Paris is commonly known as the “City of Love” for various reasons like its popularity as a honeymoon destination, sights or native language.
Eiffel Tower, as be described as the most romantic places of all. It has been one on of the most visited paid for monuments in the world.
Growing up, I saw many people dreaming about their Paris vacation. For those lucky one who has been there, they always dream about going back. They can go on and on about how great that place is.
Obviously, Paris was in my-list too. Well, with all the hype about how romantic the city was, how pretty the sights are. All that time when I used to read about Paris only one word came to my mind “EXQUISITE” – their language, fashion,food, champagne and of course the people. Just put “French” in-front of anything, and it automatically becomes exquisite.
So, when I finally got a chance to visit, I was over-the-roof!
See, before I started my trip, my friends who have been there before warned me about the pick-pockets and how good they are. I also read many bad reviews about the city in many of the FB groups.
Well, like everyone else I told myself, it cant be that bad. Its Paris after all. It must just be some bad experiences. I only trusted the pick-pocket stories and disregarded the rest of the reviews as “just their luck” and minor casualty.
When I arrived at Gare De Lyon from Bern, I was super excited. That building was beautiful with all the Christmas decoration still on. I was relieved and for a brief moment it was awwwww Paris, truly, you are beautiful.
That lasted for minutes.
I had to take the metro line to Bir-Hakeim. While I was still in Gare De Lyon, there was lifts, elevators, nice environment. Once, I reach the metro connection, hell started for real.
To begin with, that TOILET smell everywhere. That musty corridor walls and that stairs with no elevators in sight. While taking stairs is healthy, try doing it with 20kg luggage and 10kg backpack. Phewww.. I even saw parents with prams and their shock faces.
Gare de Lyon is an international train station. If just changing the floor no can be bring so much of change, I started to have my doubts.
My bag of “Mamees” and gloves got pick-pocketed in London. So, I was trying my very best not loose anything else. All those reminders, safety tips, was playing in my head. I must have look very stressed.
Weirdest thing was, most of the people had the same expression. I literally heard a family conversation – dont stay near the train doors, dont hold your bag like that, stay here where I can see the bag”.
I was not the only one!
At Bir-Hakeim station, well, honestly I couldnt thank my lucky stars enough when I saw that elevator. Although it only fits 2 people with 2 luggage at a time.
My hotel was a 5 minutes walk from here. Just by exciting the station, I was greeted by the smell of burning rubbers. Ah, that yellow-jacket protest. I stayed there for 3 days and till the last day, the burnt vehicles was still there just next to the station that was near to Eiffel Tower.
I understand that riots are to be held-responsible. And, the riots might be even well justified. But, just leaving the burnt vehicles next to a station that tourists mostly use is not right.
After checking in and all, (honestly, thank god the hotel was good) I went to walk to find food and well discover city. That smell of pastries, display of chocolates and LIGHTS were very interesting.
Horrible was the stench of pee that I got in between.
Day 2, after lunch, we were supposed to discover all those monuments, landmarks. So first stop is Eiffel Tower.
It is the most popular monument. Huge crowds were expected, long queues to go in. We went to Parc du Champ de Mars to enjoy the view.
It was far from romantic.
Thrash bin overflowing, rubbish everywhere, smell of urine (again!) so many illegal street vendors and sadly when I looked at Eiffel, I only remember how much better Tokyo Tower was.
To add on, when you try to take in the view, you will also notice all the vandalized buildings. I guess it was supposed to be street arts, but seriously just painting some fancy name with black paint is not art.
That definitely was not exquisite.
We had better time trying to spot the pickpockets and watching the illegal vendors haggle tourists.
Most of the scam, pickpocket tactics reported by previous tourist were true. We even saw those with strings. They tie tourist’s hand unexpectedly and they dont remove it till, they got what they want. Watching this, my hands were in my pockets all the time.
With this, no one was excited for the next monument. Went back to the hotel and waited for the NYE countdown event.
Lights always make things better. At night, Eiffel Tower view from Seine river was fantastic. But the view of Seine river was not.
There are those river cruise and eateries along the river. Yet, you can spot people pee-ing into the river, under the bridge right opposite the eateries.
At Champ de Elysees, I first hand experience counting down to New Year while the protest were going on. Luckily, the protest was peaceful.
Heavy police presences, all the fashion power brand hoarding up their shops and everything except for countable eateries was closed.
They knew about the protest. I only got to know because I saw all the hoarding up, police present and confirmed it when the protest started itself. While I was going out from the hotel, the receptionist greeted me with – Have a great evening! with no reminder of the possible protest taking place even when they knew it has turn violent before.
On 01/01/19, I couldn’t wait to go to Brussels. Yup, pickpockets are active there too, but atleast, when I was at the train station, that kind lady at the ticketing counter reminded me of them and asked me to be careful. When I was in the train to Amsterdam, there were even public service announcement about pickpockets being active in train.
That is when I got my epiphany.
The main problem in Paris is ignorance of the social problems. Tourist only reports the problem when they are a victim.
Throughout the 3 days, you dont see any see any friendly faces helping you or even any responsible person reminding you.
If in that heavy police presence, people can just publicly urinate in Seine river opposite the most visited payed monument without fearing any consequence there’s nothing much left to say.
I guess, the attitude is “Its your choice, you deal with it”.
Lastly, people remember Paris for having love in the air, being the city of light, all I am going to remember is the smell of urine everywhere, seeing vandalized building, worrying 100% of the time about pickpockets and not even one friendly face!
Definitely not Exquisite.
The concept of Paris that was sold to us is very different from the reality.
p/s: the only highlight of the 3 days of trip was the 4 minutes fireworks. It redeemed the trip.