The first photo is nice, because it's more iconic. Paris was fun, and overwhelming . . . and pretty dirty (but that was before we moved to New York), but I like the second, because it feels more authentic.
It's in Italy, off the Cinque Terra path (which remains the most beautiful place I've ever been). It was mid-way through our trip, and it was hot. Maybe that's why I like it better. Paris was chilly and overcast, but Italy sunny and balmy, just like it should be. But, it was much more than that. We had been with a friend for the first two countries of our trip (England and Paris), and then we headed to Venice and Florence by ourselves. But as wonderful as they were, they were still work. Lots of train schedules and museums and wondering where to eat. The Cinque Terra part of the trip was the opposite of that. We stayed in this rooming house (too nice to be a hostile) nearby, and it was a bit shabby and spotlessly clean. We woke up to sunlight streaming in windows that took up nearly the whole wall, and a view out those windows of small, well kept gardens and a hillside of grape vines.
There were no sights so significant we felt obligated to visit, so we wandered the seaside dirt path between villages, and wandered within the villages. We ate anywhere, and everything was perfect (I still remember I ate walnut ravioli the first night). We bought focaccia bread for breakfast, and wandered some more with this perfect sense of well-being (maybe it's just memory, or maybe it's just Italy).
Mostly we promised, promised, promised that we'd come back. And I, for one, haven't forgotten my promise.
Note: When we decided to go to Europe, especially for that amount of time, we got really mixed reactions upon telling people. We lived in Rexburg, a small, religious, college town. Every "adult" (person over 29 or so) we told was super supportive, and encouraged us to use the time that we had while we were unencumbered. Every person our own age and in our own situation (newly married) was super doubtful. They asked us a lot about money, and what our plans were (read: when we were going to start a family and buy a house), and if, really, we thought it was a good idea.
Answer: it was a good idea. I knew it then, and I know it now. I don't know where that money would have gone if we hadn't gone to Europe. What I do know is that I wouldn't have it now. I'm no genius financial planner, but if we're talking investments, this was a solid one, and it's value will only appreciate over time.
*these photos were actually taken digitally, but, they're not on my computer, and the CD they're on is so far away, and the scanner is so close.