I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been somewhere new, and found that it wasn’t what they were expecting at all?
I didn’t have many expectations to be fair when visiting Paris, only the one – that it would be different to home – because that usually is the case with travelling. And in many senses, most of the points I discuss in this post prove that yes, Paris is different to London. The main difference is it’s architecture. Which is probably what gave Paris its title of ‘the most beautiful city in the world.’ The preservation of the 17th century buildings, is almost like going back in time. I say almost because, it’s not like going back in time, not really. It’s the capital city, just like London, it has the metro, London has TFL. The streets are small and always busy. There are the same grumpy faces and the same dreary weather. (That last bit is partially true because I was lucky enough to get the hot sun and high temperatures while I was there – I can thank/blame global warming for that.)
So really apart from pretty buildings and a cleaner river what is different about Paris? What is it that people are not telling you? What do you actually know about Paris other than its beauty?
- Please mind the gap between the train and the platform.
London’s transport is well known for it’s annoyingly hypnotic sort of repetitive voice on the underground. No matter how deep your thoughts are there’s no escaping the inevitable moment that the voice in your head says those lines in absolute sync with the voice on speaker. Well, Paris doesn’t have that. If you’re lost in thought, well sorry, you’ve missed your stop. With their incredible sense of preservation, many of the trains still use the train handles which you open yourself when you want to get off (quite unnecessary if you ask me. I mean it looks all fancy but what if you have a thousand bags to pick up, then what?) Call it a first world problem or what you will but, if this is not already stressful enough, the doors stay open for a mere 20 seconds, maybe even shorter, before they close. I suppose the extreme blaring horn sound that warns you that the doors are closing serve their purpose here. Even if they scare the life out of you and make you feel like you’ve been caught stealing from a bank.
2. Please keep your belongings close to you at all times.
It is not news, wherever you are in the world, that when you go abroad you must have a heightened sense of protection over your items, because pickpockets are everywhere. Always have been, always will. Paris has never struck me as the type of city where pickpockets come in abundance, yet it is the case. It’s easy to see why with overcrowded tourist attractions, but it has never been highlighted about how common it is in Paris. I didn’t think it would have needed to be either, despite how busy London is, theft is not on the list of ‘what should I be most concerned about?’ It was only when I caught a thugs hand in my backpack did I actually realise that they really are everywhere and no matter how safely you think you have kept your belongings, there’s always a safer way. The best of the theives come in disguises, you can be fooled by an old man with a newspaper and a decent outfit. For all you know the homeless boy on the street is probably more honest than him. (That being said there were homeless boys on the street who would place their cups of change in the middle of the walkway so that in groups of people someone was bound to knock it over and eventually stop.)
3. HI HO It’s off to work we go.
I always hear from people who visit Britain and in particular London that, British people are so grumpy. I feel that way sometimes too and i’m British so I can’t defend this statement because it’s most likely true. You walk the streets and people mind their own business (so really that’s a good thing…) People just don’t seem to be smiling or really aware of their surroundings because they’re so caught up in their hectic lives. Although having experienced walking around Paris a whole lot I feel like we (the British) are far politer – as we are proud to be – than Parisians. They probably don’t really care whether they’re seen as polite or not because they have art and art is humanity but, if someone pushes past you, it’s safe to say that they may not apologise and you shouldn’t feel offended because it’s not you, it’s just them. That’s the busy, grumpy life they lead – just a tad grumpier than the British.
4. Before you leave, please clean up.
As strange as it may sound, I think i’ll have to mark this is as the highlight of my trip to Paris purely because it’s so underrated and under appreciated in my opinion. Everyone and anyone who has travelled to London before knows that it’s not always the cleanest city. I’ve never been proud of this fact because no matter how many cleaners you see around there always seems to be a mess regardless. Paris is satisfyingly clean. The effort they put into keeping it that way can make a bad day good. The public toilets even have a self cleansing system after each person has used it – what could be better than that, honestly? The world needs self cleaning public toilets and it would be a much happier place.
5. …But we’re still waiting in the queue.
Maybe it’s a European thing… standing in queues. It’s definitely not just a British thing. The French queues go on for miles. The longest that we had waited in a queue on our trip was probably one and a half hours. This was just one queue, after that there were several more throughout the day. For such a fast paced city, there is an incredible amount of waiting. The Eiffel Tower for example has a queue for security, tickets, security, entrance, lifts up and down – in that order. Neither of those queues are short during term time so one can only imagine the length of them when it’s peak season. I can’t remember the last time I stood in a queue in London for that long. Usually they move pretty fast but I could be wrong. The British are not the only queue lovers though, let’s get the word around. And as is customary in queues, there will always be salesmen who wish to get a quick quid off you – you’ll always find differing prices but the funniest part is that they all sell the exact same things so you’ll get really bored of seeing them around when you’re standing in the scorching heat for hours. No doubt.
It’s not that I prefer one over the other, as they are two very similar cities. I was more amazed that I wasn’t ever told how similar the two are and that the differences are almost mediocre – except for the self cleaning toilets. As a landscape, Paris seems to provide better opportunities for viewing the city. Sacre Coeur allows you to see the cityscape from high up for free (excluding transport) as opposed to paying to go up the Shard or the London Eye. It’s important to know that not every trip will change your life in some way. Still, it’s worth travelling anyway and discovering for yourself what a place has to offer or not offer.
Period of stay: 5 nights, 6 days
Place of stay: Paris, Colonel Fabien
- Eiffel Tower
- Musée du Louvre
- Musée d’Orsay
- Versailles Palace
- Notre Dame Cathedral
- La Sacre Coeur
- Rue du Bac