I have seen many posts, from t-shirts to coffee mugs to note books, emblazoned with the phrase: “Paris is always a good idea”. But is it really?
Who hasn’t day dreamed about a trip to Paris? Or at least romantacised an evening in the French capitol. After all, any place known as “The city of love” is surely a good idea. As if the air there is somehow rose-coloured. Paris has captured the hearts of so many that it seems to be a must on many a bucket list – as it certainly was for me. I was dying to see the city of Coco Chanel, Moulin Rouge and the home of the Mona Lisa. I think part of the romanticism of Paris is it’s connection to art. Many an artist who felt persecuted or misunderstood in their home countries have fled there in order to create. Even South African writers fled to Paris in the years of censure to create their art in an environment conducive to art, instead of politics and conservatism.
My brother had been to Paris before I had even dreamed that I would be able to go. In his opinion it was “really great for two days. And then you’ve seen the Eiffel Tower and had a croissant and you’re kind of over it”. But I hadn’t seen the Eiffel Tower, or tasted a proper Parisienne croissant, or walked up the Champs Elysees and those were things I desperately wanted to do.
My husband and I had been married for almost five months when his work sent him to Europe. He was going to a small town in Belgium, close to the French border and less than two hours drive from Paris. My husband suggested that I go with him, and that we take an extra day or two and spend them in Paris. For the first time, seeing the Eiffel Tower was a possibility. As soon as the trip was arranged Mauritz warned me: People are often disappointed with Paris.
Travelers to France build up this idea in their minds about Paris. Movies don’t help either. You expect this immaculate city with perfect weather, beautiful women clad in designer clothes and music on every corner. Often when tourists get there after dreaming about the city for years they are disappointed because it still is a very large city. For the many, many people who actually live there, Paris is their home, place of work and generally a place where general day-to-day things need to get done. Adding to that, they have to get to all these places with tourists standing on sidewalks looking at buildings they pass daily. They are not musically inclined or bursting into song. In fact, many consider Parisians to be rude.
I was forewarned now on two sides. A brother and husband telling me not to expect too much. We planned to spend only two days in the city before moving. Perhaps because my husband decided to minimise risks in case my heart was broken (“Paris syndrome” is a real thing. The Japanese embassy in Paris even has a help line for it).
My Experience of Paris
Maybe because my mother raised me to be pragmatic, or maybe because both my husband and my brother had done damage control, I loved Paris. I fell in love with the city that spent two summer days in. There is a feeling of awe when you are surrounded by so much history and beauty when you walk down the street. I also left wanting more. The following January we had the opportunity to go again due to my husband’s work. This time we spent a whole week in city, close to The Louvre. Maybe I did a lot of good in a past life, or maybe I’m just more blessed than I deserve, but my husband and I got to spend our first anniversary as husband and wife in Paris during that week.
It is important to note that Paris is not good on a budget. It is an expensive city, and if you are from a smaller town, accommodation is going to feel cramped. I also think that enjoying Paris depends on the type of holiday you enjoy and if you are willing to experience the city for what it isx, and not what you thought it would be like. From my experience, it was exactly what you thought it would be, and at the same time not at all. We planned a few things that we wanted to see, and left time to wander about the city, exploring small cafes and markets, soaking in the city and its people.
What’s to come
Over the next few posts I’m going to share our experiences in Paris. Based on what we decided to do, where to go, and how exactly we got there. I loved the city, and if you are planning on going, then the next few posts will help you out. If you have always wanted to go, I hope these posts will inspire you to book that plane ticket. Paris can certainly be a city of love, but then again I’ve found that if you are traveling with the right person, they all are.