Warning: The following content may contain elements that can distort unrealistic fantasies of Paris and is unsuitable for audiences who want to continue to have Eiffel Tower magazine cutouts on their honeymoon vision boards.
Viewer discretion is advised.
When traveling, there are two things that I factor in harshly:
- a high culture shock and
- a low expense.
None met Parisian standards.
As a Canadian, I thought of France as Canada’s older and wiser cousin. It’s different in geography, but we do intersect lifestyles and chunks of history. For me, Paris was a place to go when I was rich enough to buy something at Louis Vuitton, or at least Maison Laduree.
French, in general, brought back gross memories of elementary school where I constantly got in trouble for saying “Je suis fatigue” like “Je suis fatty gay” because I was a little piece of immature poop. I’m just throwing my bias out there.
Sure, Paris looks cute and posh on Instagram and Ratatouille (can you tell my knowledge of Paris is based on incredibly credible sources?), it was also vivid in media for its discrimination of minorities and let’s not forget its rich history of violent colonization and slavery.
As I was planning my trip to Spain, I found cheap flights via Paris and thought, let’s kill two birds with one stone. I’d marked off a couple of main routes for museum hopping and the usual ultra touristy landmarks to top it off. I was ready for a honeymoon with myself.
So, was Paris really worth all that hype?
French food I’ve seen on the Food Network is the complete opposite of my liking. Let’s be real, I’m not cultured enough to enjoy small portions and lack of hot sauce. However, I did order escargot (snails) voluntarily and enjoyed it. Would I do it again? If it’s free, sure.
Watching the street vendor make crepes by the Arc de Triomphe was nice and the macarons from Mcdonalds also aesthetically pleased me (for cheap!).
My snack consisted of fresh bread and hummus from Carrefour we chugged on the metro. What did stand out for me was Iskender Kebab at a Turkish restaurant. Not sure if the points here go to Turkey or France.
Transit & Navigation
I still have trouble with right and left so navigation has to be HELLA CLEAR for me to get from a to b. Multiply the TTC’s 2 lines by 50 in French, and you get a clueless Zahra. Paris was also doing this cute strike thing where the metro did not operate at certain stations and skipped some without warning. Super refreshing to get down at a 45 mins drive from your stop at 10 pm.
Regardless, I’m sure if the circumstances were different with the strike, it’d be a smoother run.
Another word of warning: PICKPOCKETING IS REAL AND ALIVE SO WATCH YOUR BAG LIKE A HAWK. More on this in another blog.
Hon Hon Hon Oui Oui Baguette is all the French I learned in 6 years of classes. Because Paris is literally the most popular tourist destination, people working in the service industry speak decent English for business. The further away from downtown we got, the more the barrier grew.
Which reminds me, I had a chance to sit in on a free poetry reading at the Shakespeare and Company bookstore. I studied Shakespeare throughout high school and university and got a little obsessed with Lady Macbeth at a point. Everyone who attended got to read a piece of their work while sipping tea.
The original bookstore was opened in 1919 by Sylvia Beach and was a meeting place for writers like Ernest Hemingway (my Papi <3) and Ezra Pound. It later closed in 1941 during the German occupation of Paris. The second location (pictured above) was opened by George Whitman and later named Shakespeare and Company to commemorate Beach. Today, it houses travelers and aspiring writers between bookshelf beds in exchange for their help around the store.
The Eiffel Tower
Yeah, the first thing I did in Paris was go to the Eiffel Tower, super cliché, I know, fight me. Again, I didn’t want to waste time and money waiting in line to go up so I rode the carousel for 4-year-olds beside it for 3 euros instead. No regrets.
At the end of the day, it’s just a phallic looking building (like the CN tower) constructed on the fragile egos of men. I was told its a sight to see at night but ain’t nobody got time for that.
I was expecting Quebecquis behavior where interactions were only ‘in French or fuck off’ but people were generally nice. Most people I spoke with were from parts of French Africa and went above and beyond to help. A super sweet Algerian Uber driver and I had a conversation about our entire lives with only my broken Egyptian and another offered his phone without hesitation so I could cancel my lost credit card. When we got lost in the subway, a Nigerian driver left his friends and offered to drop us off even though he was off the clock.
Paris is already a metropolitan, and with millions of visitors a year, it’s natural for any big city dweller to be a little on edge in so much hustle and bustle.
Art and Culture
Paris, like its across the pond brother London, did not disappoint with the rain. Even with a sea of umbrellas filling the horizon, tourists came, tourists saw, and tourists got in every damn line up. I’d planned on going to at least one of out of the Louvre, Notre Dame, Musée d’Orsay, or the Picasso National Museum, but lineups that continued 4 blocks down made it close to impossible. If you’re on a time constraint, it’s super important to pick one place and get there early so you don’t waste 3 hours in lines.
Our impatience led us to enjoy the freer things in life: like gardens. We went to the Tuileries Garden and people watched for a while and accidentally stumbled upon the Love Lock Bridge on our way there.
They had to actually cover the bridge with boards because the weight of the locks was dragging it down… only in Paris.
Amidst all the walking, we peeked at street artists and entered local galleries with high noises like we were going to buy the place.
If you’re buying half a dozen snails for 15 euros and taking 30 mins Uber rides like me, its gonna add up. Wait to get souvenirs from a place where there are a lot of shops because they have to keep the prices at an average for competition purposes. Nonetheless, Paris is definitely on the expensive side (compared to Southern Spain). Most things to see in Paris are free (Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Louvre, Tuileries Garden), so concentrate on projecting your cash for food and a b&bs in the city center.
Sure Paris is picturesque and some may consider French “sexy” but it wasn’t for me. There were way too many tourists and the trains were a labyrinth to get around. I think I’m mostly sour because of the metro strike. This was a “been there done that” trip and I don’t regret going but I probably wouldn’t do it again.
I’m not even sorry if you’re offended by this. This blog is strictly my personal opinion and based on my travel preferences. Everyone’s experience is different depending on their upbringing, abilities, company, budget, and time.
I saw a couple eating each other’s face in a garden so if that’s the city of love vibe you’re looking for, go for it.
How was your experience in Paris? Any tips if I visit another time? Please change my mind.
Check out my Paris vlog here:
4 Comments Add yours
Great review and detailed from different aspects. Love your pics you look so fab
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Thank you so much for reading! The magic of iPhones (:
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Love your writing Zahra. Thanks for sharing your perspective on the trip with us.
Thank you so much for the read! Sending all the good vibes your way!