On my summer vacation, I went to Paris for the first time. It was fabulous.
After my talk in Amsterdam, Kristen and I decided to take a break. I mean, conference in Geneva, working in the Netherlands... what a difficult life! So we took the TGV train from Amsterdam to Paris for a 4 day, 3 night vacation in the city. I have to say, I had my reservations - I have heard quite a bit about the rudeness of Parisians, and I wasn't sure what to expect. But, contrary to such prejudices, the French were probably the most polite people of the whole trip. Of course, it absolutely must have helped that I did try to use my rudimentary French throughout our stay there... but that was NOT a given, since it was entirely possible anyone would have been horrified by the massacre of their language. Regardless, as our time in Paris continued, more and more of the French I should have learned in Montreal (where I lived for five years) came back to me. And it was actually great fun to try and remember how to speak. And I like to think I impressed the hell out of Kristen (who doesn't speak a word).
What did I like best about the capital of France? Almost certainly the Latin Quarter and St. Germain. It's the area also on the Rive Gauche, or Left Bank of the Seine river, where the Sorbonne is located. So it was fairly student-y, and although the tourists had also found it (how dare they!), it was still a remarkably delightful place to just walk around. Which is what we mostly did for all the 4 days. We also saw most of the requisite tourist attractions, most notably the Louvre (I didn't get all the hoo-hah about the Mona Lisa), the Eiffel Tower (which was phenomenal), and the Notre Dame. We also took in the Musee D'Orsay (which was really a cool art museum located in an old train station) and the Sacre Coeur cathedral (which was unmanageably touristy - we had to hightail it out of there before one of us had a nervous breakdown). But most importantly, since we were staying in Montmartre, we managed to find the grocery store from Amelie. Kristen was certainly delighted.
Overall, I was extremely impressed with Paris. I would definitely go back there. Actually, I have the feeling that a large part of my enchantment with the city was just that I miss New York. Cape Town is a nice little city, but it's nothing like NYC - same with Geneva and Amsterdam. Paris was the first huge metropolitan city I've been in for a while, and it definitely made me slightly homesick. Although London doesn't quite do the same thing for me, so perhaps there's more to Paris than that...