Back in the fall the two of us traveled to France to spend a week in the enchanting Ville de Paris. Like many stories I’ve heard from other travelers to the city, our trip was filled with bipolar moments: exciting, fascinating highs and disappointing, frustrating lows.
My list for the ten things I hate about Paris is due mostly to cultural differences and personal ignorance. Please approach Paris with an open mind when you visit so you can come up with your own list of things you hate.
1. Getting to Paris
This one really belongs more in a list of ten things I hate about Munich, but as I’m not convinced I’ll ever want to return there, it can stay in this list for now.
Following our long transatlantic flight to Europe, we had a stopover in Germany before continuing on to Paris. During the stopover we found our connecting flight’s departure gate, we checked the departure time, browsed a nearby stationary shop, and then sat down by our gate to wait for our flight while reading a book.
After what seemed like quite a delay in our boarding time I went to ask the gate clerks when they expected our flight to leave; they replied that our flight had already departed, on time, with German efficiency.
$500 and a few hours later we were on our way on the next flight to Paris.
To this day, we’re both not sure how exactly we missed our flight when we were sitting right at the gate. The best explanation we have is that our flight boarded in its entirety sometime during the period while we were browsing the stationary shop. Hence we now own what will forever be referred to as the $500 notebook.
2. Breakfast too small
I like breakfast. And for some reason I assumed the French did too. There’s french toast, waffles, crepes (crépes for gods sakes) that for some reason are all synonymous with french style breakfasts in my mind. But, when you ask the man at the front desk of the hotel (who’s no shining example of human fitness, by the way) where to get crépes for breakfast, he just laughs.
For your translation: Petit Dejeuner means “small breakfast”, which means you’ll get a croissant and a small coffee. Dejeuner means “breakfast”, which means you’ll get a croissant, a small coffee, and two barely cooked fried eggs. Each day we tried a new restaurant for breakfast and each day we mopped up our runny egg whites and tears with our croissants.
3. Lunch too big
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that this should be a good point, especially after our lacking breakfast experiences. Maybe your stomach shrinks when you eat a seven year old’s breakfast or maybe you shouldn’t serve 8 course lunches!
We ate at Spring, which is between the Louvre and Les Halles, for lunch and it was one of the best meals we had during our trip. However, the exquisite flavours were overshadowed by the stretching pains in my stomach.
4. The Scammers
Before going to Paris I read some travelers’ stories about typical Parisian street scams and I’m pretty sure we experienced all of them. Luckily, none of these witty con artists read the internet or have any creativity as each of them played out exactly as hundreds of others have described.
The “hey I found a gold ring, is it yours? No? Well let me give it to you anyways and you can give me a donation” – check
The lost english girl – check
The “I’d like to practice my english with you, how do you say ‘I’m poor and need money?'” – check
The try to tie a bracelet on your wrist and then charge you for it – check
Countless beggars all dressed in the same injured gypsy costume – check
Make sure to check out Tripadvisor’s Scams in Paris board and search the rest of the internet to keep an eye out for any new ones. I’ve been to other large cities and never encountered so many by-the-book cons; needless to say, it puts you on edge and starts to wear away any friendly demeanor.
By the end of our trip we found ourselves ignoring pretty much anyone who approached us on the street, even though sometimes they seemed to be friendly lost tourists like ourselves.
5. The Louvre
I don’t go to art museums here at home, so I’m not sure why I thought I would like an art museum in France. It’s just one of those things you’re supposed to see. The place is ginormous and busier than disneyland. People and kids are running all over the place, posing for pictures with things they saw in The DaVinci Code.
If I do go into a museum I like to read the placards and learn about the cultural significance of things. However, the Louvre is an art museum, as such it has no descriptive placards and I have no art history background and therefore learned nothing.
If you are like me I and still insist in seeing the Louvre, I recommend getting a tour or at least renting an audio tour. Hopefully then you won’t just push your way to the front of the crowd around the Mona Lisa, shrug and leave, missing the rest of the probably more remarkable paintings in the room.
6. Musée d’Orsay
See point 5.
If you didn’t like the Louvre because you don’t care about art, I can promise you won’t gain much more from going to another art museum.
The building itself is a grand old train station, it is quieter, they don’t allow pictures (which makes for a calmer atmosphere and you won’t end up with meaningless pictures of paintings filling up your memory card) and, although Orsay is a much better experience than the Louvre, it is still a building filled with old art.
If you’re not into that kind of thing you are not going to blossom into an appreciator at the sight of Monet’s Poppy Field.
7. The Weather
London is rainy as shit. Everyone knows this. But, what no one tells you is that Paris gets more rain each year than London.
I’m not sure how the French have kept up this ruse, but make sure you bring sufficient rain gear with you everywhere you go. Otherwise, when you’re in the back 40 of the Palace of Versailles trying to get to Marie Antionette’s garden village and it starts to dump buckets, you won’t be stuck buying a $100 umbrella like a chump so that you and all of your expensive camera equipment don’t drown.
And not car parking… bike parking. We had finally had enough of riding around aimlessly lost in the subway, so we surfaced and started looking for alternate forms of transportation. In the downtown areas, every couple blocks or so there are Velib stands with automated bicycle rentals for only a few euro.
It was getting onto evening and what better way to leisurely make our way back to our hotel.We rented a couple and the spots that opened up were swiftly replaced by dismounting Velib riders, but we paid this no mind.
We embarked on an amazing twilight ride along the Seine, happened across the Notre Dame cathedral, and bought a baguette and wine to bring back to our hotel for dinner. The moment was bridging on magical.
And that’s when it started to rain (see point 7).
Each Velib stand has 8-12 bike parking pedestals and there are stands placed strategically every couple of blocks. But, do you think you can find an available spot on a rainy evening in the downtown core?
We passed numerous wet and dreary riders all circling and searching for a place to dismount. Finally we found a single pedestal to return one bike and walked the other bike along for a good 45 minutes before finding a second spot. Heed my warning, if you decide to rent some Velib bicycles, be sure to return them early in the day or you too will be eating soggy baguette for dinner.
As per our royal umbrella, everything in Paris is expensive. I somehow forgot to pack a coat (because I’m an idiot). So, I bought a $600 peacoat from some French designer called Zadig & Voltaire that I’ve never heard of and, while it looks pretty good, it was crazy pricey for what it is. The inner lining has already torn at the shoulder seams and the outer fabric is pilling.
And (because I’m an idiot) my peacoat was of course not the least bit waterproof, which means I needed to buy the aforementioned umbrella to go along with it.
We justified most of our exorbitant expenses by saying “hey, you’re only in Paris once!” and what we realized by the end of the trip was that you’re only in Paris once because that’s all you can afford. Our first born will have to attend community college, but we had a decent week.
10. Not being in Paris
Yes, you read that correctly. I hate not being in Paris. As much as our trip to Paris was not the idyllic romanticized voyage of our dreams, the Parisienne way of of life has permeated our everyday living. We walk more, we eat later, we embrace the minimalist rustic qualities of French life.
I’m not certain we actually brought these things back with us or whether our trip just showed us that even though we all hate Paris a little we also all want to have a little more Paris in our lives.