Features

Paris as seen through my eyes

Anna Martin

Contributor

American tourists in Paris have a bad reputation, but during my time here in this beautiful city, I have realized that there are several advantages to being an outsider. I am half French and have family members who live in Paris. My uncle and cousins live here, and my grandparents on my father’s side used to as well. So I am very lucky to be a part of both cultures. Even though I had been coming to France almost every summer since I was born, I had never gotten to know Paris very well. Now I’m experiencing Paris from a perspective that even my relatives have never had — with an open mind and boundless energy and curiosity. When you’re an outsider here, you notice things that the residents take for granted, such as the way the fog rolls into the Tuileries Garden in the morning, or how delicious a Nutella crepe tastes in the neighborhood market, or how stunning the Notre-Dame Cathedral looks when it’s lit up at night. I have done things and visited places that my relatives have never thought of doing. For example, going to the Paris Chocolate Show (a yearly international fair for chocolate), or exploring a secret abandoned railway, or going to the Nuit Blanche (an annual all-night arts festival). My cousins who have grown up in this city rarely leave their district to wander aimlessly in unknown streets just to explore. Being in Paris for a semester, I think I have already seen and done a lot more than what my cousins have in their whole lives here. My father, who grew up in Paris, recently told me that he hadn’t even been to the Eiffel Tower until he was around 20. He likes to joke but that one might actually be true! Being an outsider has also given me amazing advantages not available to locals. The most incredible has been being given the opportunity to intern at two of the top museums in Paris and in the world — the Musée d’Orsay and the Centre Pompidou. It gives me a thrill just to be able to walk through their doors with a sense of purpose. I’ve been able to get a unique behind-the-scenes look at how museums work, and more specifically how photography exhibits are put together. This experience has also given me the freedom and courage to take risks, to try new things, and to become more independent and confident. Yet, at the same time, I am also adopting the best of French culture — the more leisurely way of life, the politeness in everyday life, an appreciation for food, and much more. I only have about a month and a half left in Paris, and there are still a lot of things I have yet to see. I hope to cross them off my list by the time I leave! My adventure in Paris continues, as I discover new things to love about this city every day. I will miss the late afternoon picnics and sunsets spent along the Seine, but I’m really grateful to have had this amazing experience.

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