Thinking they must not have bugs in Paris

Ignoring the things that might bother you immensely back home

Ah, there’s nothing like the fresh city air in springtime! That is, when you’re visiting somewhere that’s not your home.

While in Paris for a month earlier this year, we noticed that many places, including the apartment we rented, didn’t have screens on the windows, which we kept open most of the time on breezy, warm days. When my mom visited, she remarked, “they must not have bugs in Paris!”

Sean and I nodded in return, realizing what a paradise we’d found. For days, I looked and looked but couldn’t find so much as a fly inside our apartment and barely any visible bugs outside.

Then, one morning we were happily sauntering through Marché Saint-Quentin in the 10th arrondissement. The market had everything we came for: olives and hummus for our picnic, fresh fruits and vegetables, and a stand with coffee and other treats. Heavenly—that is, until out of the corner of my eyes, I saw a movement that once gave me nightmares back in New York: a rat! A rat right there inside in the market! (And no, not an adorable talking chef rat like Remy in Ratatouille.)

We—allegedly hardened from our years in New York—were the only people in the market who practically jumped as the rat tore through the market, winding mere inches from our trembling feet. We didn’t see any Parisians, or even other tourists, so much as flinch.

Yet minutes after our rat-run-in, Sean and I were laughing together about the incident and feeling bad for the fearful rodent who, for all we could tell, was also shopping for a picnic. We knew this little character, Le Rat de Saint-Quentin, would feature in future stories we’d enjoy retelling.

Seriously? What was going on? Besides maybe the famous pizza rat of 2015, I can’t remember a time I’ve happily retold any story involving rats. Clearly, when you’re somewhere new and exciting, it can be easier to overlook the blemishes and focus on the positives.

While traveling, having the mindset of looking for the good and laughing at the bad can get you through a lot. It’s a pity we don’t employ it more often in our non-travel lives too.

And yes, we did see insects in Paris—eventually. They even came indoors through our unscreened windows. We tried to swoosh them back out again, but sometimes we had no luck. After all, we figured, it was a lot easier to overlook a few pests on the periphery while enjoying fresh air with pastries on the side.

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