by Tanya Vanpraseuth
I remember my first time visiting France. It was in July of 2016 and I was eighteen years old and had just completed my first year at UFV. This was my first time travelling abroad and I was excited to be able to finally visit a country that I had always wanted to see.
I can vividly remember my first night in Paris. After I arrived in France, my uncle took me for a drive through the city. I can still remember the lights that reflected on the Seine River. I can remember going through the large roundabout at the Arc De Triomphe and seeing the Eiffel Tower light up at midnight. It honestly felt like absolute magic to me. It was surreal. All the stories that I had heard about Paris being breathtakingly beautiful proved to be true just on the first night I saw it.
One of my fondest memories of exploring Paris was the day that my cousin took me on this small boat bus that stopped at tourist attractions in Paris along the Seine River. We stopped at the base of the Eiffel Tower, the old Opera building, and the Notre Dame. We rode through the city and I got to see how grand and historic the architecture of every building in Paris was.
One of the best experiences I had in Paris was standing on top of the Arc De Triomphe. Although the walk up the flight of stairs was tiring, the view was completely worth it. I could see the whole city beneath me, with the Eiffel Tower right across. It felt like I was in another world. In another time. And that was the feeling I had the entire time I was in France. It felt like walking into a historic era or a fairytale. And the fairytale continues when I got to visit the Palace of Versailles and Château de Fontainebleau, walking amongst the vast gardens, ballrooms, and throne rooms of where kings and queens used to live. One of the castles even had gowns that tourists could wear while they explored the castle, allowing me to live my royal dream.
Paris has always had an element of fantasy or grandeur to it in movies and books. And I had heard many people call it the “City of Love.” And although some may believe that it is the city of finding love or the city that newlyweds visit, I realized that Paris is much more than this romanticized city that it is made out to be.
Paris was not called the “City of Love” only because of how many people have fallen in love within the city. To me, Paris was called the “City of Love” because anyone who visited could not help falling in love with the city itself. Just as I could not help being in love with France’s culture, beauty, and energy. The architecture, history, paintings, music, and stories are what excited and inspired me.
To this day, I miss the bustling streets of the Champs-Élysées, the climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, the delicious taste of freshly made crepes and escargot, the grand paintings within The Louvre, and the view of the whole city from the top of Paris’ Ferris wheel.
France was everything I had imagined it would be since I was a young girl. I can honestly say that it was one of the best times of my life. And I still feel like I have so much more to explore. I still wish that I had stayed just a while longer. But I know that I will return one day and experience France’s magic once again.