I don’t care how cliché it sounds I am in love with the city of Paris. I have been fortunate enough to have visited a couple of times and I always depart longing for more. I’ve spent days cramming in as many attractions and activities as possible and I’ve spent days meandering the streets with no real objective for the day, passing the time in one of Paris’s many beautiful parks. Whatever your travel style, Paris can accommodate you.
It can be said that Paris has a certain unique charm. I was reflecting recently on what it is that makes Paris so special and had a revelation about this charming city. There are the obvious factors like the monuments, fine dining, and world-famous museums. But aside from the obvious attractions, I realised that there are some charms to Paris that would in actual fact, detract from the charm of a city anywhere else in the world.
Lets talk about accommodation in Paris. Now if you have money to spend there are plenty of luxury hotels for your choosing, many with iconic views of the Eiffel Tower. But for a large majority of people, especially budget travellers, some of the accommodation options available can be interesting to say the least. Shoe box hotel rooms are pretty much the standard for Paris yet I struggle to be annoyed by this. In fact, residing in small living quarters feels as much as the Parisian experience as it is walking along the river Seine. For me, it actually adds to the charm because it is what I have come to expect. During my last visit to the city I stayed in the neighborhood of Montparnasse. When accessing my room for the first time I remember opening the door and just about bump into the bed. Everything about that room was economically sized, from the shower cubicle to the toilet. The space for the toilet was so small that when sitting, my knees were preventing me from closing the door! l would consider myself a tall person at around 5’7”, but I am by no means a giant. Despite all of this I was thrilled with my tiny hotel room and I couldn’t help but laugh because we were in Paris, so of course the rooms are small!
While on the subject of accommodation I’d like to make a special mention for those tiny elevators in hotels. I can definitely say that I have been in shower cubicles larger than some of the elevators in Paris. It is an experience that’s for sure. After checking in to my hotel and feeling tired after a long journey, I asked the receptionist at the hotel if there was an elevator I could use. She pointed to what looked like a cupboard door and informed that it fits one person and one luggage. Now for me to actually fit into this lift and close the door behind me, I had to try to make myself as thin as possible. I basically had to suck in and stand on tiptoes to fit myself and bag (which was a 70 Litre backpack on wheels, not even a standard suitcase size) in the elevator. It was a short elevator ride, just two floors up from the ground level, but I really could not wait to get out. In the time I was cramped in there I just had terrifying visions of getting stuck. Needless to say I steered clear of the elevator for the rest of my stay. Even though the elevator was confined and the room a little cramped, I still loved every minute of my stay in that tiny hotel room in Montparnasse. For some strange reason it was a part of the appeal of travelling to Paris.
The city of Paris is most famously known as the ‘City of Love’, and boy don’t some people know it. As a destination that is chosen by many couples as a romantic escape, witnessing loved-up couples strolling the streets are quite the norm. It is a part of what makes the city so charming and romantic. But I’m not talking about the cute couples that hold hand through the streets or share a kiss at romantic attractions like the Eiffel Tower. I’m talking about the people who really go over the top with the public display of affection. Apparently on my latest visit, Paris had run out of tiny hotel rooms because the Champ de Mars and Jardin du Luxembourg was the place to be for a non-family friendly, romantic rendezvous. You don’t normally think twice about such rendezvous in the park in Paris. It is the effect the city has on visitors that they just don’t care. However, to witness the same thing in a park in the suburbs of Sydney for example, really does not have the same charm and beauty about it.
In my opinion, if you were to hire a car in Paris it would mean that you are one very confident (and slightly crazy) person. While crazy driving is not unique to Paris, witnessing the Parisian driving style is definitely part of the travel experience there. Paris has many vantage points from which to view this road madness, with my favourtie being from atop the Arc de Triomphe. When you make it to the top of this attraction for views over the city, don’t forget to look down and enjoy the wonder that is driving in Paris. I think it is fair to say that I actually spent more time gazing down at the road that circles the monument, than I did enjoying the rest of the view. You don’t need to scale famous monuments to appreciate the driving in Paris as there is just as much to see from the street level. I think the best places to watch this spectacle are at the major roads and intersections.
It is a cliché of Paris that the people there are notoriously rude. Now I disagree with this statement wholeheartedly. In my previous visits I haven’t experienced such supposed rudeness. That’s not to say that there aren’t people frustrated or annoyed by tourists from time to time. But frustrated locals can be found anywhere in the world. Just like crazy driving, it is not strictly unique to Paris. However, visitors to the city may possess more tolerance for rude service because they are led to believe it is part of the Parisian experience. Anywhere else in the world, people would complain and become frustrated by such unfriendliness. But in Paris, it is an unusual quirk to the place that some people half expect or just do not mind.
There are many qualities that make Paris a wonderful place to visit. However, some of the elements that make Paris a charming destination would not have the same effect on a city anywhere else in the world. Despite some of the city’s quirks my love affair with the French capital continues.
Was there anything that I missed? Do you have any experiences in Paris that were wonderful, but would disappoint you elsewhere? Let me know in the comments below!