Location: Paris, France
No. of days: 3
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are my own, from my personal experience. If you disagree, please chill out and take it with a pinch of salt!
I know this could be controversial because I’ve had very different feedback from people about Paris depending where they come from. I got bullied by a French auntie while I was shopping in London years ago, and I have been scarred by the French ever since. Europeans, in general do not seem to think very much or well of Paris, and almost all British I spoke to told me “don’t bother” about going to Paris or “you didn’t miss much” not going to Paris. BUT, how can I NOT go when it’s Paris right?
Asians, in general have a much more forgiving view of Paris, most love it for its “romantic-ness”, and a few people I know even proposed on top of the Eiffel Tower. Maybe it will feel more romantic in autumn and winter, but certainly not in summer. So, what’s my beef with Paris?
Before I go into the things I dislike and start sounding like a sad old sod, let me start with the things I do like.
Condensed City, Easy to Navigate
Basically all the key tourist spots are along River Seine, so as long as you can tell which direction along the river you are walking along, you pretty much won’t get lost.
Little Sidewalks and Cafes
The little cafe culture everywhere probably emerged from Paris, where every cafe is supposed to serve great coffee, has a nice porch for people watching or reading a book, and has yummy pastries. 3 days is very insufficient to fully explore the proper cafe culture given that there are tons of things to see and places to go, but at the recommendation of my French colleague, I went to Mariage Freres and was shocked by its interior…
For those still scratching your heads, it looks suspiciously similar to a certain Singapore homegrown Tea shop that has branches in Takashimaya and Marina Bay Sands. I used to think highly of them, having done well as a local brand until I realized they pretty much copied everything from here. (Does not want to name the local brand) Pretty sure it was the Singapore shop that did the copying because this shop has been around way before Singapore surface with a similar concept.
That aside, my French colleague recommended I came here for tea, but ended up having lunch, leaving me a happy woman. It’s a bit light for lunch so if you’re a big eater, stick to tea instead.
OK now, I move on for the dislike bit.
Beware of thieves
People has been telling me that I have a negative view of Paris because I got pick-pocketed once here. Unfortunately, one of my friends got pick-pocketed as well ! The thieves are so skillful that you wouldn’t even realize until it’s too late ! My friend’s fateful mishap, her bag got slit while although I have kept my wallet deep down inside the backpack I was carrying, they have managed to steal my wallet with opening my metal hook buckle or slitting my backpack. A mystery to me until now…
Meanwhile, I have also spotted a suspicious guy lingering along the metro station ticketing counter, looking for his next target, The good news is, if you are alert enough to tell that there are potential thieves around, you’d probably be more aware of yourself. The bad news is, what about those that does not look like thieves at all ? That makes it double the problem !
Even metro stations didn’t make me feel safe as the tunnel walks transferring between the various metro lines were poorly maintained, smelly, dirty and dark. Lots of quiet and/or blind spots which means if you get into trouble in one of the blind spots, you’re on your own.
This Place is Dirrrrrty
One thing that got me really annoyed is how the smell of pee permeates almost everywhere in the streets. And I mean EVERYWHERE. This is probably not surprising given the lack of toilets in this city but still….
Let’s not even go into the rubbish strewn everywhere on the streets.
Amongst the list of EU countries I visited so far (between Spain, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Italy), I would go as far as to say Paris is the most expensive with regards to food and drink. Mayne its for good reason, given that the French seems to have a knack for making expensive brands like Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Longchamp.. and the list goes on.
I moaned about this in Rime but at least there is a way to get around the queues in Rome – Pay ! But that does not happen in Paris. Money is not going to help you skip the queues at La Fayette, LV megastore, Laduree, etc. Not “normal” money anyway. And tourists spots like Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower and Louvre Museum. It reminds me of Hong Kong where it’s almost impossible to get anything without queuing.
Special mention to the Louvre, where the Mona Lisa portrait resides.
Of course, this isn’t even a queue, but worse because there is no begining and no end. ;(
Clearly a large number of EU countries don’t speak English as their first language but nowhere else have I come across bad service simply because I can’t speak their local language. Now, a single traveller girlfriend of mind said she did not suffer any service abuse but my travel partner did, for all the times she has been to Paris (maybe 2 times in the past few years for work).
On multiple occasions while dining we received next to no attention and slow service while other French-speaking people walked in later than us and got served much faster than us. (Receiving menu, taking orders, delivering tap drinks like Coke.) I don’t think we were being difficult because I’m not even referring to delivery of food knowing that varies according to the complexity of the order, but we suffered abuse for everything else in the whole process.
I was on the verge of going crazy until I witnessed ah tiongs getting French treatment because they spoke French. I don’t even know what form of discrimination this is: too-bad-you-don’t-speak-my-language ism ?
So make sure you have lots of patience before you visit Paris.
1. Eiffel Tower
Now I am not a fan of paying obscene amounts of money to go up metal tourist traps for the view (Tokyo Tower, Singapore Flyer, London Eye – I’ve been to all of them but not been UP THERE) because I figured you can always go up a tall building nearby and achieve the same effect. Not in Paris because there is nothing taller than Eiffel Tower within a radius of… many many kilometres ? But that’s not why you should go up because as a tourist you pretty much can’t tell the difference between what’s what from the top.
- the building is curved inwards and so is the lift. I am in awe at the engineering of the lifts that goes along the insides of the bottom half.
- The lifts have ceiling to floor transparent doors. I stood at one of the corners of the lift and literally feel my legs going jelly because
I was wondering if this old cranky lift is going to breakdown in the middle and trapping me and the maybe 100 other tourists around me.I got a kick out of seeing Paris grow smaller and smaller beneath my feet as I went up the second top half.