Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Americans in Paris, Part Two

Yeah, we get the bad news here too. The American economy is in a crisis, the dollar is sinking fast against the euro with no end in sight, and traveling to Europe is becoming less and less of a possibility for those in the U.S. With all this doomsday talk on television, in the papers, and from Europeans themselves (who seem to take a bit too much pleasure in the current state of affairs) you'd think that finding an American tourist in Paris would be a near impossibility. Aren't they all holed up back home crying over the miserable state of their worthless currency?

A quick stop at all the major tourist spots in Paris quickly demonstrates that this couldn't be further from the truth. In the past few weeks I have seen and heard so many Americans that I'm beginning to wonder if I haven't shot for Paris but landed in New York instead. While sitting down by the Seine while enjoying a ham and cheese on baguette I was passed by nothing but groups of American tourists of all ages. The Musée d'Orsay was practically crawling with Americans, far outnumbering any of the other nationalities I noticed. Old ladies, young families, student groups and singletons alike; they were all there soaking up European culture without a care in the world. I even saw quite a few while visiting châteaux in the Loire Valley last month. They are not holed up back home. They are right here in the land of the all-powerful euro!

I can imagine a number of explanations for why so many Americans are coming to France despite the less than favorable exchange rate. It could be that, hailing from a credit-happy country, they're simply putting everything on plastic with no thought of the future consequences. Or maybe they booked the trip before the dollar sunk so low and are now stuck in a vacation they can't back out of no matter what the cost. But I'd like to think it has something more to do with that undeniable can-do American spirit. It's the kind of spirit that makes Americans stand up in the face of seemingly unsurmountable odds and say "I want to see the Eiffel Tower and I'm not going to let some hot-shot new currency tell me I can't!" After all, the ancestors of many of today's Americans were people who didn't let a silly little thing like an ocean stand in the way of their dream of a better life. Why should their descendants let a silly little thing like an exchange rate stand in the way of their dream of eating a better croissant?

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