I learned that the French were quite different in temperament to the Italians and that I preferred the latter's approach to life. But I realized how open I am to the cultures of others, and how much I enjoy learning about them.
Our first stop was the French capital, Paris. We arrived there late on a cold, rainy night and I remember how amazed I was, staring out of the window at the colorful Paris avenue, the famous Champs Elysee. As the bus moved through the city, I was impressed with the bustling yet organized activity, and the marvelous architectural structures, like the Arc de Triomphe, the famous museum of the Louvre, and eventually, I saw the Eiffel Tower. Everywhere, lights twinkled through the rain, as if all the city was alive with gentle movement. We had dinner that night in the Eiffel Tower's restaurant and I ate a typical French chocolate crepes. This was my first experience of French cuisine, so I had to take the opportunity and taste it. After dinner, I remember gazing with awe at the incredible lights of the perfectly laid out city of Paris. At last, I was capable of understanding why people refer to Paris as the "city of lights." On our way back to the hotel, I admired the reflection of the Eiffel Tower's lights in the River Siene, and this has been an enduring memory of the beauty of the place, for me.The next morning we went to the famous Louvre Museum. It was incredible to see the variety of art that it contained; from ancient Christian sculptures, to the modern, contemporary paintings of Picasso. The museum provided countless artistic perspectives, showing life as seen from and within different cultures.
Of course, I remember the Mona Lisa, it would have been impossible not to visit the Museum and not take time to gaze on her face.
After having lunch at the Louvre, I decided to take a cup of coffee in a nearby restaurant. While in the coffee shop, I was impressed by the French people's elegance and courtesy. However, it seemed strange that it was so silent there. There were no televisions or radios blaring out noise, and people sat alone, having their coffee. Everybody in the coffee shop was silent, reading newspapers - some were even writing poetry. It was certainly very different from my Puerto Rican culture. The people in my country usually have their coffee in groups, listening to the radio or the television news. My impressions of the city were first, how beautiful and well-designed it was, and next, how calm and orderly the place, people and activity there appeared. After spending another five days in Paris, during which my first impressions were confirmed, we headed to our next destination, Italy.
Rome was very different from Paris. On our way to the hotel, I could see, far away in the distance, the astonishing structure of the Roman Coliseum. The city was certainly a lot older than Paris. But I was delighted by the way in which the modern and ancient combined, with a lively, more vibrant 'buzz', going on, more chaotic than Paris, but people seemed happy. I was wondering how, in ancient times, the Romans could have constructed such amazing buildings, still standing and intact, after thousands of years. It was magnificent to be able to view all this history and grandeur. We arrived later in the afternoon, exhausted from the long journey. The group