Paris is love and light. Paris is and was my first introduction of Europe. Paris is what people warned me of. People are going to be rude. Snarky. Hate you because you’re an American. Paris is leaving early for the airport with a nervous mother. It is the nervous excitement while waiting with four other students. It is almost missing a flight and the airport saying they can squeeze us on the next flight. It is waiting in Chicago and talking to him next to me. Noticing his phone was in French. It is hilted conversations and nervous glances. Paris is the colorful lights, Galeries Lafayette ads and a small toilet in the airport. It is meeting Anne-Laure and her showing us the city. It is walking along the streets and not quite believing it was real. Paris is the passing cars, L’opera, kebabs, modern art, Sacre Coeur, kissing, and lots of smoking. Paris is the music in the metro, the trumpets in the streets, the art lining the Seine. Paris is going to the top of the Eiffel Tower and seeing the world from that far up. Recording a scene for our French class and repeating the phrase “C’est la Seine” over and over again. It is turning 18 on a boat floating along the river and my classmates singing me happy birthday with others soon following along. It is the apple tart Anne-Laure made me and the bag she gave me to remember my time. It is buying sweets on the street and my 24 year old teacher explaining, “monsieur, je parle français!” after he repeatedly answered her questions in English and he laughed and we laughed and laughed and laughed. It is seeing him, from the airport, on a side street and walking away. Paris is the gardens of the Louvre and crying, realizing I was there. It is two years later with new strangers. Laughing and drinking in the streets. It is Nutella crepes and the boys handing us their numbers. It is making amazing friends. It is sandwiches with hard boiled eggs, new bags, shoes and a denim shirt that I bought at a random boutique. It is drinking until we got drunk, eating gyros in the Latin Quarters, singing loudly in an American bar and being applauded by the people inside, the bartender laughing at us the whole time. Paris is getting lost in the streets and enjoying the street art. It is walking against people to get to the Eiffel Tower at midnight. It is seeing it sparkle at night. It is sitting at a random, expensive cafe drinking more wine and eating creme brûlée. Paris is walking back to the hotel on the wrong side of the Seine and trying desperately to find a cab. Paris is meeting Australians and Parisians who help map your route. Paris is the lovers. The friends I made on the streets. The passing children in their school uniforms speaking rapidly in French. It is the long drags from stranger’s cigarettes and the many cups of espresso. It is walking up a million flights of steps to get to the top of Sacre Coeur and seeing the view from the top. It is the feeling of being in a place that has so much life. Has so much love. Has so much energy. Has so much appreciation of life.