Stories

Thoughts of Paris

Quick update

If you haven’t read our most recent post: First Days in BCN, Adam and I arrived in Barcelona a couple of weeks ago from Asia. Immediately my mother and aunt came to visit us from the U.S. We spent the first half of their holiday in Barcelona and the second in Paris. What follows are my thoughts about our time there and the differences I found between my first visit eight years ago and this one.

The first time I visited Paris was back in 2004. I went to visit a friend that had lived there for many years.  She introduced me to her daily life; we hung out with friends; visited her favorite restaurants, coffee shops and bars. I was exposed to Paris’s “underground” life. I loved it. I thought it was beautiful and enchanting. I remember thinking it was glamorous, artsy, fashionable and progressive.

This time around was a bit different. My friend no longer lives there so we had to trust online advice and stick to the touristy attractions. I figure since it was my mom’s first travel outside of America, she would enjoy seeing what Paris is famous for. I made a plan for each of the four days of our visit. Although the city is sort of spread out, our hotel was in a great location; well-connected with the metro and only a few minutes from Notre Dame and the Seine River.

The four of us toured Notre Dame, walked along the river; visited a farmers market, the Cathedral, the Louvre, Eiffel Tower and Champs Elise. We ate in a gorgeous French restaurant built-in the 1800’s and had delicious pate, salmon, duck, crème brulee and wine. We found ourselves at many coffee shops and, of course, tried their famous crepes. It was a wonderful time, no doubt.

But I must confess, I found Paris very different. I am not sure if Paris changed; or I changed; or maybe my memories were eroded by time. Most likely it’s a bit of everything. I’m also sure that having the good fortune of a local to show you around also changes the experience.

Favorites

– Museum Louvre was our incredible. The artwork is fascinating and diverse, the price is reasonable, the architecture impressive, and it’s definitely one of a kind.

– I really enjoyed taking a boat ride on the Seine. The scenery was beautiful; I learned many things about Paris history and got a better picture of how the city was designed.

– The city’s architecture: Eiffel tower and Notre Dame (especially at night), other random buildings and how everything is steeped in history.

– The little things: coffee shops, walking, people watching and spotting buildings in the distance.

– Paris metro system. It goes everywhere and was very easy to get access to. (as long as you don’t trash your ticket before leaving the station: see turn offs)

Turn offs

– It can be expensive! Upon arrival we paid $80 for a taxi to take us to our hotel. That was painful, especially coming from Asia where a tuk tuk costs less than $1. To alleviate this we stuck to baguette, salami and cheese from the local store for meals.

– Trash, graffiti, homelessness, and some areas just felt a bit sketchy. I don’t remember seeing this the first time I came.

– The “French” attitude of some of the locals. I understand that by no means do ALL people from France share the same attitude, but there is a certain reputation of France as impolite and haughty (and sexy). Unfortunately, I found the stereotype to be true in more cases than other countries I have visited. Many servers refused to speak English to us, locals seemed indifferent, unwelcoming and weren’t very friendly or helpful.

– Paris metro system. After a day of exploring and riding the metro many times, Adam and my mom threw out their used metro tickets in the trash can just before the exit. To our surprise, right outside of the station we were met by the metro staff asking to validate everyone’s used tickets!  We explained that our tickets were in the trash just around the corner, and showed my aunt’s and my own used ticket. Long story short, they would not budge, would not let us retrieve our tickets from the trash, pointed out that we were ignorant tourists, and fined us each 30 euros. Ouch!

Okay, I understand it is their job, but come on! The point of the validation is to fine those skipping the metro turnstile for a free ride. They could have used some wise judgment instead of extorting money out of honest tourists.

Final Thoughts

We had a great time and I by no means regret going. Was it what I remember or expecting? No. Is it still lovely, with a lot of interesting history and cute coffee shops? Yes. However, my second opinion of Paris leans towards overrated.

I guess having no expectations is the way to go!

Seems like many people we’ve met along the way have interesting opinions of Paris, what’s yours?

Related posts:

First Days in BCN: The things you take for granted
Enjoying the Guilty Pleasures of Bruges
Amsterdam in Pictures

Map Location

Comments To This Entry.
  1. Susan @ Cruise Vacation January 3, 2013 Reply

    the last picture is so amazing. how did you edited that. Thanks for sharing such a great feelings I had while reading this post. I don’t know I’m still here but it is my dream to go Paris one day.

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