I went kicking and screaming, the first time I saw Paris.
“Oh, come on,” said my husband. “You’ll love it!” But I was unconvinced. I’d heard the stereotypes — the French hate Americans; Parisians are fashion snobs; Paris is a filthy, stinky place — and I was intimidated by the language barrier. But Esteban ignored my howls of protest and booked the flights.
He had a plan to ease the culture shock and jet lag. We’d:
(1) board the Disneyland Paris bus straight away at the airport,
(2) adjust our circadian clocks among the familiar Disney theme rides, and
(3) then take a train into town and conquer Paris.
In hindsight, I’m charmed by our naïveté. Instead of feeling comforted by Disney’s cultural homogeneity, we found ourselves in an alternate universe where everything looked vaguely familiar — yet somehow not quite right.
It was actually a huge relief to finally land in Paris and see that Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower looked exactly as I’d expected.
That was in 1997. In some ways, it seems like a lifetime ago: I was young and fat, and still shooting with film. But in other ways, it feels like just yesterday. The memories are still vivid, as clear and bright as the Fuji Velvia emulsion that captured them.
But what I remember most about that first trip to Paris is the sense of discovery and wonder that accompanied every new experience.
Fifteen years have passed since then, and I’ve been back nine times. Paris feels familiar to me now. From the endless maze-like corridors of the Charles de Gaulle airport to the little maze-like streets of the Marais, Paris feels like home. I’ve made some dear friends there. I’ve felt loved there — and lonely, too. But no matter how many times I may go back, there’s always that same sense of discovery and wonder.
Today I leave for my tenth trip to Paris. Here’s to new memories, and to new adventures.