Monday, 15 September 2008

enjoying being a tourist more than a local.

What do I have to say about Paris that hasn't been said before? Well, probably nothing that hasn't been said before by at least one other person, somewhere, somehow, but maybe I have something to say that at least hasn't been said by me.

I wasn't really looking forward to coming back to Paris given my negative experience living there, but I was happy to come back because I knew it was somewhere mum really wanted to see. What I certainly wasn't expecting was to actually find myself on arrival with a feeling of returning home. I actually felt like I was showing Mum around my hometown, which I suppose I was in a way, since it was the first place I was really forced to strike out on my own, and although I certainly don't know the place as well as i know, say, the Australian national anthem (ahem...), I got a real kick out of being able to navigate the metro effortlessly, being able to walk around at least certain areas without reference to a map, being able to point out monuments and places with certainty, and knowing where they lie in relation to the whole.

I also remembered how I used to eat there in courses - salad for dinner, and then 7 tiny desserts: cheese, yoghurt, fruit, mousse, chocolate. It sounds nuts, but it actually ends up being quite light and balanced as it's like an inverse pyramid.

It was also really gratifying to be in a country where I could communicate with everyone, and have a sense of achievement about it. I am really enthused now to go home and continue improving my French, as well as maybe to pick up another language or two, whereas when I left 'for good' I just felt burnt out and frustrated. This time I got a real sense of exactly how quickly my brain is taking in new information in that language now - would anyone like to know the word for 'waterproofing spray'? Anyone? I not only learnt it but also retained it.

I always said that Paris is a better place to visit than to live. I think I proved this true by having a much better time as a tourist than I ever did as a local. And in fact, the only horrible moments we experienced this time around were navigating 'living' issues rather than 'visiting' issues (hello, landlords!). And this time around I got to see almost all of the things I regret missing out on the first time - although of course in a city as big as Paris there's always more to see and do.

I left this time feeling that I'd actually benefitted from my time there, and although I don't feel the need to go again, if I do it'll be like visiting an old (if somewhat cantankerous) friend.

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