Don’t be fooled by the title of this post, it’s more De Gaulle than Dickens.
Of all the places I’ve dreamt of visiting, Paris probably came with the biggest batch of expectations. The city of love, where you’ll stuff your face with buttery pastries while admiring the Eiffel Tower in a beret.
To be completely honest, I feel like Paris was so hyped that I could have passed over it this semester and not felt like I was missing anything. Once you’ve seen Funny Face, The Devil Wears Prada, and Passport to Paris you probably know the city pretty well, huh? Nope.
Here’s a breakdown of my Paris expectations vs. reality:
#1 French people are rude… On Saturday night, we set out to find food without any real sense of direction. After walking a couple of blocks, we stopped in a grocery store to ask some locals about where we should eat dinner. For the next 20 minutes we followed a nice Parisian man around the Pasteur neighborhood as he stopped in restaurants asking if they had escargot.
#2 Speaking of snails… escargot was considerably more difficult to find than I expected. The man who helped us find a restaurant asked us why we were so dead set on finding escargot, and when we said that we thought it was a Parisian thing, he said “Yeah, maybe 30 years ago.”
We never ended up eating escargot, but I can’t say I’m too terribly disappointed.
Side note: when I was younger, my mom commissioned me to pick all the snails out of the garden. I would then make a ring of salt around them in the middle of the street and watch the madness unfold. In retrospect I think my parents should have been a little more worried about me becoming a serial killer.
#3 The Eiffel Tower is smaller than you think… I’m not sure who told me this, but they were completely incorrect. When I first laid eyes on it fresh off the Megabus at 23:00 on Friday night, I was floored. It was one of those moments that I thought to myself “This cannot be real.” I’ve had a whole lot of those moments in these past two months.
#4 Quasimodo… The Disney fanatic in me was super excited to pay a visit to Notre Dame…and the sports fanatic in me had to focus hard to pronounce it the French way. We didn’t find a Quasimodo, but perhaps that’s because we didn’t want to shell out 10 euros to go into the bell towers.
#6 Gluttony… Given the buttery reputation of French food, I was expecting to have to roll myself home, but Paris actually gave me the best workout I’ve had in weeks. We walked nearly 30 miles. I think half of those steps occurred at Versailles because damn that place was huge (and full of AP European History flashbacks). I’m embarrassed to say that my entire body is sore right now.
#7 Falling for falafel…In addition to serving as navigator, I’ve also become the food chief, because when you have a food blog people expect you to know food-related things. My pre-trip research let us down in a couple instances, but I did manage to find the best falafel stand in Paris, L’As du Fallafel.
My Paris experience was very reflective of my abroad experience so far in general. I had a million expectations as I packed up my Costco duffel back in January.
Everyone says that studying abroad was the “best experience of their life,” which I thought was probably an overstatement, and yet I’m proving myself wrong every day, and I’m looking into how I can extend the experience into the summer.
I’ve officially bought into the cliché of Paris, of Europe, and of studying abroad. I can’t wait to see what expectations I can shatter next.