Okay, this is not a sound off or a rant meant to hurt Parisians or kill anyone’s hope of visiting Paris, which in my opinion is a very beautiful city… just not as beautiful as I thought it would be. If you follow me on social media then you know that #thetwopotatoes a.k.a myself and my childhood friend had a mini reunion and took a mini European tour. My friend, who’s name I won’t mention in this recount for privacy purposes comes from the United States and she had been looking forward to visiting Paris ever since she was a child.
I’ve lived in Milan for about ten years now and I’d been to a good number of European cities and to me they were all very similar, superficially speaking. However, I was enthusiastic to visit Paris. So, we hopped on a Thalys train from Amsterdam and arrived at Gare du Nord in the early afternoon. We were both very optimistic about the city but having visited France before I had my doubts about what we were to expect. So while my friend was bloating with excitement and planning out our adventures, I was praying she won’t return to the U.S with negative stories about us Europeans. Our train pulls up to the tracks, we hop off, first thing we see is some guy with a red passport (I still hope not Italian) was getting arrested for drug possession.
Oops. So that happens everywhere I think. We shrugged it off and made our way out of the train station. I’m struggling with my hand luggage and my backpack so I can’t do much when the African men outside the station start reaching out to touch me. “Ma petite soeur,” they call. No, I am not your sister, I say through gritted teeth. That might be snobbish to you, but where I come from strangers don’t just rub on you. They’re polite. My friend is already ahead of me, eager to get away from what seems to be one of the derelict train stations in Paris and to the true beauty that she dreamed of. We cross the street to get into a taxi and for the 20 minutes of the journey to the hotel we are frozen solid by the taxi driver’s minus one star treatment and the view.
Paris looks nothing like the movies. It’s dirty, and noisy, and there are children begging in the streets. Yes, I know there’s poverty everywhere. I guess I just never thought Paris would be like that. Paris, for goodness sake! The city where every woman dreams to be proposed to.
Our hotel was the Ibis. A chain of budget hotels so I wasn’t expecting much. We were on the sixth floor with bad wifi and everyone was either very curt or rude. We tried to take it in stride but Lord knows I wanted to be back in Milan. The next day however, made up for the bad days. We went to see the Eiffel Tower and the priceless look on my friend’s face made me see for a second that maybe the Tower was more than a rusty old thing. Just when I began picking the pieces of my shattered heart, we were followed on our way back to our hotel by a cat-caller who wouldn’t just end it.
We got to do most of the touristy stuff in the three days we were there and I got into the Louvre for free (yay) but the version of Paris I saw really didn’t appeal to me. Maybe I expected too much. Maybe I hoped the escargots parisienne would taste a lot better, maybe we stayed in the ugly zone, maybe we stayed for a short period of time, maybe Paris on a budget is a no no… but I was disappointed to say the least.
Eventually, we were lucky enough to discover that there were no airport shuttles to Paris Beauvais after 8 pm and we took an overpriced taxi to the depot.
It pays well to know that the romanticised version of Paris is quite different from the reality. But if you don’t have a realist like me on board with you, you just might enjoy it.
Was your experience in Paris different? Comment below and let me know!