This is a first of a series of blog posts that I will be doing to talk about where I am going during this trip, why I am going there, and what I’m expecting to see.
Paris was my first international destination – and for a long time the only place I’d really been in Europe. I visited for the first time in 2004 and then I returned in 2005 for my semester-long study abroad. As cheesy and corny as it sounds, this city has my heart like no other. I’ve yet to visit a place that challenges Paris’s supremacy in my heart.
Some of its primacy definitely is tied up with how I feel it connects to me as a person. I regard Paris as the first place I learned how to be myself as an adult. At the age of 19, I got on a plane and flew to France for months…I remember standing in the security line at Dulles watching my dad leave the airport and getting very emotional; two Russian grandmas comforted me very sweetly and made me feel less alone. As I think back on that now, I am constantly surprised that my younger self handled it relatively well; 30 year-old-me definitely would not have been as chill about the semester abroad.
Paris has some great personal memories…I did some amazing things, spoke the best French of my life (the state of it is so sad now in comparison), and met some truly fantastic people (including one of my oldest and bestest friends, Ashley!) Our small group of R-MC and Goucher folks, plus the ones we picked up in our language classes, had some amazing times together.
But Paris – the place Paris…I literally can’t imagine a place I love more. The main touristy areas full of history, each arrondissement with its own personality and rhythm, from the grand Haussmannian boulevards, to the narrow twisting streets of the Quartier Latin, to slightly too pristine Champs d’Elysée, I love how this city *feels*. So going back for me this trip is HUGE. It’s been over ten years. It will be different; a lot has happened to Paris and me in the past decade. I’m hoping it will be like reconnecting with an old friend you haven’t seen in awhile, but you pick up where you left off.
For this trip, Paris is serving two purposes. One, I get to start the trip in a place that is at least nominally familiar and I will be able to navigate it without large amounts of stress (hopefully). Two, it will serve as a kind of home base; I will arrive in Europe and depart to the US from Paris. I will travel to a few other locations in the north(ish) of France from there as well as make use of some library collections in Paris.
I can’t lie though; returning to Paris definitely feels more like a personal pleasure than something expressly connected to work. Paris me manque toujours. Ma chère amie, à bientôt!
This blog was originally posted here.