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Romance and Glamour by Julia Haines


France has always been the country known for romance and glamour, and its stunning capital is by far no exception to the rule. Although Paris is hardly immune to modern social and economic problems, its raw beauty and deep history has no difficulty drawing a diverse tourist crowd like me. Why has Paris fascinated me since early childhood? Partly the clash between modern society and ancient architecture, also the thrill of a foreign and stylish culture, and the breath-taking beauty a romantic soul feeds upon that I have only discovered through photographs in a Frommers guidebook. Unfortunately, the 1,000 word maximum for this essay forces me to curb my prolificacy, so I limited my descriptions to a few aspects of Paris I most look forward to experiencing someday.

At fourteen years old, I am obviously no expert in the field of architecture, but even I have no difficulty being awed by the great buildings of Paris. Of course, the most typically thought of monument is Gustave Eiffels Eiffel Tower, which seems (to me) to sum up the glory and wonder France is famous for. However, there are many more architectural feats to discover! For example, the historically rich Notre-Dame Cathedral: The same sun that streams through the enormous stained glass windows lit up the praying Crusaders and shone during the glory of the Renaissance, the bloody Revolution, the crowning of Napoleon, the cathedrals threatened demolition, and the Notre-Dames restoration in the late 20th century. To walk inside a building where so many warriors and royals have entered before, so long ago, is incredible, Im certain. In the interest of time, I wont delve into full detail about other buildings and monuments I would love to visit, but a few that I would be sore to miss are the Arc de Triomphe, the Sainte-Chapelle, and the Opéra de Paris. Although its certainly not the most common form of entertainment in America, I have always enjoyed attending the operas in my citys theaters. So it would be huge thrill to actually see a French opera in such a beautiful and famous opera house.

Despite the historical landmarks and monuments to great societies, the aspect of Paris that attracts me the most is the atmosphere and culture of the city. I become excited just reading about French customs and lifestyles, and especially the language. I have always dreamed of becoming bilingual, and glamorous French was of course my first choice for a second language. Although my knowledge of the language is woefully lacking, I have always wanted to mix with native speakers and attempt to absorb and understand their conversations. Where could I find an easily accessible place to walk and browse stands that would maximize my digestion of the culture and have a beautiful view to remember? Fortunately, Paris doesnt seem to be short of breathtaking places to linger, but the river Seine stands out. Bordered by the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Louvre, and many other attractions. Yes, spending at least a day loitering by the river is very highly prioritized on my list of Things to Do in Paris.

Unfortunately, I may not have too much time to spend on the Seine, for the Musée du Louvre is not easily conquered! I would plan to spend several days wandering the museum created in the 13th century. As opposed to most of my peers, I actually enjoy browsing ancient sculptures and famous paintings. It is one thing to read about a piece of art, but it is quite another to be within touching distance of Da Vincis original Mona Lisa, or Venus de Milo, or Coronation of Napoleon. The seven departments of art would, without doubt, consume at least two full days without my having seen half of the works. I adore knowing the histories of each painting and artist, and the feeling that I am staring at something so many famous people from so many eras have seen before.

If I had any time left over, I'm afraid I would be forced to follow my impulse and sniff out the myriad of shops. After all, how could one visit one of the most fashionable cities in the world without buying something? I would wistfully browse the w indows at Tiffanys and designer clothing stores, and I could easily while away an afternoon looking at shoes, but I would also want to discover book stands, flea markets, and take breaks in local cafés.

Yes, Paris has been the location of my dreams since I saw pictures of the Eiffel Tower. The glamour, the art, the history, the beauty, the language, and the people all fascinate me. I would never forget walking inside the history-saturated Notre Dame cathedral, or listening to the chatter of Parisians. The impact of viewing the Venus de Milo in real life instead of fuzzy, 2-D photographs would never leave my mind, and I would brag for months about the day I spent window-shopping at Tiffanys. Paris isnt one of those cities that you visit for a week and come back home the same person. I believe one would be deeply affected by that week in the City of Light, and if that visitor returns to his or her native country stuck in the same mindset as he or she was previously, that person must have toured a different city than the one I read and dream about.

Julia Haines - N/A,