After my second time visiting Paris, I can say that my views of the city are rather…mixed. I have alluded to this before, and even discussed my reasons in my posts on the city, but for today I would like to share with you the things that I like and dislike about Paris.
…because really, in any city, there’s bound to be some wonderful and disappointing aspects. Here are some of my thoughts on the iconic French capital:
Five Reasons Why I Like Paris
#1 The Architecture. You will be amazed at the sheer number of buildings and landmarks that have been around since the nineteenth century. Now, for European standards, such architecture is relatively new, but for an American like me, it’s old. There are even a few places in the city that have survived the demolition during the Haussmann period (a time in the mid-nineteenth century when Paris underwent a huge renovation, as means of modernizing). In any case, the time and care put into such lovely designs just blows my mind.
#2 The Food. Oh man, oh man, where to start…French gastronomy has got to be one of the best things on Earth, as well as the worst. It’s true: the French are pretty much weaned on carbs, cheese, and meat since birth. Aside from the incredible baguettes, Camembert, and wine that the people consume, the French diet is actually quite similar to the American’s. There is still a lot of meat (steak, pork, some chicken), pasta and pizza, and plenty of French fries. Nothing like the “healthy” Mediterranean/Californian diet that I have been raised on. Still, French food is great; I just can’t have it every day! 😛
#3 The Fashion. Okay, so you’re not going to expect the Parisians to go to work in high heels and designer dresses. In fact, most of them dress what I would call “normally:” jeans, jackets/coats, tennis shoes. I suppose some subtle differences would be that they tend to wear more scarves (even men), as well as boots. I haven’t seen a lot of people wear flats or sunglasses, just because Paris is really a hustling-bustling city that requires a lot of walking. Not to mean quite dark and cold in the fall and winter seasons. But generally speaking, the Parisians do dress a lot better than Americans- no sweatpants in public!
#4 The Accessibility. What do I mean by this? In other words, Paris is a small city. And I do mean tiny: for such a huge population of some million people, Paris is only 21 miles in circumference. That is not large. That said, many places are accessible either by foot, or via metro. You can get from one place to another 30 to 40 minutes at most, starting from the edges of the city (like the 20th arrondissement) into the heart of Paris, where the Louvre is located. Granted, you will still have to walk, but hey, it burns off that baguette and cheese, right? 😉
#5 The Metro. As I had mentioned in #4, the Paris metro system is excellent: fast, efficient, affordable. You just need a ticket (or carte Navigo), a map, and knowledge of the line, direction, and stop to get off at. Then, you can go anywhere! It’s not hard, and it’s no wonder that so many people use it every day. I swear by it; no need to pay a ton for taxi or take the bus (whose routes are confusing as heck). Take the metro!
Five Things I Dislike About Paris
#1 Lots of pickpockets and con artists. This is true in any touristy city (e.g. Rome, New York, Beijing), but it still greatly pisses me off that such people exist. Don’t they know that we are there to have fun, and that they’re ruining it, not to forget our lives? Thankfully, I have never been pickpocketed before, but encountered such crooks twice this time. Just ignored them and avoided them like the plague. You can usually tell who they are. Fuck them.
#2 Things are expensive. I know that things generally cost more in Europe than the U.S. or Asia, but Paris (along with other tourist hot spots) is overpriced as hell. The locals know that, too, and take advantage of our money. That’s why it’s pointless to go out to eat and shop, since you’ll already blow your budget by the end of the day- not to forget forking over rent for the hella tiny hotel you’re staying in. It is important not to get sucked into the multiple tourist-trap stores and cafes; they aren’t good, anyway. Try to find deals (e.g. prix-fixe meals, sales, etc), do your research before jumping into the crazy streets of Paris.
#3 Everyone smokes. I don’t smoke, and I hate the smell of cigarettes. You know that, then, I find walking the streets and breathing in the mixture of cigarette smoke and car exhaust unbearable. Even when I’m inside the apartment, I still smell it coming through the cracks in the ventilation system. Second-hand smoke at its finest, ladies and gentlemen!
#4 The streets are confusing. Like I had said, Paris is a small city with a dense population. Even further, the streets are much narrower than the U.S.’s; some streets can only go one way! Round-abouts are very common, too, which rarely exist from where I come from. Without a map of the city (un plan), you will no doubt be lost. Don’t be an idiot, and get a map of Paris; trust me, it will save you the time and headache!
#5 The Rude Parisians. I am not saying that all Parisians are rude; in fact, I have met very nice and decent ones. But it is true that they tend to be less friendly and more impersonal than the “typical” French person. Perhaps it is due to the hustle-and-bustle of the city life; people simply don’t have the time to stop and talk for long periods of time. The Parisians are also very proud of their heritage, meaning that they are proud of their French language and expect others to at least say “bonjour.” Not attempting to say that, and they might not be as receptive to you.
I would also say that their English, while better than most other regions in France, is still not very good. That was why I just ended up communicating with the people in French, just so 1) they could explain themselves better, 2) fall under their good graces, and 3) practice my French, which is still far from perfect.
Overall, Paris is both a great and not-so-great place to visit, depending on who you are. It’s worth the travel, despite the flaws.
If you happen to have any thoughts/questions on Paris, feel free to comment on this post. Otherwise, take care! 🙂
— The Finicky Cynic
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