Oui, oui, Paris.

4 Apr

Paris has to be one of the most exciting and romantic cities in the world. Paris is an absolute icon, and the number one visited tourist destination in the world. I have to say, it was one of the top things that I was looking forward to seeing in Europe.

Having been there and left again, my perception differs. What was once in my mind, a quaint and charming city, remains now as one of the most beautiful, but a lot less Parisian then expected. While I am certain that there are still place in Paris that meet my cobble stoned street, coffee sipping, Chanel wearing, cigarette smoking, poodle walking idealisms, central Paris is no longer this. The days of Madeline are over, and there is nothing I can do to save them.

Sights ticked off the list, Notre Dame, Arc du Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, the Moulin Rouge, the Seine, Champs Elysees, the Louvre, and oh so many more. Less desirable sights, now seen: soldiers wandering the gardens of the Lourve, casually strolling the Metropolitan, toting giant assault riffles; scalpers, dodgy looking men – everywhere, selling tourist shit off massive key rings and out of their pockets. Multi-coloured, flashing, light up Eiffel Towers, half dead roses to lovers, flying plastic thingys…

Oh, and a tourist to Parisian ratio of about 2:1. Full on. It seems to me, these days, many travelers prefer to experience their holidays through the lens of their video camera, then through their own eyes. The city is littered with inconsiderate travelers who feel the need to film approximately umm… ABSOLUTELY-EVERY FRICKEN-THING. These people litter Paris, soil it with their presence, pretty much ruining all the sights by standing in the way, or insisting that their entire, extended family and the other random tourists they met at their hotel, have a photograph in front of whatever it is you are trying to see, obscuring it from public view, as well obscuring it from actually being seen in the photograph. I don’t understand it, nor am I going to attempt to. Just take in deep breaths and count backwards from ten… nine… eight…

Anyway, no matter how hard I try now, Paris, or at least the idea of Paris, feels like a myth. A great hazy tale from history of romance, intrigue, beautiful specimens of men and women, designer gowns, charms and graces. This Paris, the one we all have, situated high on some ludicrous pedestal in our minds, where we play the femme fatale – the beautiful protagonist, who gets swept away by an arrogant, yet absurdly charming, chain-smoking Frenchman. I’m sorry, but this Paris doesn’t exist. Or if it does, I can’t help but feel it is the exception, not the norm. I don’t know what I really expected of Paris and don’t get me wrong, it is a fabulous city, filled with wonderful sights, great dramatic histories, priceless artworks, and soaring architecture. But somehow, the charm was just not there. I didn’t fall in love with the city of my daydreams. In fact, it almost feels like a break up of sorts. That horrible moment where you realise that nothing is what it seemed to be in the beginning, or what you wanted it to be in the end. Just something that looks good in theory, and boy, does it look good! But once you get to know it, the image is shattered, when reality hits. The honeymoon period is over, and when it comes down to it, Paris is just a grungy, urban city with it’s problems, just like any other.

I can’t help but wonder, if I went to Paris neutral, free from the associations and glamorizations that the media use to define it, whether I could have loved it for what it is, instead of mourning what it is not.

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