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Opinion
Ormond Beach Observer Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018 1 week ago

I fell in love with the city of lights

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Seeing Paris in the snow was an unforgettable experience.
by: Jarleene Almenas Staff Writer

I didn't know I would fall in love with Paris in just one short week.

It was a spur of the moment trip planned back in late November after my sister and I found a Black Friday deal for $345 roundtrip tickets to the city of lights. The French capital wasn't on our radar of places we were itching to visit — unlike Bali, Iceland, Argentina and Spain, to name a few. But a good deal like that is hard to pass up, so we booked our trip along with our friend from Jacksonville.

While I'm always excited to travel, especially in Europe, I was a bit worried Paris would feel like Rome. When I went, the Eternal City was a little overwhelming and not as beautiful as the south of Italy, in my opinion. Capitals tend to be like that. London felt the same. 

Maybe it was the time of year or perhaps I shouldn't jump to conclusions about all capitals, but Paris was unbelievable. I can see why people flock to this city. Beyond the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre, there is an indescribable beauty in the city and its people, which were some of the nicest we've met while traveling, despite what people say.

The Eiffel Tower stands tall amidst the snow the morning of Feb. 6. Photo by Jarleene Almenas

I read somewhere that Paris belongs to the Parisians in the winter, and I got to see that in its full glory. We climbed the Eiffel Tower without waiting in line, we ate in restaurants surrounded by residents rather than tourists and sometimes, we were the only tourists walking on the street.

Seeing the city blanketed by snow? That was more than we could've hoped for. 

I asked everyone we met — waiters, taxi drivers, our hotel front desk clerk — if snow was usual in Paris, especially to the magnitude we experienced. They all adamantly said no, that snow is rare in the center of Paris and hasn't happened in a few years.

As someone who was born in Puerto Rico and grew up in Florida, I had never seen snow. To see it in Paris for the first time was special. 

We definitely were not prepared for snow. We had packed for rain and cold temperatures, but the sudden change in weather caught us and the Parisians by surprise. I loved every minute of it though.

Millions of visitors get to see the Eiffel Tower in all its iron glory standing tall in the middle of green blooming garden in the summer. Not everyone gets to see the opposite. It's a different kind of beauty, but to me, it was breathtaking. 

The gardens of the palace of Versailles were covered with snow on Feb. 6. Photo by Jarleene Almenas

And while Paris received about four to six inches of snow in the center, Versailles was a different story. We got to traipse through pristine white snow a foot deep in some parts. My sister said she had been told the historic palace of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI was not worth visiting in the winter because the statues were covered and the gardens weren't in full bloom.

That might have been true had it not snowed. Since it did, Versailles looked like something out of Beauty and the Beast. 

Traveling is more than just about seeing the sights, though. It's about experiencing a life different from yours, and it can be a humbling experience, even in one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.

From the young waiter we met who moved from Versailles to the city to experience more nightlife to the immigrants selling souvenirs in front of the Eiffel Tower who speak literally like 10 languages, there are so many stories to tell. That's my favorite thing about traveling. 

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