Now to write about my little trip to Paris. I was there for four full days last week – arriving Monday morning and leaving Friday morning. My reason for the trip was quite simple – to visit Miloš one more time while I was in Europe before having to go home. (That will be for a separate blog, but yes, since I don’t have a visa, I have to go home for three months. But I have a long term solution for dual citizenship that will soon make that unnecessary – because of where my grandparents were born.) Anyway, I wanted to visit my man, and he is assigned to a ship that travels the Seine River, so it was off to Paris for me!
Fortunately, I had made a friend through a friend on Facebook, and I was able to stay with her and her husband during my time there. They were the absolute most gracious and amazing hosts. Not only did they show me some wonderful sites, but they also helped me with the trains, and made me some wonderful dinners. They were beyond awesome and I can’t thank them enough! (Thanks Gina and Gilles!)
On to my honest assessment of Paris….
Let’s start with the good stuff.
The tourist attractions that everyone goes to see are beautiful and absolutely worth visiting. The Eiffel Tower is magnificent, especially at night when it’s all lit up. And so much of the architecture is just gorgeous. I especially liked the Madeleine (beautiful church) with it’s grand pillars and elegant statues inside. The Père Lachaise Cemetery is also a fascinating site to see and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting the city. The little monuments and mausoleums are so pretty – like little temples and castles. I loved how the pathways twisted and turned their way through so much history. There are some famous people resting there as well – like Edith Piaf and Jim Morrison. Another highlight was the visit to the Opera Garnier – the grand staircase is breathtaking and we even got to look in and see a rehearsal in action. My guess from what I was seeing was that it was a tech rehearsal for the opera Hansel and Gretel. And the foyer will take your breath away with its gilded gold excess.
I went to Disneyland Paris, which was very fun. (Separate blog post.) But that was definitely a highlight of what was good about my trip.
Food is good in Paris! So much of the French cuisine is delightfully tasty! Total thumbs up.
Restaurants and cafes can be found everywhere, and Miloš and I were able to find a lovely little restaurant for a romantic dinner. (I think anywhere can be romantic though when you’re with your special someone.) I was so happy to have the two days that we had together in Paris. (I got there a day early before his ship came in so I could sight-see.) But now it will be a little over three months until I see him next – when he takes vacation and I meet up with him back in Croatia. (As per usual, I was an emotional wreck when we had to part, especially since this next stretch apart will be so long. I miss him so much when we are apart. What can I say, I’m forever an emotional girly girl.)
Here are some pics of my favorite Paris highlights…..
Okay, so let’s now talk about the other parts, and I’ll just be blunt. So far, Paris is my least favorite European city that I’ve visited. Let’s not mince words. It is insanely overpriced. A seven dollar Coke at a cafe? Six dollars for a tall (small) latte at Starbucks? Yup – that’s Paris for ya. (And that’s me converting the price in to dollars from Euros, since I’m helpful like that!) I know some cities can be expensive, but this one so far took the award for most expensive city I’ve ever been to. EVER. (And you know I’ve bitched about how expensive Switzerland is!) Vienna is so much cheaper in comparison. Even riding the long distance trains is not easy – even with my GLOBAL Rail Pass, they want you to make reservations for DAY time trains – so you can pay more money. Everyone else only requires reserved seats for night time trains. And then they’re only a few Euro. Or in several instances, I got on night trains without a reservation because of last minute circumstances, and the ticket people didn’t care – they saw my Rail Pass and said it was fine, since there were plenty of seats open. (Thank you Austria and Croatia!) Not in France. Nope – they want you to pay and pay hard.
Next, the Metro/subway system is incredibly complex. If you go, please study it in detail before trying to navigate it in real life. Thankfully, I was assisted in the beginning by Gina, so I was able to then go it alone. But it’s tricky. There is NO direct route from one location to another – even between tourist attractions and monuments. Prepare to have to change lines a lot – usually needing to take 2-4 trains just to get anywhere. Just really pay attention to signs. Read read read. Sometimes you even have to go on one platform as part of your route between others – it’s a complex underground maze. And because the city is so expansively huge, walking is not as easy from one site to another. You will want to use the Metro.
Much of the city is not kept up. Since you’ll spend a lot of time in the Metro traveling from one place to another, you’ll notice that it’s actually dirtier and stinkier than the subway in NYC. Much of it is in disrepair. Otherwise, there are also buildings that are not as pleasing to the eye, and are a bit dirty. (It’s such a contrast to Vienna.)
Besides maybe a few pretty spots (the Eiffel Tower), Miloš and I were commenting that we didn’t quite get why Paris has such a reputation for being so romantic. We mused that we had been to many more romantic places – Zadar, for example. And I’d venture to say that other cities we’ve been to together are also more romantic – Vienna, Cologne, even NYC. Gina said that the Japanese now have a word to represent the disappointment of Paris not living up to their idealized romantic pre-conceptions. Yeah. If you want to go somewhere romantic, pick another city – I’ll be happy to give you suggestions. Heck, if you want somewhere expensive, go to Switzerland – at least the people there could win awards for their kindness and hospitality. (I would certainly grant Switzerland the award for the friendliest people I’ve ever encountered.)
For some reason, France is the only place where I’ve had SO much trouble getting my Visa debit card to work. It took several tries to get my 3-Day transportation pass payment to go through. (Praying I didn’t get charged more than once.) And traveling home on the high speed train, they couldn’t get my card to work to pay for my seat reservation until they went and got some fancy machine to run it through. Since European credit cards work on a chip and PIN system (meaning that there is a microchip in the cards and everyone has to enter a PIN each time they use it) American cards are the unusual exceptions to the rule over here. But I’ve had NO troubles in any of the other countries I’ve traveled in while here. Just France. The only place that didn’t give me problems using it on this particular trip was in Disneyland Paris – perhaps they are set up differently.
And now, yes I’ll say it…. it’s true. The French are rude, snooty, and condescending. PLEASE note that there are exceptions to EVERY thing. (There are exceptions! So no one go on the attack here.) There are nice French people out there – I met some of them. But for the most part, as a whole, they are NOT nice people. If you are not French, you are seen as inferior and will be treated as such. At least in Paris. Whenever I see a couple trying to awkwardly take their own picture together in front of a landmark, I always try to offer to take a picture for them, no matter where I happen to be. Almost all the time, people are happy to have a pic together. But whenever I asked a French couple, they looked at me and abruptly said no like I had two heads. Fine – be that way. Many people are wearing frowns all the time. Exuberant fun is only for children, and even then, they have an attitude of getting their children hardened for the real world, where fun is seen as frivolous. Even when I was in Disney Paris, many of the people seemed so serious. (You’re at a theme park – loosen up and smile people!) And many of the subway train delays? Lots are suicides. My hosts told me that it’s a regular thing to see in the papers – sadly, it happens too frequently.
The only thing that would get me to go to Paris again would be visiting friends, visiting Miloš, OR seeking work there ONLY if Miloš gets assigned to the Seine again. (I would totally try to work for Disneyland Paris!) Seeing him once a week would make up for the aforementioned negatives, after so many long periods of long distance in our relationship. But I’m not personally in a rush to return to Paris, especially with SO many other wonderful cities in Europe where you can be made to feel super welcome. I’ll go to those places, thank you, where we can all be nice to each other and enjoy what the world has to offer!