My dad and I visited Paris together over New Year’s the winter I was nine. There was much anticipation leading up to our departure, the joy of the holidays combined with exotic locales. I remember shopping with my mom before I left, finding a sort of windbreaker material track suit that I felt very chic in to wear on the plane. My dad had prepared us Christmas stockings, and we had gifts from his side of the family, so when we couldn’t sleep on that trans-Atlantic flight, we giggled quietly and opened our presents.

Upon arriving at our hotel, the concierge called my dad “Mister Ritcherd,” and my dad proudly corrected him, “No, it is Reeshard; we are French too!” This exchange made me excited but nervous about interacting with foreigners. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the unfamiliarity. We went to sleep after checking in, a mistake we paid for the rest of the trip.

We ended up sightseeing in the freezing temperatures of the late afternoon and evening (it was the coldest winter in a century), checking off the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, seeing art I was maybe too young to appreciate. When we were wide awake in the night, we stayed up watching old Westerns dubbed in French.

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This time, boyfriend and I took an overnight train, on which I was surprisingly able to sleep, despite being contained in a cabin with strangers, one of whom was so strange he literally ate tea spices out of the bag and then asked us to help him expatriate to England.

Our hosts, friendly Italians in a surprisingly huge apartment, welcomed us warmly and without any of the pretension the French are famous for. Having been overseas for a month, my jet lag was nonexistent, and Paris is famously beautiful in spring, which we arrived in time to enjoy the last few days of.

We enjoyed wine and cheese in a flower-abundant park, rode bicycles around Versailles, sipped cafe au lait as we watched the rain, and enjoyed a lively dinner with family friends. In short, a perfect visit.

It’s easier to appreciate the small things after first experiencing something in a less simple way. Paris, when not freezing, is lovely. My experience in Paris, when not exhausted and crabby from my refusal to eat anything “weird”, even lovelier. I guess what I’m saying is that travel in foreign cities is better appreciated as an adult, but the now-adult me appreciates the love and bit of misadventure that went into that first trip, nearly 20 years ago.

Also, check out boyfriend’s great little video of the view from our flat!