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  • Kristan Higgins

A Connecticut Yankee in Milan & Paris

Updated: May 3, 2022

Okay, here’s the thing. Women in Milan dress incredibly well. Better than we American chicks can ever pull off, I think, and that takes some pressure off. It was very inspiring! Even old ladies and little girls have flair. Also, it seems to be the law that they wear a scarf tied in a fabulous, interesting way that we Americans will never master. A lot of hats. Colored tights. Gray, black and white clothing. Everyone has a fabulous bag and a leather coat.

The food. Is. Incredible. The men are short and good-looking, and boy, do they know how to talk to a woman. There’s a little charge with the men in Milan, from the guards who checked my bag and called me bella to the concierge at the hotel who told me I must think of the hotel as my second home to the waiter who told me I couldn’t be finished, because then I would leave him. It was incredibly flattering. I often felt like purring.

Drivers seem to enjoy jamming their foot on the gas, then slamming their foot on the brake. There is only speeding and screeching to a halt. Also, the highways? Oy. I’ve never been in a car going that fast.

And onto Paris. (I’m skipping Hamburg, because I wasn’t there long enough to make a full impression. Next time, I hope!)

Paris is a lot like New York to me in that things move very fast. Everywhere you turn, there’s a monument and a statue and a building that’s more beautiful than the last one you just saw two seconds ago. The beauty of the architecture is quite staggering.

Parisian women have great hair. Tattoos seem far less common than in the U.S., but so many people here smoke! There are beggars with dogs everywhere, though they weren’t as aggressive as the beggars in Venice. The subway system was actually easier to use than New York’s. Seriously. Parisians have heaters blasting everywhere you go, even in the outdoor cafes. I think they feel the cold more. If you go into a restaurant and wait to be seated, you may just be ignored, because the custom is to sit yourself down. Service is much slower than in the States because French people actually like their food. There’s not a lot of obesity here, even though Europeans clean their plates and eat late in the evening and drink a lot more wine. I think we Yanks are doing something wrong.

They’re also incredibly helpful and polite. All those rumors about Parisians not liking Americans and scoffing at your attempts to speak French? Absolutely not true. A lot of people complimented me on my accent (thank you, Mrs. Williamson!) and every shopkeeper said “Bonjour!” when I came in. They were just lovely, whether I bought something or not.

Oh, I loved being abroad! And you know what? It’s thanks to you, my beloved readers. It’s because of you that I was given this magical trip; you’ve made my books popular, and I thank you for that with everything I’ve got.

To the readers in Milan, Hamburg, Lyon and Paris, a thousand thanks for coming out to see me in your free time (or skipping work!). Thanks for the many gifts—your generosity is quite remarkable! Thanks for the pictures and tweets and blogs and posts. Thank you for saying nice things about my hair and accent, and thanks for the food recommendations and directions. To those of you who were nervous to meet me…well, I was a little nervous to meet you, too, and it turned out to be for nothing, didn’t it? Feels like we’re old friends already.

I’ll be so happy to be back with McIrish and Dearest Son, to spend Thanksgiving with the Princess home. But I’ll miss you, and these incredible cities so rich with history and good smells and better food, and I’ll carry these memories with me for the rest of my life.

Grazie. Danke. Et merci beaucoup!

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