For a novice international traveler an overseas trip can be intimidating. I’m definitely a novice international traveler but I didn’t feel intimidated during our first adventure to Paris. I tend to be overly thorough and prepared when it comes to vacation. Whether it be 100 miles away or the other side of the world, I put an inordinate amount of time in planning and researching a destination. Since my wife and I had never been overseas, even more time went into preparing for our Paris journey. It was certainly time well spent.
Yet, after all of the study of maps, evaluations of the culture, and familiarizing of details, I still wasn’t beyond the initial shock of such a phenomenal city. After arriving at Charles de Gaulle International Airport I quickly led my wife through a pre-scripted routine that I had practiced a hundred times before in my mind. Like a well-oiled machine we made our way through the terminal and soon we were in a cab heading into the city. Sure we had a few minor hiccups and people had to wait on us as we had our first encounter with the ATM and as we tried to define the end of the taxi line. But overall we were like pros (at least in our own minds).
The trip from Charles de Gaulle International Airport to the city of Paris is pretty underwhelming. As you make your way through the outskirts of the city there’s just not much to see. There are vacant lots and rundown buildings galore. I would be lying if I didn’t say that I was a little concerned. But it’s amazing how things can change in a snap. The glorious landmarks of the city of Paris began to appear in the distance. The Eiffel Tower and the Sacré-Coeur Basilica stood as welcoming beacons and my concerns eased a bit. Then our cab driver got off the freeway, made four or five quick turns, and in a blink of an eye I felt the embrace of Paris.
In one quick turn Paris became alive to me. Standing tall in front of us was the Arc de Triomphe. My jaw dropped and my heart raced. It was at that point it really set in. I was in Paris, one of the most celebrated cities in the entire world, and before me stood one of the world’s grandest monuments. And everything else changed as well. The sidewalks were buzzing with life. Beautiful buildings showing off their gorgeous architecture lined each street. The rush of awe and excitement that I felt is hard to capture with words. But I knew I was experiencing something special and this first taste blossomed into a love for the city that I never expected.
We would go on to have a spectacular first day. It was filled with new experiences and memorable moments – things that my wife and I will never forget. But it all started with that first impression. It was a day filled with excitement and nervousness. But Paris put our minds at ease and invited us in. It blew us away and showed us why it’s one of the greatest cities in the world. It left me with feelings that would forever change me, and my love for the city found it’s genesis with that first impression.