Once you start travelling, you will realise that there are going to be places that let you down. For whatever reason, you don’t connect with it and it leaves you wondering “why on earth did I ever chose to come to this stupid place” while everyone else continually pins pictures of it dreamily. You may even shake your head when people wax lyrically about this city fulfilled all of their dreams. For me, that city was Paris.
I will admit, I wanted to see Paris but I wasn’t dyyyyyying to go- that was Dublin and London for me. Still, given the amount of history in Paris, I was intrigued. We finished up three days in London, and grabbed the Eurostar over to Paris. (A little boring in the pitch black tunnel part, but riding across the countryside was quite beautiful!) We arrived in Paris in the Gare du Nord station, and our adventure began! And it began by someone trying to pickpocket my friend…. Every time we rode the train, creepy and frankly off-putting characters tried to talk to us the entire way. Paris is the only city that I’ve ever felt unsafe in- Dublin, London, Berlin, Chicago, all safe. Paris? Not at all, for me. (This isn’t to say that things can’t happen in those cities, just that keeping my normal wits and common sense about me meant I felt okay.) Also, something that they don’t tell you? That Paris often smells like urine. From what I’ve read, it’s because of higher ammonia levels in the soil, but it really doesn’t set the ambience that everyone seems to rave about… I fully admit that part of it was me being a sick- having a slightly nauseous tummy all the time doesn’t help.
How to Cope At the Time
I’m not going to lie, I went into hyper paranoid mode. Sure, I was pretty highly strung but it did make me feel better. We also took a Hop On, Hop Off bus, which is a) super convenient for seeing all of the major spots in any city for a fairly reasonable price, and b) it made me feel more secure. Plus, being that we sat on the open top, we actually got some pretty cool pictures that we wouldn’t have otherwise been able to take. I dove into the history of everything and tried to connect what I was seeing with what I knew of the past, which is kind of a relaxing and centring exercise for any historian. I think what helped me in the end, though, is realising that every traveller has some rougher moments, and that at the end, hopefully this will be a great story. (I don’t know that it is a great story, but it’s a story nonetheless.)
Looking back at Paris is now just kind of an “ugh” feeling for me. I see countless and neverending pins of Paris and just scratch my head asking, “Did we go to the same city?” I didn’t know that Paris Syndrome is an actual thing that people experience, but now that I’ve been, it totally makes sense. (I wouldn’t say I had Paris Syndrome, because I didn’t go into it thinking it was going to be this magical place to begin with.) I’ve a few other friends that have travelled and feel the same way about Paris- for different reasons, but the same feelings. And I think we all have those feelings about places we visits. One person’s “holy grail” city is another’s “hard pass”- it all comes down to you. And even though I wasn’t comfortable, it was only two days, and I got to spend it with a dear friend after also exploring Dublin, London, and Berlin- a pretty good tour if I do say so myself!
Bonus- Things I Was Surprised By in Paris
-Much of the architecture looks the same. I’m guessing it’s because of the Second World War, but every young twenty something girl shares pictures of the gorgeous Paris apartment she wants to live in- a lot of the buildings look like that. It’s not a bad thing, but it threw me off after seeing the variety in London, Dublin, and Berlin!
-The Seine River was just a river (this also goes for the Thames, and the Liffey…)- I don’t know if people just don’t have rivers where they come from, but I don’t understand the utter joy people have at rivers. Winnipeg has two, so the excitement factor isn’t there for me.
-The number of bookshops! It was wonderful to see how many little bookshops and stalls there are in Paris. It very well may have had something to do with where we were but it felt like everywhere I looked, someone was selling books. All the books!
What is your let-down city?