Tuesday, November 5, 2013

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 to assume that inherent within this 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.

I've often thought that you could base a personality test on this one choice
and tell quite a bit about someone.   Why do we seem to choose one or the other? 
What factors influence that decision?

When Amy from Créatrice Mondial shared with me her idea for us to do a series on this very topic,
I was thrilled.  We are both Americans, both expats (or formerly in Amy's case),
and both chose a city to be our "home away from home." She in Paris, I in London.

Welcome to our new month long series "Cheers, Madame!"

Each Tuesday during the month of November, Amy 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
than at the beginning: our first impressions.

Here are the stories of our first dates with these two amazing cities. 


Cheers to London.


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 across 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.

 Bonjour, Paris!


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.



 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.
(And by we, I mean Amy.  So talented!)   Consider it an "at first glance" guide to the two cities.

 
 
And we are curious… if you have been to either, what were your first impressions?  Immediate likes? Dislikes?
If you haven't, I'm sure you've dreamed of visiting one or both.  What draws you to them?
Do you have a favorite between the two?

We like being social, so we've created several ways for you to get involved.

1. The hashtag for this series is  #CheersMadame.  Please use it 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 Amy (@creatricemonde) and me (@SelenaThePlace) at 11am EST/5pm GMT.  Follow us on Twitter to keep up with the details.

2. You'll also see the snazzy new buttons on our sidebars, designed by Amy just for this series. Which city is your favorite?  Grab a button - 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 Cheers, Madame! link up available for week 3 of this series, so start getting ready for that as well!  It's your chance to write a post about London or Paris to let us know which one you prefer and why.

We're so excited about this new series and hope you will all get involved.

Cheers, Madame!  




38 comments:

  1. What a brilliant idea. Love everything and will definitely be following this story, as a born and bred Londoner who lives in France (not Paris - but we pop over there quite a bit) this is going to be really interesting. I didn't like Paris when I first arrived then I went back and loved it, then I went back and decided we couldn't live there, because it would be too much like London in terms of lifestyle. Really looking forward to these posts and twitter chats too!

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  2. This is such a great idea!! I went to Paris years ago for a couple of days, so I can't say I know it as well as London but I am interested to read more :)

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  3. A brilliant post! :) I've been to both London and Paris this year. Had been there in the past: to London when I was 15 and to Paris when I was 18. Well, both cities changes a lot, but both are still incredibly fascinating. I find Paris more cheery and less busy than London. People smile more too. But Londoners seems more friendly. I have been in both cities alone and with my husband, but strangely I have found them both more romantic when I was a teen, LOL!

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  4. Actually, I like both cities, but I don't love either. I much prefer Rome or Barcelona.

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  5. We're going to Barcelona in a few weeks and I can't wait! I've heard so many great things about that city. I'd love to see a series about these two cities ;) hint, hint.
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  6. Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Kia! I think when we're teenagers we're all dreamy about those things. :) Which one do you think is better for food?
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  7. Love this and can't wait to read more. I really like London and enjoy every visit there, but I LOVE Paris. And while I could see myself totally living in both cities, something about Paris just takes my breath away!

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  8. Oh, I love this idea! Can't wait to participate in Week 3. My answer is resoundingly LONDON LONDON LONDON! Granted, I was only in Paris for a week, but it just wasn't my cup of tea (pun intended.) My heart will always be in London.

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  9. Oh I love this idea! My answer is resoundingly London!! Granted, I only visited Paris for a week but it just wasn't my cup of tea (pun intended.) My heart will always be in London!

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  10. Anna, I'm so glad that you are getting involved! I'm looking forward to everyone's input. They are two cities that will always cause a reaction of some sort.
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  11. Yay, London. I'm partial to London, too.

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  12. Katie, I'm so glad you're going to participate! This is going to be a fun series. And another vote for London!!!
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  13. I knew when we were planning this post that you were gonna declare yourself a Paris girl. It's just in your blood, isn't it? I'm so glad you are going to participate! You have to join in the link up in a few weeks!
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  14. It's funny to look back on my ideas of the two cities before actually visiting them. And then living in London has made all the difference. I don't think you can really know a city until you live there. And the reality is so different from the initial perception. Thanks for reading and commenting.
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  15. Yes, it really just is in my blood! I'm a Parisian at heart :) I'll try to join in for the Twitter chat!

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  16. My head and my heart is in London, but my tummy still leans towards Paris...

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  17. What a coincidence! I was just talking to someone about this exact same thing (paris vs london) when we got back from Paris last week. I hate to say it, but I wasn't all that impressed with Paris. It wasn't somewhere I felt particularly comfortable, and after 14 countries, that's the first time I have ever felt that way. Normally I instantly fall in love with a place and wish I could live there, even if just for a year. As it stands now, I'd like to go back to Paris and try and see if I like it better the second time around, but I would never choose to live there. It's only London for me! :o)

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  18. Jess {JessinBelgium}November 5, 2013 at 2:57 PM

    Such a spot-on response... this is what I should have said over on Amy's blog!

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  19. Hehehe! It's all these guys fault - http://adventuresofalondonkiwi.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/designer-eclairs-worlds-geekiest-bar.html (sorry for the link drop Selena...)

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  20. Love this! London will always be my first choice, but I do love Paris (although I hated it the first time I visited at 11, and my dad always said I would love it when I visited it with someone I loved and he was right!).

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  21. What a great idea!! My first trip to Europe, Paris was hands down my favorite. Round 2 and London won my heart :) That said, they are both beautiful cities with so much to offer. Looking forward to following along!

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  22. We spent back to back weeks in London and Paris in 2000. We were a year in to living in Russia. I was drained from the culture and the language. London was so welcoming and hearing English was like music to my ears! We sat in Borders Bookstore (they were quite popular in London in 2000) for hours looking at books IN ENGLISH and drinking coffee! We went to the movies (watched "Oh Brother Where Art Though" among a British crowd was amusing as we laughed in different parts) and enjoyed the major sites ALL IN ENGLISH! Ha!! It was such a memorable trip! We enjoyed Paris and the major sites as well, but it just didn't have the same affect on me. London will always have a special place in my heart! :)

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  23. I am the same way!! I want to go back some day to see how it would be a second time around, but London it is for me too!!

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  24. Paris is much better for food. :)

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  25. What a great idea! I've lived in both cities (Paris for 1 year; London 9 months now) and I find it hard to choose. For me, London is just easier to live in as an expat. You speak the language, it rains just as much :-). But then again, I was 19 when I moved to Paris, so I'm sure it would be different (easier) today. Paris will always be special to me, because it was the first time I lived on my own, 'surviving' in a strange city. And don't forget how beautiful the city is. But I believe I feel most at home in London.

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  26. Love the idea of this series, Selena! My mom and I are heading to London for two weeks in June (booked our flat about a week ago!), and we are so excited. I can't wait to see more!

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  27. Love that you guys are doing this series! It's so creative and you both have really put a lot of effort and thought into it. Thanks for bringing something new to the blogosphere!

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  28. Amy is brilliant! I'm so excited about this series, too. Thanks for the encouragement :D I hope you will join in the twitter chat on Tuesday.
    

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  29. Jessie, you must be so excited! You & your mom are going to have a great time in London! Two weeks is a great length of stay and June is a great time to visit. Let me know if I can help at all with the planning. :D

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  30. I can't imagine moving to Paris on your own at 19. Sounds so lovely and romantic. Not to mention brave! I enjoy visiting Paris and nothing will ever top watching my mom and then my daughter's eyes light up when they first saw the Eiffel Tower. But my heart is in London. 

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  31. I think you might have a point :D 

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  32. Go, Team London :D That must have been a nice week in London after the stresses of living in Russia. I so miss Borders Bookstores, don't you? So glad your participating in this series! 

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  33. Thanks so much, Meredith. Isn't Amy terrific? We're having fun with this series. So glad you're joining in!!

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  34. I had a traumatic experience in Paris when I was 16 with my dad. It involved a Burger King and my request for a Cheeseburger with Pickles ONLY. I'll never hear the end of that one. Paris is absolutely lovely, but I'm Team London all the way.

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  35. I love your Paris posts, Emma!!! A woman divided, you are. I'm similar... head & heart in London. Tummy wherever the good food is.

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  36. I think you definitely need more research! But how do the croissant in Paris compare to the cupcakes in London? I know you're a cupcake girl. 

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  37. I think that Paris has such a dreamy, romantic image. My idea of the City of Lights was so big, that when I actually visited I expected it to be all twinkly lights and berets. No place can really hold up to that ideal. I still think it's a magical city, just in a completely different and real way. I think you're right. Living someplace is completely different than a visit. Now I love London having lived here for two years. So glad you're participating in the series!

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Thanks for commenting. I love to hear from you!