Cheers, Madame! First Impressions

London     Paris

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-Creatrice-MondialAmy 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-in-LondonSelena 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.

Inforgraphic-01

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!

  • This is such a cool series! I loved Paris when I went, but love the quirkiness of London. Maybe it’s the language barrier, but I’m all about London!

    • Thank you! It’s been really fun to put together. 🙂 The two cities definitely have different personalities, like two sisters. I love them both, but more of my heart is in Paris! Helped when I started learning the language for sure. 😉

  • Casey

    Love this and like I said on Selena’s blog, I’m so a Paris girl. I love London too but not the same as I love Paris!

    • I love them both too in their own ways, but I have to say Paris has a special place in my heart! Not that I would ever say no if given the chance to live in either again… 😉

  • Roving Altruist

    I enjoyed this and loved reading both points of view and while you both make compelling arguments I still can’t help but feel that Paris takes the cake. Now and always. Look forward to the next instalment! 🙂

    • Vote for Paris! Glad you enjoyed the first post of the series – we have some very interesting aspect to compare in the coming weeks. And some exciting ways to hear everyone’s opinions, such as the first Twitter chat coming up next Tuesday! 🙂

  • Jess {JessinBelgium}

    What a lovely idea! Feeling a bit like I will betray a city either way here. I first lived in Paris ten years ago and now I’ve just moved to London a month ago! Much like Selena, I didn’t really “get” London when I first visited. All the old was piled in right next to the new; the small next to the big; and the crowded with the intimate. I preferred the more homogeneous, romantic architecture of Paris. Fast forward ten years and I am loving the spontaneity and surprises of London! But perhaps that is why some of us stay expats in Europe… you can always jump on the Eurostar and change scene. Looking forward to the twitter chat! xx

    • Isn’t it hard to choose a favorite? When I first moved to Paris, all I missed was London. But I think after 3 years in Paris she just set up shop in me somewhere and refuses to leave. I still love London too, but there’s just something about Paris that has a special allure to me. I do miss being an expat in Europe though – all the close travel opportunities!! 🙂 xx

  • Paul Marshman

    After visiting both cities, I came away with this impression: London was built by bureaucrats — Paris was built by artists. I enjoyed London, but Paris is my choice.

    • Yay another vote for Paris!! I think it’s the artistic side that appeals to me as well – that bohemian free-spirit that seems to be set loose all over the city. Captured so well in the film “Midnight in Paris”. 🙂

  • Nita – Spilling the Beans

    Oh, this is wonderful 🙂 I love both these amazing cities, but I’m leaning slightly more towards Paris! Great post and looking forward to read more 🙂

    • Thank you!! We’re really having a great time with this. Both cities are undeniably amazing, but there’s something really fun in playing up the historic rivalry. 🙂

  • This is such a cool series, even though I already know which city I prefer (French people just ruin every nice part of Paris^^) And London weather rules! haha, I love rain 😉

    • That’s why you visit Paris in August, when all the Parisians are away in the south! 😉 London is charming as well – I do confess to holding both in the highest esteem! 🙂

      • Oh haven’t considered that! Visiting places when the natives are on holiday^^ Thanks for that tip 🙂

        • That was always the expat “locals” favorite time of year!! 🙂

  • Amy Ruffo

    I am very intrigued by this series!

    • Excellent! We’re hoping to spur some discussions, as it seems to be a topic that pretty much everyone has an opinion on! 🙂

  • It does grow on you!! I swear all I wanted was London when I first arrived in Paris, and then when I went back and visited London again later that year I realized how much I had grown to love Paris! Both amazing cities in their own rights. 🙂

  • I’m so impressed with you guys! What a great concept for a series and a way to get people involved! LOVE IT!

    And Amy, you know I’m your biggest fan, but I have to say that Paris did not steal my heart when I was there. However, I have never been to London so I’m not sure I can choose!

    • So glad you are enjoying the series so far!! It’s been so fun to get people involved and hear everyone’s own take.

      You know, Paris didn’t steal my heart at the get go either the first time I was there. It was nice for a weekend, but it wasn’t until I moved there in 2009 that I really got to know the place, and it sneakily stole a larger corner of my heart. London I loved from the first minute I stepped off the plane, but I have always been a huge fan of English history, so being in London was just too cool!

  • The Wondernuts

    We loved everything about both of the cities. Amazing metro system. Paris has great food. I think both have wonderful shopping (although Taipei wins hands-down). And both are great cities to walk in.

    • I agree with you there – both cities are absolutely amazing. The access to public transport makes it so easy to get around by day. By night, Paris wins for usually being able to walk home. London wins for having wayyyy more taxis available! 🙂