Of all my travel memories, the one that sticks with me most clearly is my first night in Paris. We arrived at 7 AM, and having been too excited to sleep on the flight, we were exhausted. After making it through customs, and me trying out my rudimentary French, we arrived at the hotel. Still too wired to sleep and starving, we wandered around the 5th Arrondissement looking for a restaurant. By the time we found an interesting menu, it was afternoon, so we had a leisurely lunch and stumbled back to the hotel, barely conscious. Sleep was inevitable.
We awoke six hours later, around eight-thirty, and got ready to explore Paris at night. Not hungry at the time and unaware that dinner in France was from 7-9 PM (with few exceptions), we chose to explore Boulevard St Germain. This was before the Pompidou museum, and Les Halles became big, so the street was full of strollers. Artists, vendors, and musicians lined the sidewalks offering paintings, playing music, selling this and that—it was like attending an arts and crafts festival. Everyone seemed so happy and full of life; it was the most wonderful introduction to Paris one could ask for.
We often stopped to look at various wares, to listen, to take in the scene and reflect on the fact that we were, after months of planning and looking at travel books—in Paris!!! We passed one artist with colorful, tiny still-life paintings for 10 Francs each. Carefully looking over them, we chose a few. That was 1981.
We still have two of them, and every time I look at those tiny paintings, I am on Boulevard St. Germain, near Boule Miche, laughing, taking in the sites, and enjoying our first night in Paris.