Oh la la, Paris, the city of lights. The place where dreams come true, where lovers declare vows of everlasting love and then stroll to the nearest cafe where an elegant waiter server them croissants, the city of gorgeous women and lights blinking like Swarovski crystals…
Spoiler alert : I did NOT like Paris. For many many many reasons, which are due to follow, but I was hoping to give some time to Paris lovers to close the page.
Let us begin.
As per character, I hate anything that is popular. I feel like it is bound to be mediocre so I either avoid it or get in touch with it after the glory has deflated a bit- I have never watched Lost or anything that’s relevant to the Cardashians (I love how autocorrect suggested Carpathians on this one) and I do not follow celebrities, fashion trends or the Coming Soon in movie theaters. Hence, my desire to visit Paris was to see IF I would enjoy it, with the lowest possible expectations and my usual trip itinerary : a room via AirBnb, single, lots of museums in the itinerary and the cheapest travelling options (plane and back with a BlaBla Car, which was the rotten cherry on top of my molded cake experience), a strategy that never failed to entertain me as I consider it the best way to experience a city. That part was quite painfully true as I really did see all the part of Paris that are not included in any of the 50s movie. Starting with…
Yes, Paris is dirty. VERY dirty. Trash and cigarette butts everywhere, and do not get me started on their subway. The weather was lovely and my room a 20 min walk from Notre Dame so I did a lot of touring the non famous route and saw it everywhere. Depends where you come from, but living in Holland I was simply appalled.
In this I use the term “system” only to highlight the lack of. The metro of Paris is old, therefore a lot of lines were added afterwards, which results in chaos. Literally. The signs are pointing to the same line but the opposite direction that you need to go, so you hit the platform, see it is going opposite, run to the stairs (no escalators!) to the other side and you get to the correct one just in time to see the car go. Fantastic.
Quite frankly the best part of my trip. Yes, the French do know how to eat. My staples were mostly croissants and mini loaves of bread with brie au poivre, bought in a cheese boutique (oh yes) where they do not let you sample of course, they only ask you how strong you like your cheese (if your experience is only with cheddar in burgers stick to mild for the sake of all of us). A couple of meals I had were so and so, disappointing for the homeland of Salade Niçoise but also proves the point that quality degrades when there are a lot of tourists. By the way, the road to go as always is to avoid any eatery that is on a main road with a lot of English and/or neon signs. People hardly speak English anyway, so it will not make a difference to the service. Which brings us to…
This is not entitled The French on purpose, I did ask around and was confirmed Parisians are a rare breed of their own. It makes sense if you get around 15M of tourists a year who obnoxiously came to randomly live through Amelie. On the other hand, tourism does bring income so these people could have been nicer about it.. but nah. Everybody I asked has the same opinion about those locals : rude, chauvinistic pushers who stare at you strangely no matter what you wear – I do believe they enjoy making people fidget.
A ray of sunkissed exception was my host, who was the perfect mix of attentive but not overbearing. We did not interact much truth be told, but I appreciated how he apologised for the neighbors’ noise, asked me for extra towels and kept the place good enough – still not spotless, because Paris, but well kept whereas I have heard a lot of complaints even from hotel guests. Germs are part of the local culture.
Bonus track : My way back. Like I said, I booked a BlaBla Car, which means that you get to pay for sharing a ride with a person, at a fraction of what you would pay to rent a car, so ideal option for solo travellers especially on a budget. It was a tricky road from the beginning, as I sent the driver around 5 messages to arrange to meet, she responded in French 2 hours before we left with the meeting point as @Place De la Nation. No place of reference. Fortunately there were 3 more people circling around like idiots with a a backpack, so we deduced we were to be in the same car and we managed to find each other. All Parisians in the car and me. I was asked my name and where I live, and that was it. A rapid french discussion followed, which I took as my que to relax, and soon I was asleep, to be woken violently 2 hours later by them screaming in my ear like I was not there as they were having a passionate political debate. Which lasted till we arrived 5 hours later. Magnifique.
I was lucky enough to be landing on CDG at the exact same time as the Brussels attacks. Meaning I was scrutinized by police and army with huge guns in my every step, I was searched countless times in 4 days, and come nightfall I was greeted by this sombering image. I was not planning to go up anyway,overpriced and not really worth it from what I heard. Regardless, there were a lot of kissing selfies taken in front of it at that night. Life does go on.
Arc De Triomphe
I think that was by far the worst of it, together with gettng lost in the metro corridors for 25 minutes and almost missing my ride home (if I was stranded there I would’ve killed myself). After a long walk directly from Eiffel Tower, I reached the Place D’Arc, and was greeted by an iron fence and four lanes of uninterrupted traffic around. As I was contemplating what I was supposed to do, I started circling it and realized I had to go underground. After 10 sweaty minutes I emerged beneath the Arc to enter it, only to be refused by the security guard 5 min before the actual last entrance time. The best part is that I was alone and with my Paris Pass at hand, so there would be literally no sign of me going in, but he did not understand a word of this as he did not speak English- of course, why would he, working in one of the top 10 most famous landmarks in the world? I left seething and did not go back.
Musée de l’Orangerie
To this day I thank my lucky stars that I visited this haven of a museum. The only place that you get treated like a human that has paid a ticket. Small clean, quiet and you gaze at Monet for hours, which is bound to calm you a bit after the madhouse that lays outside its walls. I would go back only to this one.
****to be continued***