Wet snow everywhere, below zero, police dogs sniffing for bombs – that’s what I returned to. Needless to say, I miss Paris already. Although it was foggy when I left, damp and cold, I fell in love with the city. It’s just so beautiful. I made new friends, met someone who means the world and now it’s back into the habit at a place that’s never allowed me to be myself. In Paris though, I felt at home. The lights, the food, the language. I flirted wherever I went and it felt so good, that’s all I say. Don’t even try to press me for details. Found new passions and rekindled old ones, saw l’Opéra at night and lost my heart to the architecture of a city that seems composed rather than built, every detail an homage to a culture of elegance and beauty. George Clooney then on a poster at Charles de Gaulle, bidding me farewell with a cup of coffee that barely touched his lips while his smile surely made mine spread. A Maracons shop right next to him, trying to seduce me into spending the last of my money on sweets as colorful as Paris itself.

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Off to Paris tomorrow. 20+ years since I’ve last been. So much has changed, it feels weird. And yet I’m thrilled. Thrilled to see the city, meet new people, speak French again and pay my respects to someone who’s taught me more in recent months than I was able to teach myself. It’s wonderful really how others can open our hearts like that. Like the last time I went to Paris. I was an exchange student who was sent to a suburb to stay with a Persian family with five kids. They were the kindest host family I ever had: warmhearted, welcoming and hospitable like no one else – and I have plenty of wonderful experiences staying with families in so many different countries. That family still stands out and it breaks my heart that we lost touch as I grew up. Returning to Paris now reminds me of the weeks I spent with them. It was another January, icy cold. The streets sprinkled with snow like powdered sugar, the trees naked, traffic tough. I still remember riding on a tow truck after our car broke down one too many times in the middle of a busy tunnel. We never made it to Versailles that day, our desired destination, but I didn’t mind. Instead I saw a city I would otherwise never have seen. Side streets filled with people working in shops far away from tourist mainstream. That was the Paris I fell in love with, the sightseeing before and after only bored me. So what will I find now that I won’t have enough time to roam the streets I’d like to revisit? Now that the Europe I came to love as a child has changed so much? I don’t know and that’s the beauty of it. Last year has taught me to keep my eyes open and accept what’s coming. So whatever you have up your sleeve for me this time, Paris, please be kind to me like you were the last time we met. You’re a fond memory, even though I didn’t always admit it.