Paris and London, for the First Time

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Life / Style / Travel

I knew I’d go to Paris someday, but I didn’t necessarily think it would be a family trip, let alone one involving, uh, the Rubik’s Cube World Championship. But that’s how life works and I’ll gladly take it.

The trip was jam-packed, really jam-packed. My brother had his cubing competition for three full days and I had to work three half days. Thank God for Paris’s 10 p.m. summer sunset, which gave us three-to-four hours of evening daylight to pack in as much sightseeing as possible.

To be honest, I was anxious going into this—I’d worked until the last minute and was a bit stressed about the work that I must get done while there (side note: I’ll never be more productive than when I had to finish a story before 10 am so we can set out for Versailles). There was also a lot of nitty-gritty planning that needed to come together, apprehension about some less-than-stellar hotel reviews, latent waves of fear re: terror attacks…😓

But let me tell you:

Everything is scarier in your mind.

(at least in my mind; some people don’t get scared.)

That’s the case for traveling, no?

CDG
First, can we talk about the Brutalist beauty that is Charles de Gaulle airport?

***

I wasn’t sure how I would feel about Paris. Has there ever been a more hyped-up city? As someone who’d picked French in middle school because fashion, I deeply hoped I would love it—and that it would be as romantic and glamorous as we’ve been told to believe.

Paris wasn’t an instant heart-grabber, but likely because we just stayed around the almost-suburbs hotel and competition venue the day we got there. But then came the evening treks: Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Jardin des Tuileries, Champs-Élysées, Arc de Triomphe, Montmartre, Notre-Dame, Jardin du Luxembourg, the Seine…and the city’s appeal became evident, unwavering.

Pont de Alexandre III: so extra, but so good.

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The tower, the myth, the legend.

Paris feels truly of the world and apart from it—a place where every corner is Instagrammable, though not in the way that your hip new neighborhood cafe is. Like them French girls, the city had a beauty that seemed effortless, but only because it has a piece of DNA that had been encoding elegance since…forever.

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The Louvre (architecture/public space wise)..impressed me so much. I could sit there for hours.

 

Paris gave me the sense that I would never get bored of it—and it’s not about the number of things I could be doing there that matters, but the pace, flavor, and way of life that the city imparts on you…an elusive something that seems like it can only be absorbed over time. No wonder people dream of moving there.

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Photos above in order (after the jardins): Notre-Dame, River Seine (by Notre-Dame), walking around Montmartre, #shuttersparadise, a berry beautiful basketball court in Pigalle, Galeries Lafayette, a taste of Versailles.   

***

After the competition wrapped up, we took the approximately 2h30m Eurostar journey to London. Emerging from the platform at St. Pancras station, it was jarring. The scene flipped completely. There seemed to be so many more people. The buildings had beauty in their history and detail but were somehow more rugged. There was a diversity—and aggressive commercialization—that instantly took me back to New York.

It was go go go. Men in suits. Swarmed streets. A narrower sky. I jumped to thinking: Oh man, I miss Paris.

After several days of roaming around London (touristy spots, mostly), I came to appreciate London’s own groove. It’s a much bigger city—a powerhouse, if you will—where the royal influence is special and ubiquitous.

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This journey came and went quickly and I’m grateful for a great introduction to two great cities of the world—and especially for the chance to do it with family, a type of experience I know to be increasingly rare.

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Photos above in order: View of London Eye, River Thames, and Big Ben from Hungerford Bridge, #buses (as seen in Mayfair), Trafalgar Square, #OOTD courtesy of my brother, swans, roses, and this year’s Serpentine Pavilion in Hyde Park, sunset in Belgravia. 

Leaving London for home, I wasn’t particularly sad, as I might be on some other vacations. For one, the non-stop activity-ing was taking a physical toll, and two, I’m leaving with a new yearning for something excellent. I had to leave to go back.

Cheers to those carefree days—on our way to Kensington Palace.

All photos by me (unless I’m in them, then it’s by my Instagram Brother, Mom, or Dad)
Lead image: Jardin des Tuileries

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