Thursday, July 2, 2015

10 Things I Love About Europe

Since I shared with you the 10 things I hate about Europe a few days ago, I thought it only fair to give you the love list too. Here goes...

1. Public transportation rocks. It's wonderful to swipe your metro pass for local trains, rer trains, and buses. No gas stations, no parking, just semi-mindless shuffling from one station to the next. In Paris, with its amazing public transport, I haven't missed having a car at all.

2.  Eating outdoors is de rigeur here. Food just tastes better outside with a bit of wind blowing through your hair. The wine is crisper; the colors are brighter; al fresco dining just suits me. In fact, it feels odd to ever eat indoors. I don't know if I'll be able to continue this back home in the sweltering, muggy heat of the South, but I'd like to try.

3. Manners matter. Well, they might not matter to tourists so much, but for the French, manners are indeed of the utmost importance. I appreciate that and find myself paying more attention to my own manners.

4.  There's no need for a gym; walking and stair climbing provide you with all the cardio you need. As for strength training, schlepping across the city with bags of purchased items is as effective as any machines I've ever used.

5. No one cares what you're doing; everyone is busy living his own life. The anonymity of a big city is probably most appealing to me because of this. I don't run into people I know. I don't have to worry if someone sees I'm wearing a dark bra under a light shirt bc I haven't done laundry. No one cares if I have a bottle of wine at dinner or if I order dessert only. People mind their own business, and I approve of that.

6. Downtime, doing nothing, is encouraged. People take naps in the park on their lunch breaks; people sit for hours reading or drinking at cafes or in parks; meals with friends last 2-3 hours; parents shuttle children leisurely through the streets at the end of the day. All of this happens without apology. While rush hour on the metro can get harried, Parisians don't seem bound by the clock or rushing constantly the way I envision most big city occupants live. Shops and offices open late and stay open later.

7.  People have less, but what they do have is high quality. Purses, shoes, clothes, jewelry - the French may have fewer things (less space to store, after all), but they make impeccable choices of quality. It makes me wonder how my life would change if I adopted that attitude - certainly worth thinking about at least.

8. Dessert is expected. In the U.S., I only order dessert on special occasions and usually feel guilty about it. Here, many prix fixe or formule menus include dessert. Well, in that case, I'll have crime brûlée or tiramisu or glacé or...

9. Natural is in fashion. Natural hair, natural makeup, natural fibers/cloth, natural colors, simple jewelry. I think the key to French style is looking effortlessly pulled together because you really haven't worked that hard at it. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule - perfume and shoes don't seem to be au naturele at all.

10. There are literally flowers everywhere - planted in parks, hanging in window boxes, arranged around fountains and monuments, set in planters in doorways, decorating the baskets of bicycles, resting in hands or bags on the commute home. The French seem to be partial to red flowers -
geraniums, poppies, and roses especially. I want to surround myself with more flowers at home because I know I'll miss that about Europe.

And a bonus - I love that Europeans are just a bit grittier, more raw, more realistic about life than we are in the U.S. Sure, there's some graffiti and some trash, but that's just part of living in a city that houses 3 million residents full-time + 7 million daily commuters + hordes of tourists. Yes, it gets loud with the music and throngs of people and bars, but I think they just see those things as evidence of life being lived. Europeans don't seem to feel the need to gloss over the dark parts of life; they take the grit with the beauty and don't question it. I admire that because I think beauty can indeed be found among the rawest parts of our world. But, hey, what do I know? I'm just an American who is living out her dream of several weeks in Paris.

Au revoir!


  1. #6 really struck me. We were touring in a little French town on a weekend afternoon and many locals were just sitting at outside cafes, enjoying a drink and relaxing. Back at home, our weekends are packed with chores and a long "to do" list. I definitely need more of that European attitude in my life!

  2. It's great that you are doing this reflecting while you are still there, instead of trying to remember when you get home. Although there would be absolutely nothing wrong with traveling, enjoying, and returning home unchanged, it seems like the very best kind of traveling changes you . . . even if just a little bit.