Most of my air travel is spent over the US, crossing back and forth over the expanse of the country heading to LA or New York. But every so often, I switch it up and head overseas to explore.
This spring, my overseas extravaganza happened to be in Paris, France. And it just so happened that my dad had a layover there. He was to fly a plane from New York to Paris, enjoying a day or so in the city before flying that plane back to the US. The wonderful part? He invited me to come along.
Paris was the first European destination I ever visited. I was 10 years old when my family and I went over Spring Break in April of 2007. A decade later I was back roaming the streets, this time experiencing even more of the culture and eloquence that Paris has to offer.
I used to always tell myself that I only want to travel to places I’ve never been. It seemed pointless to go to a city that I’ve already explored for a couple days. But that’s just it- when I do travel I never stay in one place for more than a week. How is it fair that I assume I experience all one city has to offer in the course of a couple of days? It’s not.
When I was in Paris 10 years ago, my family and I toured the well-known sites. We gawked at Notre Dame, climbed (more like rode an elevator) to the top of the Eiffel Tower, walked through Montmartre, and looked out at the whole city while at Sacre Cour. We drove by the Arc De Triumph and even hit The Louvre to say hello to Mona Lisa. What more is there to do in Paris? Eat crepes, check. Buy a beret, check. Done.
Except these bucket list items are merely a fraction of what that city has to offer. As I came back a decade later, I honestly had no plans for the trip because I did not know what else there was to do. But when I arrived in Paris, I quickly realized I had been totally wrong.
Have you ever allowed yourself to get lost in a city? To put away your handheld map, your cellphone, and all sense of direction and just wander? I’m sure you probably haven’t. Cause getting lost has such a negative connotation. We all have a schedule to adhere to. Our days are filled up by the second. And on vacation? Forget about it. There is an itinerary to follow and if not, the whole trip will crumble to ruins. Right?
Wrong. And trust me, I used to think this way. I’m a type A personality born to an Air Force graduate –turned- Pilot father. If you think our family vacations are any sort of “relaxing”, you’re wrong again.
But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to appreciate walking through a city. Merely walking with no agenda, just gazing at the views and architecture. It’s probably my favorite thing to do- designate one day of the trip to getting lost without a worry in the world.
I’ve done this twice now- once on my second trip to London, and most recently on my second trip to Paris. The key factor? “Second trip” However I wish I had not been so caught up in “getting all of the sites in” the first go round so I could realize that I was missing out on so much more.
When you wander through a city, you never know what you’re going to find. Mind you, you should choose a city that is safe and easily accessible to a walking person. And always be aware! (Ok, I’ll stop acting like your mom now)
My first day in Paris as a 20 year-old, my mom and I picked one spot on the map to subway to and then decided to just walk and not look back from there. Our main destination was a store, and then we figured we’d just follow the quaint streets from there.
And that’s exactly what we did. European cities have tiny side streets that branch out from the main roads, usually paved in cobblestone and strung with twinkling lights. Exploring these cute little treasures is my mom’s favorite pastime, and has become mine as well.
We shopped. We explored the streets. We sat down at a café to enjoy a happy hour beverage (or two…). We bought a mini pizza topped with brie from a little bakery. Peeked into a flower shop. Split a dinner for two and picked up some fresh croissants for the next morning. It was such a lovely day.
Those are the days when you immerse into the culture. I’m not saying that we are now completely cultured French women; by all means I still have a lot more time to spend in Paris before that ever happens. But it’s a start. There were no tourists for miles. No historic sights to see. Just incredible architecture and eloquent storefronts.
Our second day in Paris, my dad joined my mom and I and we explored even more of the city that we had yet to see. We strolled through Luxembourg Gardens, visited Sainte Chappelle and marveled at the stain glass windows, stopped by Notre Dame for a quick photo opp, and took a bike tour all across Paris. We enjoyed fabulous meals and a nighttime boat cruise capped off the day.
And I thought I had done it all. That my little 10-year-old self would take in the city for what it’s worth and appreciate that architecture, the history, and the worth. Who was I kidding?
After being back in Paris, I can’t wait to go again. To stop by the opera house that The Phantom of the Opera is based on. To shop for treasures at the weekend flea market in Montmartre. To visit Museum D’orsey and the original Lauderee Macaroon store. The list goes on and on.
But I also want to take another day to walk through the city without a care in the world. To get to know her on a more personal level. I want to return to other cities I’ve previously visited- Barcelona, Amsterdam, Salzburg, Munich, Rome, Brussels- and wander through them as well.
Because last week I discovered that I love Paris in the spring.
And I also discovered that,
Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost
-The Fly Girl