Over the past week, I’ve discovered that Americans walk a distinct line between being visitors to Paris and residents who call the city home for a considerable span of time. When you simply stop in for a week or so, your days are filled with all the highlights: the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elysees, the Moulin Rouge. The camera stays glued to your side as you unashamedly snap picture after picture, embracing every second of the cheesiness and clichés as you hustle around every end of the city with a tour guide. With each passing moment, your time dwindles a little more as you determinedly savor every second from a Galleries Lafayette shopping splurge to a Nutella crepe each afternoon. After all, you can’t do extensive damage to your bank account or waistline in only a couple days!
On the other hand, when one becomes a pseudo-Parisian for five weeks, you enter a separate sphere of experience that straddles the resident’s reality and the wide-eyed awe of a tourist. My first couple days quickly taught me this balance between wonder and rationality as I unpacked not in a hotel, but a host home nestled in the corner of Paris with guidelines, dinner times, and routines. I sorted out the Metro to navigate to class, not just from museums to shopping. I grew accustomed to my route to school and zigzagged through the crowds in front of Notre Dame, always debating whether or not to stop for a scoop of Berthillon ice cream to carry along to history.
Just because I have a daily groove doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to gasp when I catch a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower or ask a stranger to take my picture with my inaugural macaroon. That’s the beauty of this intersection; I have the chance to experience an authentic Paris without the rush to check off “must-do” items from a list. Rather, I can savor the slow moments and catch a glimpse of the glittery excitement hidden among a day-to-day routine, like turning a corner without getting lost or locating my favorite café. I think this comfort reveals the true manner in which intended to be experienced: slowly, thoughtfully.