Bonjour, France and Belgium!

Prior to the lone exploration of France and Belgium, I learned of the French’s common disinclination towards speaking English due to their pride and history of the Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453) with the United Kingdom. With Paris being one of the world’s biggest tourist attractions, I assumed the majority of the city residents, especially those employed in hotels or restaurants, spoke English. However, oftentimes when I sought assistance with directions, I noticed the civilians’ frequent deliberate avoiding, ignoring, and even mocking me. One evening I even heard an arbitrary doofus call me the b-word in Korean a couple of times on my way back to my hotel. Regardless of what kind of behavior some strangers carried, I took this traveling experience to further educate myself on people of different cultures. The natives of France, though many were gone on vacation, appeared either overly generous, such as buying me a subway ticket when I was lost, or inexplicably rude, like utterly disregarding my questions and presence as if I did not exist. I did not spot anyone in-between, neither benevolent nor malevolent. The progressive stressing of my feet from walking and dehydration wore my patience thin, and I at times instinctively threw cruel phrases I should have kept under control.

Upon arrival in Paris, after checking into my two-star hotel room about the size of a standard apartment bathroom, I proceeded to the bus tour to examine as many historic sites as time permitted. Consequently, I crossed out most plans on my six-day travel list on the first day and needed to search for additional activities to pursue. With a friend’s suggestion, I reserved the following day solely for the Louvre, the largest museum in the world. I still underestimated the immensity of the building and quantity of artworks, and, in spite of how quickly I walked through each object, by the time I left the museum, I had spent nearly eight hours inside. I used the third day to travel to neighboring Belgium, Brussels to be more specific, once again riding on the bus tour to apply the time wisely and to the fullest. Due to the minuteness of the city, adventuring in a vehicle helped me witness virtually every significant tourist attraction, including the top of the Atomium, outside the Royal Palace, and various cathedrals, in a few hours. Misplacing my twenty-one-euro bus tour pass in-between caused a temporary panic; nonetheless, the bus I hopped on next to explain the situation to the driver coincidentally ended up being the same bus where I had dropped my copy of the receipt, letting me retrieve official access to the tour without added cost. Brussels’ tomato soup and spaghetti momentarily flew my soul to Heaven, but the city’s incomprehensible refusal to offer free water brought my conscience back to Earth.

I chose the Palace of Versailles to spend the fourth day. A lack of signs and clarity near the initial gate led to line confusions, as I waited in the wrong line for the first forty minutes until a man in front of me informed me I needed to purchase an admission ticket first elsewhere. He saved my spot, but reaching the box office before he entered the palace appeared unlikely. Luckily, a couple who bought an extra ticket for a person soon sold that to me, as that person did not show up. The ornateness of the palace motivated me to become successful and, one day, live in a house remotely as decorated. I chased after other tourist attractions in Versailles following the royal tour, but the city did not offer much else. I completed the final two days visiting two more celebrated museums, Les Invalides and Musee d’Orsay, and shopping, though Le Tour de France on the day of departure prevented me from sightseeing world-famous shopping street Champs-Elysees.

To gain cultural experience, I utilized my friendly and outgoing personality to converse with and befriend numerous individuals from diverse countries. Since Europe comprises many of the world’s prominent tourist attractions, traveling on this continent creates abundant opportunities to interact with those outside one’s background and comfort zone, widening his/her perspectives on the world. This third trip to Europe in a year certainly served this purpose, opening my eyes to aspects previously unfamiliar to me.

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