Paris is a city full of contrasts. It's at once one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and one of the most intimidating. The city itself breathes as if it's a living being and has a persona all its own.
It's a city of lights, a refined society that often gives in to its baser instincts, but always revels in the fine things in life. Good food, good friends, good wine and great tobacco seem to be the apex of a life well-lived for Parisians.
There are two dimensions to being in Paris though, and as a visitor, you will most likely see both. There are the lazy days sitting in cafes, well-dressed people sipping on lattes and chattering quickly.
There are also the grimier parts of the city, which you can see on subways, metros and in the ghettos of the city. Homeless people litter the parks and avenues, young teens litter the sidewalk, scowling and spitting in front of tourists.
It's a perplexing place that exudes beauty, a city that leaves you walking between ancient buildings, through bustling bazaars that lead to alleys filled with speeding motorcycles and nonchalant pedestrians. To visit Paris with your family is a different experience than to do so alone or with a friend or loved one. The city opens up to you much more when you have lots of time to spend, leisurely walking at your own pace and soaking in the sights.
The Arab population in Paris, as well as the rest of France has exploded within the last few decades due to a huge influx of immigrants. It's most apparent when almost every block has a falafel or gyro place, huge skewers of meat sweating on long poles in window after window.
The population has expanded so rapidly, that there has been some anti-immigrant sentiment among the populace, and many of the pockets of Arab citizens live in concentrated areas throughout the city. These are often marked by poverty, but the Arab population has tended to assimilate fairly well, at least in the big cities, such as Paris.
The food in Paris is also top-notch. Baguette sandwiches are a revelation and halal meat isn't hard to find thanks to the number of Muslim-run restaurants. The preparation, fresh ingredients, and patience that go into making each dish really makes things as simple as a croissant or marmalade crepe stand out. Visiting Paris and then going back to the US can feel like the over-processed and chemically enhanced food has lost its original purpose—to taste good.
There are a few things that are must-see when visiting Paris. First and foremost, don't leave without seeing the Louvre museum in all its glory. The museum houses some of the most precious and valued art pieces in the world, including the Mona Lisa. The Louvre itself is a vast piece of art, breathtaking and stunning in all its glory. If you can, try to get lost in the city. Every block has something from another time period, as well as great shopping stalls filled with fresh fruits, cheap clothes and leather accessories.
Also visit the Eiffel Tower. It's one of those things that every visitor does, even though it does sometimes manage to disappoint the uninitiated. However, if you go at night, when the tower itself is alight and the city below is twinkling, the tower itself becomes something else altogether.
Also, grab a hot crepe from one of the vendors beneath, and ask for Nutella (hazelnut chocolate,) and bananas. There's nothing better than having something warm to eat on a cold Paris night while waiting to board the lift in the tower.
Paris is a city filled with beauty, natural and man-made. It will also leave a lasting memory and leave you pining for their fabulous food and decadent coffee.