Travel Is Not That Glam, Part 2: Sometimes Travel is Pretty Glam
By: Maddie DePree, Columnist
My group has officially settled in London and recovered fully from the Plague Bus (see Travel Part 1 for details). I have spent these first few weeks exploring and acquainting myself with London, which is an indescribably lovely city. The accents! The red phone booths! The drunk man peeing in one of said phone booths! Well, maybe not that last one. In all seriousness though, London has an unparalleled number of museums, historic sites, and nooks and crannies to explore. It is a cultural hub in every sense of the word.
Suffice it to say that London can feel pretty glam. I feel quite cosmopolitan some nights when I leave the theater, turn down a cobblestoned street, and order some obscure flavor of gelato at the next corner. I somehow managed to tear myself away from London when my mom visited me this week – and boy, I did not regret it.
Spoiler alert: my mom is a French professor in Atlanta, so she often travels to France for work. She also studied abroad in Paris when she was about my age, and she has always wanted to show me her favorite city. So somehow, between my classes, theater obligations, and scant social life, we managed to fit in a 24-hour trip to the country.
Frankly, my mother is the queen of all things glamorous. Her French is flawless, her wardrobe is on point, and she knows how to travel efficiently. The Parisians never, EVER guess that she is an American – a big compliment over here. Meanwhile, I forgot how to say “bonjour” on multiple occasions during our jaunt. Not that this mattered – my mom was a spectacular translator, so I could get by mumbling “merci” and waving hello and goodbye.
The glamour, though. Oh, the glamour. If I learned one thing about Paris, it is this: Parisians know decadence. The first café we explored had velvet walls. Velvet. Covered. Walls. And if that was not impressive enough, the waiter poured our hot chocolates with such a flourish that my eyes almost popped out of my skull. Never have I seen a more beautiful wave of chocolate. The drink itself was so rich that I could almost chew it.
Next, we walked to the Eiffel Tower, which was breathtaking, and predictably full of tourists like myself. We took some obligatory photos and moved on to other sights, like the Louvre and the bouquinistes (antique booksellers) on the Siene. Every other building had gilded accents, victorian rosettes or a series of gorgeous sculptures. Everywhere I looked held some degree of visual appeal.
We eventually settled on a tiny French restaurant for dinner. Our waiter spoke absolutely no English, which would have been a problem if not for my genius mother, who talked to him as easily as anyone. I was mesmerized with the beauty and rapidity of the language – my knowledge of French ends with the words “au revoir,” so I let my mouth hang open as I tried to pick up the unknown words. Nothing is more humbling than utter incomprehension.
As my mom and I ate dinner that night, we watched dozens of elegant Parisians head home from work. Some of them stopped to talk to one another; others moved swiftly toward cabs or biked down the road. (I will add that 90 percent of these people were impeccably dressed. I mean, really. A dude wearing a red hat and a green scarf, and somehow pulling off both of these looks at once? Amazing.)
Looking back, this is what I remember most clearly about Paris: the whole population being palpably elegant and energized. I will miss it – the gilded glamour, but also the view from that café window. The city buzzed with some strange Paris vibration, a kind of energy that seems to exist nowhere else in the world.