This photo is the best representation of my first impression of Paris. It was chilly, damp and rainy. The skies were overcast for three days. I took this photo from the top of the Arc De Triomphe. When I returned home and to work this photo became my background on my home and work computer. I looked at it over and over and could never get over the thrill of seeing Paris for the first time. I joined a web site called Virtual Tourist after the trip. There was no Facebook at this time. Virtual Tourist became my very first social media web experience. This photo was my introductory photo on Virtual Tourist. Although I have long since migrated from Virtual Tourist this photo still remains there on the first page I created. A chilly,damp, rainy day in the city of Lights.
I had never traveled outside of the United States and I never had a passport. I was 48 years old. My mother had just passed away very unexpected six month earlier. My two daughters were in high school. Now this all seems like a life time ago. But Paris still seems like it was just yesterday. But it was still fifteen years ago. I was naive. I had no travel experience. The person I was traveling with had only one previous experience traveling overseas so he was basically as naive as I was about traveling. There was no Google to search for photos and to do research. And I had never read a travel guide before. So this was going to be an adventure of epic proportions for me.
We booked a hotel on the internet which was a first for us. We basically went into Yahoo and searched on hotels in Paris. We found one that was affordable near Pere Lachaise Cemetery. It was named "Hotel Modern". I learned my first travel lesson with this hotel. Don't believe the name or what they say on their web page. If it's inexpensive there is a reason it's inexpensive.
I will never forget my first impression of Paris. It was magical and beautiful even on a rainy day. I had my first taste of true French Vanilla Ice Cream. It was the best ice cream I had ever tasted. I had a scoop every day. I had my first rump steak in peppercorn sauce, a taste I will never forget. I knew very little about wine before going to Paris. I drank very little wine and when I did drink wine it was usually White Zinfandel. So you can imagine my shock and delight when I had my first true French wines. I was surrounded with people speaking a foreign language. I remembered from high school how to say hello, good bye, thank you and Where is the library. I could also say I fell down in the street. So basically I spent four days saying hello, goodbye, or thank you as often as possible so I could feel like I was speaking the language.
Since that time I have traveled a lot. I have learned a lot. I now consider myself a seasoned traveler. I have been to many of the worlds great cities. But nothing compares to that first moment in Paris. I thought the magic might have been because it was my first trip overseas. I returned eight years later and was a bit concerned. I was afraid I would be let down this time. I thought it might be different the second time around. It might not as wonderful as my memory had made it. But I had nothing to worry about it. It wasn't me. It wasn't because it was my first time to be in Europe. It was magical because it was Paris. I took the photo below when I returned in 2008. It's the Eiffel Tower once again and taken from the top of the Arc de Triomphe once more. And it was still a chilly, gray, rainy day. And it's still Paris, my favorite city of all.