What I Learned From the Not-so-Romantic City of Romance

Well, I’m back from a long weekend (what we call Travel Break here at Pepperdine) in Paris! Of course, this happened to be over the Valentine’s Day weekend—not that I felt lonely and pathetic or something, but I did feel out of place without a girl on my arm while visiting all the sights!

I’ll give you my insights into one of the most overly-romanced cities in the world, and why I much prefer London to Paris. While I had a great time, don’t get me wrong, I have no need to revisit the French for a long, long, time.

Seeing what I saw was amazing: the Eiffel Tower, the Arc du Triumph, the Louvre, and other museums were awesome! Outside of Paris, we visited Versailles, which was my absolute favorite thing we did! If you ever get the chance while in Paris, GO! It’s extravagance gives a much deeper insight into the root causes of the French Revolution. While the gardens obviously weren’t in bloom, I hear they are stunning in season. The inside is spectacular. I’ll put some pictures below. Also, the pastries in France are to die for!  While the paintings and architecture throughout the entire city and museums were indescribable, the rest of the city and its people were a major let down.

Perhaps I just love London too much, and can’t compare it to Paris. Or maybe, it was the cold and rainy weather we experienced. Or maybe, it was that I don’t speak French, and it was hard for me to understand. No, it wasn’t any of that, it was the French people. Now, I am a people person, certainly, so this is perhaps why I place a higher value upon the people of a country, but never, in my entire life, have I experienced such abrasive, rude, and stuck up group of people in my entire life. While there were a few who didn’t fit this stereotype (like the two men who helped me navigate the confusing subway system to catch my train home, or the adorable French baker-woman in our village that greeted us with a warm “bonjour” each morning), on the whole, I have never been so disgusted by a culture. The amount of times I was approached to give money to a “charity” by people outside public places, or the amount of French-Africans who tried to steal my wallet by stopping me to tie a bracelet around my wrist was outrageous. More than that, the entire city was dirty and, in many places, smelled like urine. Metro stations at times felt like homeless shelters. French people seemed disgusted at the fact that I am an American. With all of this combined, despite the beauty of the sightseeing, I was ready to go home to my clean, and English-speaking island by third day of our trip.

However, there was one great redeeming activity that we did on our last day: Disneyland Paris!! While I am not a Disney “freak” per se, I am always up for a visit to the Happiest Place on Earth! This was a perfect “America” Break—Red, White, and Blue was flying from Main Street USA, I had a hotdog for dinner, and, for a few moments, I forgot that I was even in Europe at all. There were, of course, differences between Anaheim and Paris—I waited in line for crepes, not churros, and Space Mountain was way cooler than it is at home!

In kind of a funny way, my time at Disney truly reminded me how appreciative I am to be an American. While it seemed the French hated me because of my nationality while I was in their country, their abruptness didn’t, and couldn’t, deter my American pride. While the French (or perhaps, just Parisians) may think they are the superior, and that everyone should behave like them, we celebrate diversity. We welcome people from all countries as visitors and immigrants alike, and believe that they can pursue whatever dreams they have for themselves. We celebrate our self-reliance, our ingenuity, and our rich diversity of citizens. Americans are courteous, and we care for our own by our own accord, not from government coffers. While we certainly aren’t perfect, our sphere of influence, including our generosity, free-market principles, and knack for believing that anyone can succeed in their pursuits of happiness and prosperity has spread our ideals far beyond our borders, and inspired others around the globe to pursue a better life.

So, while in Disneyland Paris, a place whose foundation lies upon a man who embodies the meaning of aspiration and vision, I realized just how blessed I am to live in a nation that believes in dreams—the dreams of small business owners, the dreams of a young college students, and the dreams of new immigrants—that they too can achieve what those before have accomplished in our grand history: the American Dream.

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