We’ve all heard the term “sister cities” before. Sharing similar qualities, a comparable history, yet maintaining individual identity. It would be natural assume that inherent within the relationship there lies an element of rivalry. Point in case: London, and Paris. While both certainly have their appeal, one can’t help but line them up side by side for comparison. There seems to be a line drawn – either you are more attracted to London, or to Paris. This phenomenon got me thinking: why do we seem to choose one or the other? What factors influence that decision? To help me with my “study,” I have brought on board Selena of Oh, the places we will go! to explore this topic. We are both Americans, both expats (or formerly in my case), and both chose a city to be our “home away from home.” She in London, I in Paris.
Each Tuesday for the month of November Selena and I will tackle a different aspect of these two cities. As our introductory joint post, we thought there would be no better place to start that at the beginning: our first impressions. Here are the stories of our first dates:
Amy of Créatrice Mondial
Oh Paris… my first impression of this city was decidedly not romantic unfortunately. Whether you take any international train or fly in Charles de Gaulle airport, the first place to disembark in the city is the far less than glamorous Gare du Nord. What is it about train station neighborhoods anyways? It was also snowing, as I landed in February of 2009… the exact time of one the largest blizzards to have hit the area in recent history. Yay. Made lugging my suitcases fun.
Look at me, already complaining. How Parisian is that? But there I was, taking a taxi to the doors of my new school, without knowing a soul in a city where I barely spoke the language. Luckily I had spent the previous year also living in Europe. so I was somewhat accustomed to being an expat, and how to handle myself in unfamiliar situations. As my ride crawled through city traffic, the vibe of the neighborhood changed dramatically, and for the better. My school is located in the 5th arrondissement, the famous Latin Quarter. Leaving the train station in the rear view mirror, the beauty of Paris unfolded before my eyes. Under a blanket of snow, no less.
While it was certainly interesting, and often exhausting, trying to communicate, you can’t help but be charmed by Paris. The tiny streets, the manicured gardens, the uniform building facades: this was going to be my home for the next 4 months. Little did I know then that I would end up staying 3 years. Paris is like that. It gets under your skin, takes hold and absolutely refuses to let go. And with seemingly very little effort. What can I say, it has that certain je ne sais quoi.
Selena of Oh, the places we will go!
I first came to London as a tourist during the summer of 2011. My new British husband was bringing me to his home. We arrived for a short three day stay in London before exploring more of the countryside. We stayed right smack in the middle of it all near Trafalgar Square. Oh my goodness, the people. So many people. I’m used to the wide open spaces of Texas. This place was madness. I was completely overwhelmed.
We toured the city on an open top bus with my mouth agape. I hopped into a black taxi cab with a thrill. We explored many famous places in this historical city. It rained one of the days, but I didn’t mind at all because I’d brought a brand new pair of wellies with me for just such an occurrence. I couldn’t wait to wear them even though they glaringly branded me a tourist with the huge monarch butterflies splayed on them.
One evening on our way to a show, we stumbled upon the movie opening for a new Harry Potter movie at Leicester Square. Drowning in a sea of people, I told Matthew emphatically “I do not ever want to live here.” But in those three days I saw places that I’d only ever dreamed of. Westminster Abbey, West End, Tower Bridge, Big Ben, Tower of London and so much more. I had to pinch myself. I was in London.
Little did I know, six months later, London would be my new home. I know, I can’t believe it either. That initial impression scared me to death. But, it also excited me so much. What an amazing city? And once we moved here, it didn’t take long to fall completely in love. I’m so glad I gave London a second chance.
For those of you who have not yet been to either city, or are just curious to know a bit more of what each has to offer, we have put together this infographic for you. Consider it an “at first glance” guide to the two.
And we are curious… if you have been, what were your first impressions? Immediate likes? Dislikes? Do you have a favorite between the two? We like being social, so we’ve created several ways to get the blogging community involved.
1. We created a Twitter hashtag – #CheersMadame – so we can keep up with your tweets on this subject. And we are very happy to announce that next Tuesday, November 12 will be the first #CheersMadame twitter chat! Hosted by myself (@creatricemonde) and Selena (@SelenaThePlace) at 11am EST/5pm GMT. Follow us on Twitter to keep up with the details.
2. You’ll see the snazzy new buttons on our sidebars, designed special for this series. Grab one – Bonjour on top if you’re a “Parisian,” Hello on top if you’re a “Londoner.” Tweet about it, or comment to let us know your vote!
3. Comment on the posts! We love to hear your thoughts and feedback! There will be a link up available for the week 3 of this series, so start getting ready for that as well!