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Paris had always been that dream destination ever since I began taking French years ago, yet when I finally began planning to study abroad, I instantly rejected the idea of going to Paris. It was too cosmopolitan to really learn the language and too touristy to get a feel of the culture. I also thought Parisians would be too stylish for me to keep up with day in and day out, and I feared the rainy weather would dampen my spirits, all of which is why I ended up in Montpellier, a southern French coastal city like the ones I’d grown up in where life is more laid-back and the weather more lively.

Yet even once I was in France, it still took me nearly 3 months to get to Paris. I had landed at Charles de Gaulle airport at the beginning of my trip for a short layover before my flight to Montpellier, but didn’t get to really visit Paris until Remembrance Day weekend in November. It was just warm enough to not need a real coat and to still be able to dine outside on the sidewalks (albeit under the heaters), yet just chilly enough for the colorful leaves to have fallen and for us to have a valid excuse to pick up hot wine when we wanted.

Yes, I found Paris to be that beautiful, old-world city I had always imagined. Unlike London, its inhabitants do not live in hastened world driven by capitalism. Unlike Rome, it still has its sophistication and elegance despite economic austerity.

As my flight back to the States had been booked through Paris, I returned to the City of Light after my brief stopover in Barcelona. Holiday spirit was in the air, although I’d prefer to refer to it as commercial spirit considering how many Christmas markets had been set up around the city. This final trip was a solo venture, punctuated with meet-ups with friends and my host family as I explored areas of Paris I had never been to before and finally got to go to the ballet at the opera house. I think I enjoyed Paris in the autumn more, but then again, this could be due to the rainy days in December.

A final note of caution to all travelers to Paris during Christmastime: watch your wallets and your waistlines. One’s definitely going to get thinner and the other fatter.

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