I’m just going to come right out and say it: I didn’t love Paris; maybe I’m not a real girl.
It took me by surprise, too. I always thought I’d love Paris – the incredible food, beautiful buildings… as a small child I had dreamed of being proposed to under the Eiffel tower (I was very original). But the reality of the Paris I’d dreamed of and the Paris I found was very different. While there’s no doubt that the buildings are extremely romantic and Parisians dress like no one else, there was no escaping the fact that everything smelled like pee.
And the trains were on strike.
And it was awfully expensive.
But I’ll return to Paris someday. It’s really high on my to visit again list, so that I can do it a good justice. I made the mistake of going to Paris with two guys who had already been before; they were quite happy sitting in cafes drinking beer, rather than exploring the Louvre or one of the many beautiful jardins.
Here are some things I wish I’d done in Paris to enjoy my time more.
Stopped penny pinching. I remember sitting in a café browsing the menu and converting the price of an espresso to that of two and a half coffees back home in New Zealand, so I decided not to buy the coffee. But that became my motto for all of my purchases in Paris, if it was more expensive than in New Zealand I was simply not interested. After a few years of travel I’ve learned that this is a silly mentality – now I like to think about how much it will cost me to get back to Paris to enjoy that coffee, and it’s certainly much more than the outright price. When I return to Paris I’ll come with a big, generous budget and an open mind.
Stayed in a nice hotel. While staying at hotels in Paris can be expensive, although you can find some great deals online. Last time I was there I stayed in an apartment, which was a cool experience but it didn’t feel that special. Although Parisian hotels are expensive, from what I’ve seen they are extremely luxurious and beautifully adorned, so it’d be nice to go home after a long day of enjoying museums and galleries to draw a bath in an elegant room only to later munch on some macarons in a robe. Most of the time when I travel I stay in cheap hostels, so it’d be nice to allow myself this special treat.
Visited the museums. My trip was badly planned; we were in Paris on a Tuesday which is when the majority of the museums and galleries are closed. We didn’t realize that, until we were there. It was very disappointing. I also remember a few galleries were open but their entry fees were expensive and I was too cheap… ah now look at how much it’s going to cost me to get back there to see them – lesson learned.
Learned some French. My boyfriend at the time and I decided to do a cheap dinner at home. We bought some bread, some cheese and then we walked into a deli to order some meat. We spoke basically no French, although we tried to explain that we spoke no French in French as a sign of respect. We pointed to the meat we wanted and tried to signal 200g on our phones. The attendant was frustrated we didn’t speak French and instead of trying to come to a solution, promptly ushered us out of his store. He’d rather have no sale, than try to deal with people who do not speak his language. This is the only place in the entire world where I’ve experienced this problem. In many Asian countries the locals will apologise for their lack of English. I think if I had learned a little more French, perhaps numbers and how to order things, my stay would have been a little more comfortable. Failing that, I could always meet up with some Couchsurfers to help show me around and act as translators.
Have you visited Paris? What did you think?