La Ville de l’Amour

March 15, 2012 Features

Read part one of La Ville de l’Amour here.

The summer leading up to my adventures abroad seemed like a relaxed, three-month vacation. My sunny, excellent-tanning-weather days in Ocean City, Md. came to an abrupt end in mid August, when I had to drive home to Baltimore  — two days before my departure to Paris. Still being in summer-beach mode, I threw the clothing that I thought appropriate for Paris into my suitcase and left for the BWI airport with my parents.

Looking back on the two days spent “planning” for my four month journey, it seems like it was done in a drunken state of panic with neglect to my true emotions and nerves.

If I could go back to these blurred days, I would have done everything differently and paid attention to the little things. Instead of frantically packing, I would have taken a step back, listened to my mother, and not packed 15 bathing suits to travel to a city with no beach.

I would have brought my own sheets instead of spending 50 euros on them at Le Monoprix. I would have brought my favorite shampoo and conditioner instead of using the French shampoo that seemed to do anything but allow my hair to cooperate.

I would have researched the typical Parisian wardrobe and understood that French women do not wear shorts, as girls in America who do so are seen as scandalous.

Now, understanding these major packing faux pas that I committed, I wish that I had taken the extra time and steps necessary to research where I would be spending these four months traveling abroad so I would not have felt so completely lost and American upon my arrival.

As I stumbled off the plane at Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris without my thrilled mother and animated father, I felt a rush of anxiety slap me in the face. With a six-hour time difference dragging me down, I walked out through the sliding glass doors into the Parisian air.

I looked around, but did not see anything beautiful about what was stretched in front of me. It was hot and gray and overcrowded with tiny Smart cars and people dressed from head to toe in black “cat suits.”

I immediately felt sticky, underdressed and nervous. I looked to my left and saw my parents with huge smiles stretched across their faces. It instantly annoyed me because I knew that they had traveled here before and understood this foreign beauty that they were being reconnected with, and apparently, I was not catching on.

I took a deep breath, grabbed a hold of my overpacked suitcases, and walked into the smoky, clouded air … promising myself to take a chance, let go, and absorb all the differences that make Paris so astonishingly wonderful.

To be continued…

About Eliza Smithwick

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