When I was a preteen, my dad went to Paris.
Well, that’s not quite how the story goes.
When I was a preteen, my dad had a layover in Paris. Before he left, I begged and begged him to bring me back a miniature figure of the Eiffel Tower from an airport gift shop. As an Olsen-obsessed ’90s kid who watched Passport to Paris on a loop, it was basically all I had ever wanted. Over the phone, Dad regaled me with stories of spotting the Eiffel Tower out the airplane window and listening to everyone speaking French while he waited for his next flight. He assured me he had picked me up a Parisian gift, and I waited not-so-patiently for his return.
After a week or so, he walked into the house and pulled a tiny Eiffel Tower out of his bag… and handed it to my younger sister.
He had mixed us up in his head. I got a postcard. (My mom did kindly frame it for me in an attempt to lessen the blow).
And thus my obsession with the City of Lights only intensified.
When I took my first trip to Europe, in 2010, I chose a program that visited Italy instead of one that went to France. Italy, another country I’d always dreamed of visiting, was a bit of a letdown, and that fueled me to make my Paris dream come true – to not only visit, but to love it in a way that I hadn’t quite loved Italy. I had to do it right.
When I was planning my Europe trip for 2014 – the same trip that took me to Switzerland – I was deliberate about making sure I’d have a couple days in Paris. I looked forward to that trip for months, but along with excitement I felt some dread. What if it didn’t live up to my expectations? What if I left with the same tinge of regret I’d felt after visiting Rome?
Luckily, that was not the case. My love for France only intensified during that visit and in the years that have followed. That trip inspired me to start learning to speak French, so I can one day return independently, without a guide to translate. So that I can experience Paris as it’s meant to be experienced: As a local, someone who visits the coffeshops instead of the tourist sites.
I am now looking forward to my next, unplanned visit to Paris. I suspect the rest of my life may be spent constantly anticipating my next arrival. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.