so I have faith that Paris will shine again, just as brightly and beautifully as before.
Il est, enfin, la ville de la lumière.