04/23/2012 08.55 EST
Remember returning to school after summer vacation and being asked by your teacher to write an essay titled “What I Learned on My Summer Vacation”? This question immediately came to mind after I returned from a trip to Paris with my mother and brother. We had the good fortune of treating my mother to this special trip, which has been on her “bucket list” for years.
What did I learn from my time spent to Paris? Even though it was a brief trip, I discovered several things about life in general.
Smell the Flowers: It was so delightful to experience a new culture that is more relaxed than the one I’m used to. We loved the pace of Paris, particularly the pace of the meals. Of course, we loved the food; who wouldn’t appreciate being served chocolate croissants every morning?! Each meal was savored slowly and lasted between two or three hours. Initially, it was challenging to adjust to not having the waiters and waitresses shoo you away so they could turn the table over to another customer. The wait staff was not focused on rushing to give us the check – what a shock! Each meal was enjoyed and relished. We actually ate more slowly, had longer conversations and just enjoyed each other’s company. We appreciated taking life a bit more slowly, remembering to smell the flowers along the way.
Mind Your Manners: My one observation of the culture is that typically (although there are always exceptions!), Parisians speak softly and very much appreciate politeness. They are proud of their heritage and the beauty of their language. They want others to try to speak French or, at the least, attempt the language. They respond more favorably when you begin your sentence with “Bonjour” or “Bonsoir” rather than just launching into a question or statement. Even though I struggled with the language, I found most people quite accommodating and supportive if I tried, and did so in a soft voice accompanied by a smile. I found the culture very civilized, lovely and one that was welcoming if you remembered your manners; it was a good lesson for any culture.
Learn from the Past: Paris’s history and architecture were fascinating. We visited Notre Dame, the Louvre, Rodin Museum, Paris Opera House, Musee Carnavalet and the Eiffel Tower, just to name a few. The historical facts and stories of each place were so rich and interesting. I particularly loved discovering a patisserie or bistro tucked away in a narrow back street, seeing locals riding their bicycles with loaves of bread under their arms and listening to the diversity and variety of languages. I learned a great deal of history throughout our trip and now plan to read books about the region to help the “history lesson” come alive for years to come.
Respect and Honor Your Family: It was a pleasure traveling with my mother and brother. We had not vacationed together for quite a long time, and traveling together as adults was a delight. We enjoyed each other’s company and caught up on what was going on in each other’s lives, all while experiencing a new culture together. It was a wonderful gift for my mother to visit such a glorious place; she never expected to be able to travel to Paris, especially so late in life. But it also was a gift for me and my brother to spend time together and watch our mother take in all of the sights and beauty of the city.
Hopefully, we all will make the time to enjoy our family members in various stages of our lives. These memories will be ones I treasure for the rest of my life. Take the time to stop and smell the roses (and enjoy a chocolate croissant every now and then).