“Paris is always a good idea“
The French capital has been romanticised in the imagination of people all around the world for centuries. It is what inspired me to learn French, and why I have lived here for all this time. However, the city of light is not without its disappointment. Tourists naively visit Paris in the hope of experiencing all the romance, beauty and love that the city has promised them; only to be faced with litter, beggars and dog poo instead.
1. The Food
Ok the food can be amazing, but you’ll have to pay a lot for it. In general, I am not that impressed by French food. Sure their patisserie skills are unrivalled, but when it comes to a good French dish at a reasonable price…Well…Apparently that’s pretty hard to find! Food served in bistros or brasseries often include some hearty French favourites like boeuf bourguignon or magret de canard, but they are not the refined cuisine you would associate with France. And they are just..OK…If you are looking to try delicate dishes in Paris expect to pay a fortune.
2. The Metro
Your dreams of Paris being full of the rich and chic may be dashed upon entering the city’s metro. With a 50% increase in homelessness in France from 2001 to 2012, you can be sure to see the city’s poorest citizens lining the subway platforms, and sleeping by station entrances. Being confronted with such a heartbreaking reality is probably the last thing you expected from your journey to the City of Light. I’m not sure if other cities just hide it better (I rarely see homeless people sleeping on the underground in London) or if this is a particularly Parisian problem. Other metro issues include: strikes (so. many. strikes), loud buskers and pickpockets.
3. General Cleanliness
Paris has never been renowned for her sparkling streets; as we look through the annals of history, we can find quotes depicting the smelly state of the capital
“We blush with shame to see the public markets […] displaying their filth, spreading infection, and causing continual disorders […] The center of the city is dark, cramped, hideous.” – Voltaire
Although Paris has cleaned up her act since the 18th century, walking her streets has become something of an obstacle course where you have to dodge dog poo, litter and more dog poo. You may have been dreaming of the smell of freshly baked bread mixed with crème patissière before you got here, only to be confronted with the stench of urine in the Opéra/Auber station (what’s up with that?!)
4. The Crowds
Like many major cities, Paris becomes unbearable during the tourist season. The summer months and around Christmas being the worst. If you want to catch a glimpse of the Mona Lisa, or take a trip up the Eiffel Tower, expect long queues. A trip to Paris becomes decidedly less romantic once you and your partner have to fight your way through the crowded streets of Montmartre.
5. Opening Hours
Quite the opposite of the “City that Never Sleeps,” Paris is often asleep. Be it pretty much all throughout August, or for long lunch breaks during the week. Sundays and Mondays in the capital can be particularly difficult; with most shops shut on Sunday and many museums closed on Monday, tourists can find themselves not knowing what to do with themselves. Also eating outside of a normal ‘lunch’ and ‘dinner’ time can prove tricky. When I spend the day exploring Paris I normally get hungry around 3pm- but most restaurants won’t be open to serve food until 7pm. C’est la vie!
I recently read about something called “Paris Syndrome“. It is said to be “a transient psychological disorder exhibited by some individuals when visiting or vacationing to Paris, as a result of extreme shock resulting from their finding out that Paris is not what they had expected it to be.” I thought people should know that reading blogs like this one, or looking at the photos of Paris on my Instagram serve to perpetuate the idea that Paris is perfect. And although Paris is pretty perfect, it is also a city with flaws. So I wanted to take a moment and tell you all my thoughts on what it has been like living here for the last 5 years.
I’d love to hear in the comments about what you like and do not like as much about Paris!