History in the Making

History in the Making

How to Deal With a Let-Down City

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.
Let Down City Paris

The Story
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.
Carousel Sacre Coeur Paris
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.)
Paris Museum
Looking Back
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!
Eiffel Tower Paris
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!
Sacre Coeur Paris
What is your let-down city? 
Until tomorrow,
The Historian!
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18 thoughts on “How to Deal With a Let-Down City”

  • So funny I come across this post after I just came back from a vacation. I have to say that I had my ups and downs about the islands I visited in the Caribbean. Grand Turk was both beautiful and depressing. You have the wonderful beach, clear water, soft sand, friendly guide… then you have clear hurricane destruction, wild horses and mules walking along the sides of the road looking famished, and just a feel that this country can use an economic stimulus. Then there was Freeport, Bahamas that, besides the coolness of the boat excursion we took, I would probably not want to go back there. I saw a lot of run downness in that area as well. Almost like people depend on tourism for everything. It made me feel for the people in some of these outlying areas.

    • I think that is always a good thing for us to see the reality of life of the places we are visiting BUT sometimes it can be so difficult to bring our experience and that of locals together. It’s fascinating to me that there can be such a disparity in places thar are so close together. Did they warn you in any way before you left the ship for the excursions of what you might encounter?

  • Have you ever heard of Paris syndrome? It’s an actual thing! In Japanese it’s パリ症候群
    Every year lost of Japanese people visit Paris and are so disappointed by it that they go into shock and need help at the Japanese embassy in Paris! The get properly sick, like shaking and dizzy. All because Paris doesn’t live up to their high expectations. Anyway, this just shows you’re not alone!!
    I actually quite like Paris BUT I tend to walk, so avoid their public transport… I think it can be a stunning place to explore in the sun.

  • Have you ever heard of Paris syndrome? It’s an actual thing! In Japanese it’s パリ症候群
    Every year lost of Japanese people visit Paris and are so disappointed by it that they go into shock and need help at the Japanese embassy in Paris! The get properly sick, like shaking and dizzy. All because Paris doesn’t live up to their high expectations. Anyway, this just shows you’re not alone!!
    I actually quite like Paris BUT I tend to walk, so avoid their public transport… I think it can be a stunning place to explore in the sun.

    • I hadn’t heard of it until after I had visited, but from everything i see on social media, I can only imagine the let down from looking at those perfect pictures to the reality of Paris!!
      I was planning on walking, and then after the whole multiple pick pocket things, I changed my mind :'( I think if I do go back, I would want to make sure I have a local with me!

  • Ugh, Amsterdam. The first time I went, I had a fab time. The city was entertaining and clean. I just went again this past February expecting to show my kiddo the amazing city I enjoyed before he came about. Nope, this time, it was dirty, crowded, and everywhere we walked people were smoking pot in the street. The smell made me nauseous for the 4 days we were there.

    • I’ve heard that about Amsterdam- my friend was there for a month for work, and she can’t stand the smell of pot (it smells like a dying skunk to me)- she said it seemed like mostly tourists walking around and smoking it just because they could! People will occasionally do that in Seattle and I always give them a wide berth. Isn’t it funny how a city can be amazing in your memory and then totally off the next time??

  • While I loved Paris (and London, and everywhere I went in Scotland, and Barcelona) … my let-down city was Rome. I’m sure a lot of it had to do with the timing; we arrived there during the papal inauguration and the Rome marathon, entirely by chance. The thermostat in our hotel was stuck in a position that made the room like a sauna; the hotel was full and, frankly, didn’t give a damn that we were roasting. They told us to open a window. Well, our ‘window” was a French door onto the interior of the hotel, next to the fire escape — which they told us “hardly anyone uses,” as though that was a comfort. There were charlatans everywhere, e.g., young women dressed as old women, pretending to be crippled pilgrims outside churches, with their faces to the ground — but readily recognizable as young women if you looked at their hands.
    The city was filthy, with trash and cigarette butts everywhere. My husband started referring to Rome as Europe’s ashtray.
    The thing is, he was the one who wanted so desperately to go to Rome. Like you with Paris, I was indifferent to the idea … and wound up utterly miserable.

    • This is why I’m also VERY hesitant to go to Rome- I know so many that have had similar experiences, especially with people trying to con them left and right. Yes, I could theoretically avoid the tourist type things but I genuinely want to see some of them. I’ve never had another city let me down this much, And the bar wasn’t particularly high. Many people say I need to give it more of a chance but I could go somewhere else that I might love- plus, I don’t know if I want to take the same risks again…

  • Paris was quite a let-down for me too… Being sick, exhausted by the major stress of moving abroad and having very high expectations didn’t help! But I’m not ready to put it behind completely… We travelled last year in the worst touristy time (August) so we are planning a winter trip for my birthday in December. I’m hoping to like it better but if not, I can say I’ve tried! 😉

  • Hi Jess, I liked Paris rather then loved it, and felt the same about Amsterdam too, bit the court that really disappointed me was Copenhagen. It may have been the terrible weather, or the huge amounts of construction going on, or the fact that everything was so expensive but I really didn’t connect with a city that everyone else seems to love.

    • I’m so glad it isn’t just me!! It sounds odd but those “small” things like weather and construction completely affect our perception of a new city- I don’t want to spend the time into learning to love a city I didn’t care for, when I could go to a new place I might love!! And I’m torn about visiting Amsterdam, I don’t know if it’s for me :/

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