Europe in a nutshell

Whew, The last twelve days have flown by before our eyes and has come full circle. On our twelve hour plane ride yesterday, I found myself reflecting on the different sights, smells, and customs of the three amazing countries that we recently visited.
Reflecting first on London, I remembered our tour guide, Richard, asked each of us to admit our first impression of London. Admittedly, my first opinion of London was that it looked like a prison. Outside of the airport, barbed wire and high fences lined the streets, while graffiti decorated the sidewalk and buildings. However, once we left the airport, I was awestruck. Flags and British memorabilia were strung about the streets, flowers hung from windows, and happiness and celebration filled the air. The city was quaint and beautiful. Space was hard to find; personal space is nonexistent. There is only one pace of the city and its fast. If you don't keep up, there's a great possibility of getting left behind. The famous cuisine was fish n' chips with some local beer, while the fashion included skinny jeans, shorts, and comfortable, casual clothing. The energy on the streets is laid back, entertaining, safe, and exciting. There is something to do of interest for every age, personality, and gender. The citizens of London are very helpful, outgoing, and proud of their heritage. Just having hosted the royal wedding may have contributed to the the respect and pride of their city. However, it was humbling to experience such a warm, inviting atmosphere.
Paris, France was the next visit on the itinerary of the trip. My first impression was mixed between gorgeous and filthy. While the city and its monuments were breathtaking, the city itself was very busy and dirty. The aroma of urine consumed the city and the traffic was unbelievable. Public transportation had its moments of confusion but was absolutely necessary. The language barrier was frustrating at times, however on the whole it was easy to communicate with the French. The overall personality of the citizens was pushy, rude, and impatient. The cuisine was incredible and the fashion was indescribable. Women wore heels, leggings, dresses and a designer handbag, while men wore collared shirts and slacks with dress shoes. Beggars stood at each monument, which was overwhelming for small town folk. I didn't ever feel safe in Paris, which was disappointing and disheartening. Business is taken very seriously in Paris. The goal is to become the biggest name, the fastest and staying on top. I was very impressed with their business etiquette and technique.
The last stop on the trip was in Rome, Italy. The first reaction of Rome was that it was incredibly stunning. Palm trees and vibrant colors adorned the streets, flowers aligned the window sill, and the aroma of pasta filled the air. Culture and history ran deep which was enlightening and exciting. Every corner turned, there was another surprise to unwrap. The group uncovered churches, monuments, and fountains that hid from the public eye. It was as if we were on a large scavenger hunt throughout the city. Uncovering these historical landmarks was unbelievable due to having studied them for so long. Meals were enormous and served in 3 courses. The most popular choices included pizza, pasta, and a desert, all of which were incredibly delectable. The fashion was relaxed with jeans and nice t-shirts, besides the few people dressed as Roman guards. Shopping was available on nearly every corner. The atmosphere was loud, passionate, and warm. Musicians lined the corners of streets and plazas, as well as artists. Business held precedence and defined power in Italy. Wealthy persons funded the smaller businesses in order to help them prosper and flourish. The city was comfortable and enjoyable. We had plenty of opportunity to "be European and sit and do nothing."It was nice to enjoy the scenery and observe the customs and activities of those around us. Not only was this experience pleasurable and the trip of a lifetime, but the trip was eye- opening and insightful. My main goal was to become more culturally diverse and culturally competent, and I believe it did just that.