Paris is effortlessly stylish, effortlessly energetic, effortlessly observant. Women in Paris sit outside and people watch with their vin rouge and wear beautiful trenchcoats. I felt out of place in Paris, but certainly not enough to want to leave. Instead, I took 3 out of our 4 days to build up the confidence to speak French at restaurants and patisseries (Duolingo tells me I'm 23% fluent, but that seems prettttty generous. All 3 years of high school French were ruined by a terrible teacher who pronounced everything like she was inventing a new language from her basement in Nebraska, and no one cares that I know how to say, "she sees a spider but she is calm," you know what I mean?). By day 4 I was ordering my morning apricot & pistachio éclair in French, just in time to board the Eurostar to London, but I will note that I completely understood the "This train is boarding in 5 minutes, please go to your gate" announcements. And in my short time there, I only accidentally ordered a salad with prawns (possibly the only thing I hate more than mayonnaise) once. ;)
We spent hours and hours walking. On our first full day, my health app told me we took 23,000 steps, consequently ruining our feet for the next 2 days. We stayed in Bastille, a charming and lively area in the 11th arrondisement with a million places to eat and beautiful buildings to photograph.
My own distaste for the United States felt more relevant in Paris than anywhere else we went on our trip. On our last night there, Pepijn and I sat on a park bench watching the sky slowly get darker, discussing where we could move that has everything we're looking for: Amsterdam, Paris, London, Toronto, maybe somewhere we haven't been yet like South America. I noticed myself wanting children in France—something I've never felt in the US — simply because I saw so many independent, well-behaved Parisian kids. On the 2nd leg of our flight from Toronto to Orly, a tiny blonde girl turned around in her seat and peeked at me through the space between the seats. I waved, so she smiled and waved back to me before resuming eating her apple and reading her French book, and my ovaries wept.
I'm about 95% sure I won't have kids. With that last 5% I consider it, knowing with absolute certainty that I only want a daughter, and that I don't want to raise a child in the United States. One of those things is pretty hard to control, making the 5% more like 2.5%. Now that I'm nearing 30 and can afford to travel a little bit and move to new cities and buy books about concepts and ideas, now that I have the mindset to shut up and listen to other people's stories, I'm learning how much I missed when I was a kid, through no fault of my parents. I feel thankful to have grown up in my tiny, beautiful hometown, but I also feel thankful to have escaped.