When I was in first grade, my family visited Paris. The trip started off with me, as the youngest of 4, was given a bar of chocolate by my older brothers (7 & 9 years older). This was as we were boarding the flight and I eagerly ate the entire bar of chocolate probably before take-off. My parents were up in first class but not too long into the flight they were aware of my gluttony.
You see, my older brothers were not being nice, they were being older brothers. It was a bar of laxative chocolates, suggested dose for my age 1 brick. Actual dose I ate, 12 bricks. Chaos ensued on the flight over. So I arrived in Paris dehydrated and pooped out.
We played tourist to no-end on that trip with most of it spent in McDonald’s without play areas so that my dad could take work calls. We went to the Louvre and mocked the mimes. We went to Monet’s garden, ate cucumber sandwiches, and looked at the lillies. We went to Notre Dame and didn’t see a single hunchback or singing gargoyle. We went to the crown jewel of tourist traps to satiate a family of 6. The Hard Rock Cafe.
It wasn’t until getting into Paris last night and spending the day with Mom & step-dad walking and taking the hop-on hop-off bus around the city that I remembered a lot of these stories. It was today that I realized where my hatred of tourist traps comes from.
Like many strong emotions, this despise of all things tourist came from my childhood. From that long-ago trip with the family where all we did was stand in line, wait at McDonalds, and see old fuddy-duddy art that I’d learned about on Encarta.
I’ve been to Paris three times this year and am finally seeing what I missed all those years ago. I am seeing the Seine and the beauty that river cities hold. I am eating amazing food and watching the Parisians enjoy their city. I am watching the multiculturalism of Paris against the stark contrast of the drive to preserve the French way. I am falling in love with a city that for two decades I have mocked based on the worst travel of my life. I am so glad I’ve had the open mind to start this lovely journey.
As I learned from one of my mates at BYU as he tried to teach himself French … Paris, je t’aime.