Living on the German / Dutch border for a few years enabled me to explore a new country or city pretty much every weekend. One city became a bit of a habit being only 2.5 hrs. away by car (Google Maps says 3+, but the way I drive…). Paris, city of lights. For us, it was an escape from the farmlands and eerily quiet surroundings of our small town in Germany. Paris is a very beautiful and unique city that provided an amazing backdrop to some great experiences. Two trips stand out.
My very first visit to France was a fun experience. I was living in Italy at the time but had business in Belgium for a week. Italy feels like its own world, so it was always exciting to go to “real Europe”. I finished the project I was working on early and had some time to hang out before flying back to Italy. I asked some friends where they would visit in the region. Paris won, so Paris it was. The drive from Belgium was short. Riding through the French countryside on the way to Paris was one of those moments you daydream of as a kid. France was only like my 3rd or 4th country that I had visited so far so I was still relatively new to traveling. My friend I accompanied me as she was fluent in French and had been numerous times and could show me around. I could not have asked for a better set up. I do not remember much from the trip not documented in the pictures below or some videos I have stashed due to the length of time that has passed but overall, I was very impressed by my first visit to Paris. A funny ending to the trip, every single hotel in the city was booked the day we were there because of the Paris Auto Show so we had to sleep in the car for a few hours before making the trek back to Belgium. I remember waking up in the driver’s seat, a slight drizzle was coming down as people were shuffling to work in the wee hours of the morning. That image has never left my mind.
By 2012 I was a much more experienced traveler. I had upgraded to my first full frame camera (Canon 5D Mark II!) and had been to about a dozen or so countries by now. I was now living in Germany after a year in Asia, so I was very excited to explore new places every weekend. While at work I saw that Jay-Z and Kanye West were going on tour in Europe for their Watch the Throne album. While they had a show close by in Cologne, I looked at some of the other dates in other countries as an excuse to go on a trip. I never liked the song “Niggas in Paris” but seeing Paris on the concert list was a no brainer. I instantly IM’d my friend Steve who quickly agreed with the idea and tickets were bought and travel arrangements for the weekend were drawn up. After work Friday we departed for Paris, which took the usual 2.5 hours. The mood in the city, especially the Bercy area was festive as people all over Europe had the same idea as us and traveled to the city to catch the show. Steve somehow bought a ticket to the Friday show instead of the Saturday show we agreed upon, so while he was at the show I was walking around our temporary neighborhood, trying food and people watching. Once the show was over, we met on the steps of the concert hall and was just hanging out with a massive amount of people. It was a pretty surreal experience, I realized that the French are not much different from us. People were handing out mixtapes, and just socializing much like we would do in the US. We happened to meet a large group of women visiting from London who we instantly became friends with. We went to a nearby liquor store and bought a bunch of cheap French wine and champagne and just hung out listening to music and chatting. Nights like this are what I miss the most about living in Europe.