I’m just going to come right out and say it: Paris is the Emperor’s New Clothes of travel destinations. We’ve all been fed a myth about how great it is since we were born, through movies and images and novels, Audrey Hepburn and croissants. It’s so romantic, so chic, so transformative, etc.
I have been here (for Paris is my current location) three times now, and so have pondered it several times. The first time I came was with my ex-boyfriend, and I admit it was pretty romantic and stuff. We stayed in Montmatre like the n00bs we were, and went to the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre and the Arc d’Triomphe. I bought, wore berets. He gave me a rose. We drank wine and I put the table bread from restaurants into my pockets for later. It was all pretty vomitous.
Discussing Paris with a friend over Facebook chat, she revealed similar experiences:
Her: how’d you like Paris? I either have a billboard time when I go, or it’s shit
Me: well it’s been weird as I’m working in my flat most of the time and I’m living by myself, and the flat is in the suburbs so it really feels like I could be anywhere, just being a hermit. I’ve never loved Paris, I must say. It smells of pee and everyone is rude!
Me: The first time I came was with [ex-boyfriend] and it was romantic and shit but the novelty has since worn off
Her: yeah, I went with my ex too. On New Years Day, EVERYTHING was closed. I went with my friend and had an awesome time. Coincidence? Hell no!
The next time I went was with my mum, and while it was very special hanging out with her there, I was much less blinded by the Paris bit and much more aware of the fact that there were cigarette butts everywhere, that shopowners swept their rubbish into the gutters, that they were mega unimpressed with my lack of language skills, that there were pushy-to-the-point-of-intimidating street vendors. I saw a fight break out in the street during which someone left and returned with a massive wooden plank.
- Not everyone is gorgeously stylish
- Not all the food is to die for (in fact there is a lot that’s really crummy)
- There’s litter everywhere
- There are lots of young men who think that playing gangsta rap loudly on the train is acceptable
Paris: you are not perfect. But I have two more weeks here till I’m back in London, so I’m going to give it another chance. I know a good few people who have fallen in love with this place, so I’m sure they can’t all be talking crap… can they?