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Paris was just as beautiful and magical as I expected...
And it was also a lot more difficult than I expected.

I’d done my homework: brushed up on basic French phrases for getting around hotels, restaurants, etc. and read up on general cultural etiquette (like making sure to say “bonjour” anytime you enter a place and then again to get someone’s attention and sometimes then again; and “merci, au revoir” before leaving any establishment).

But my French ended up being pretty worthless because…

1. all of those “common phrases” you learn in school are NOT how people actually talk and

2. my French just isn’t very good…turns out it’s very, very bad.

And just because most people there CAN speak English, doesn't mean they want to, and we felt rude expecting them to, so mostly we got around by pointing and pantomiming and taking refuge in an English-speaking bar called "The Moose."

But then Lo got sick and I had to go to the pharmacy.

And while that sounds simple, French pharmacies are not like Walgreens.

You can’t just walk in, get your cold medicine and check out quietly.

You have to speak to the pharmacist (who is also the check out person and overall gatekeeper of the pharmacy) for literally anything – including basic headache medicine.

For this, I used Google Translate.

The pharmacist was really sweet and immediately switched to English (which felt fine because that was HER choice, I was in it to win it with my badly pronounced and probably incorrectly translated French phrases).

Anyway, the point is: the language barrier is very real.

Especially when you’re there for a month, trying to do regular life kind of stuff (like attend a yoga class which you know will be in French but you think “oh that’s just going to be basic body part vocabulary and left and right and forward and down” AND IT IS NOT and you can’t follow along and everyone notices and is thinking how dumb and American you are and you can FEEL IT).

Ok ok so onto the "beautiful and magical" parts:

  • The Louvre – Ok look, cards on the table – I wanted to skip the Louvre. I felt like it was too big and crowded and would be a huge hassle and overrated. Lo insisted, and I’m so glad he did because it was really something. I have no idea what percentage of it we saw because the place is MASSIVE and we walked around all day until our feet fell off. It’s also so big that it didn’t really feel that crowded (and we even went on a weekend). Pro tip: buy tickets in advance and use one of the side entrances to avoid lines and wait time.
  • Cafes – Cafes are EVERYWHERE and you can sit at a table all day if you want, even if all you buy is a cup of coffee. (Seems rude, so we didn’t try it, but someone told me it’s actually a part of French law.) Everywhere we went, the food was amazing, the wine was cheap, and literally every place was as cute as a button. I recommend avoiding the big Instagram hot spots like Cafe de Flore and Deux Magots; they’re swarming with “influencers”. I really liked Jade Coffee in the Latin Quarter area. Pro tip: sit outside for some good people watching.
  • Shakespeare & Co. Bookshop – I love a cute bookshop, but this one is next level. The ground floor is an English book store and upstairs is full of antique books and furniture and is designated as a “reading room.” Pro tip: get there early on a weekday if you want to enjoy the solitude of the reading room. This place is very popular.
  • Dinner bus tour through Paris – We don’t typically celebrate Valentine’s day, but since we were in the city of LOVE on Valentine’s day, it became a “when in Rome” kind of situation. Lo booked us on an evening dinner bus tour of the city, complete with a Michelin Star chef serving 5 courses (which ended up being 8 courses). There was a stop in the middle at the Eiffel Tower right at the moment it lit up all glittery and we got someone to take a picture of us in front but they were drunk so it’s pretty blurry.
  • Overnight trip to Flavigny – After meeting up with our friends James and Paula from New Orleans for lunch in Paris one day, they invited us to check out the medieval village of Flavigny, where they now live. It was an hour train ride from Paris, and was like stepping back in time. Literally time stood still….we were only there for 24 hours but it felt so much longer and we got to see so many things. Paula even made a king cake because the day we arrived was Mardi Gras.

Next Stop: Amsterdam!