Paris…the city of love!..??? Not for me…I can see how many people think that, and sure, there were some things there that I really enjoyed…but when I weigh it up, in the few days we had there…I really didn’t think it was that great…now, before those who do claim undying love for the famous city get too upset let me say that I would still want to go back and see more, and am sure that with more time and different circumstances my opinion may change…but these are the top 10 things that I did not enjoy during my first visit to Paris…
#1 – BROKEN GLASS…it is everywhere, not just the occassional piece here or there, but everywhere. I get hot feet when I walk a lot, so prefer to wear sandals, but in Paris, every step I took felt like I would come away with a shard of glass in my toe.
#2 – CIGARETTE BUTTS…I don’t know the ratio of smokers to non-smokers either at home or in Europe, but it seems that ‘lots’ of people smoke in Europe…and the majority seem quite comfortable to just drop the butts wherever they are…even if it is just a few feet from a bin…apart from the health issues of smoking in the first place and for those of us that don’t smoke but have to suffer breathing in the fumes of others, it is just sad to see the careless disregard for the environment as all of those butts end up being washed down the drain and into the rivers and oceans.
#3 – BAD SMELLS…Dave calls it Eau de Paree…I now understand why many of the perfumes made in the world are from Paris…the creators are trying to cover up of odours…they come from many sources: smelly people; cigarette smoke; car fumes and urine…but the worst of all would have to be the drains. As you walk up the street and pass a drain, the smell is so overpowering in some places that it almost makes you physically sick…having travelled in Asia and been through the fish markets and smelt some pretty strong and foul smells, the ones in Paris now top the list.
#4 – RUDE PEOPLE…I thought it was just a stereotype that had been developed further by Hollywood movie producers…the rude French waiter or the arrogant salesman…but sadly no, they are all too real and common. Not only that, but even the average Joe on the street…there is no smile as they pass, there is no hello in the elevator…there is definately no courteousy in a stairwell or getting through a doorway…If you want to visit a destination that makes you feel welcome, then you should skip Paris.
#5 -QUEUES…Now this one I expected…with so many visitors from all over the world it is bound to happen, but still it was a shame to miss out on seeing some of the things that I had hoped to see, simply because the queue was so long and moving so slowly…the Mona Lisa; the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower and the inside of Notre Dame are just a few. If we had more time, then waiting 3 hours in a queue would be okay, but this time it could not happen.
#6 -TOILETS…The phrase ‘to spend a penny’ obviously came from somewhere and as we discovered…most toilets in Europe require a payment, usually about 50 euro cents to use them. I have no problem with this, as almost every one of the pay toilets had a lady there to keep the paper and soap filled and the facility clean, they had no rubbish on the floor or graffiti on the walls (though the later can be quite entertaining sometimes). The toilets though that are free were generally quite disgusting, had no paper and you were lucky if they flushed. But in Paris…if you can find a toilet you are doing well…be sure to go at the hotel before you leave, and at the cafe when you stop for lunch because in between times they are few and far between…most of the ones on the street don’t work and don’t expect to see any signage to direct you to them either. We did find an entertaining one at PointWC on the Champs Elysées, it cost €2 each and sold rolls of toilet paper for up to €170…hence the reason why every stairwell, side street and footpath smells like a toilet.
#7 – STAIRS…okay, so this one is an issue because I am so unfit…and because most of the city was built before the elevator was invented or access for people with disabilities was considered necessary…but everywhere you go there are steps to get there…my initial concern about the 272 steps up to the Batu Caves in Malaysia seems silly in comparison to the number of steps to get from the Metro to the Sacre Couer.
#8 – OVERPRICED FOOD…I have no objection to paying a reasonable price for a good meal and paying a little extra for good service and a bit more again for a venue with a nice view…but paying a high price for food that has little flavour and required next to no effort to prepare, served by someone that clearly wishes you were not there, in a venue that is mediocre….well it is just frustrating. I mean, €5 (about $8) for a can of Sprite that you have to open yourself while sitting in a narrow seat about 2 feet from the street with smelly cars…given to you by a man who rolled his eyes and sighed when you suggested moving a table 6 inches to the left so that we could all sit together.
#9 – PIGEONS…I realise that most big cities don’t have an abundance of wildlife roaming the streets…but in Paris, the only animals you see are pigeons and the occasional feral cat…I know the rats are there too but thankfully we only saw one.
#10 – NO ARTISTS ON THE STREET…in films there is always an artist perched on a stool on the bank of the River Seine painting someones portrait or a landscape…but not this weekend. Maybe they don’t work on week-ends, or perhaps they are on their summer holidays, but I did expect to see a couple. We saw all of the little booths attached to top of the fence where they can store their equipment…but the few that were open were selling prints or souvenirs. I usually like to buy a painting when we are on holidays and had left this until Paris, so am pretty disappointed not to be able to. We went to a few galleries, but I didn’t see any that really caught my eye.
Having now written this and looked through my photos, I think I can scrape together 10 things that I liked about Paris too…so stay tuned!