Unpopular opinion: Paris is not my favourite city.
Why, you might ask? My friend and I were chased into a bakery by a man screaming incoherently at us, in the middle of the day, along a busy street. In several other spots, we were screamed at, surrounded, and men tried to grab us.
As you can imagine, it was a bit of a buzzkill.
Coming from a city that is, in the areas I visit, peaceful, it was also very strange to see military and police with giant guns patrolling the street at all times.
These points aside, though, there’s no denying that Paris is a magnificent city. (This paragraph topic switch is the written equivalent of a shrug: stuff happened, it sucked, we dealt with it.)
We did all the typical touristy things: walking along the Seine, walking up to Montmartre, (basically, a lot of walking in general), and eating baguettes and cheese and pastries (which is why we needed to walk so much).
One of the most intense walks (and most touristy things) we did was going up the Eiffel Tower. The views of the city were amazing- I had never realized just how large Paris was until then.
And the view of the Tower itself was amazing too! (If you’re not interested in touristy things, you probably shouldn’t be reading this blog. You’ve been warned.)
The next day, following our visits to the heights of Paris (and lots of croissants), we went to its depths: the catacombs.
This leads me to a digression: I could never live in Paris because of its lack of takeaway cafés. I can appreciate the culture in which people just sit calmly with their coffee and watch the world go by… but I am an impatient Canadian who just wants to grab a latte to go.
For someone who is fascinated by death and destruction, the catacombs were a top-notch destination. I would recommend getting an audio guide, though. We didn’t, and there weren’t many signs indicating their history, so we wished we had.
Or, you can just soak in the ambiance of death. Your choice.
I was hoping to see a ghost or three, but there didn’t seem to be any, unfortunately. (However, I still have a cough from a few weeks ago, so I might have caught the plague.)
And even if I didn’t see any ghosts, it’s hard not to imagine them all over Paris- Marie Antoinette being led to the guillotine and Fitzgerald discussing literature with his fellow expats are some of my favourites.
At our next destination, I imagined another huge historical event : Napoleon being crowned emperor.
That’s what I love most about Paris. History is engrained everywhere in the landscape. You walk by 800-year-old buildings on the way to work. All I walk by on the way to work are offices built in the sixties. (Insert tears here.)
We then walked to another Napoleonic bit of history: l’Arc de Triomphe.
My real question: why did people start building arches to represent victory anyway? What is it about an arch that says, “Hey, look at us, we won a war?!” Historians, please submit your responses.
All of these places were beautiful (or, in the case of the catacombs, beautifully creepy) but my favourite place in Paris was definitely the Louvre. The courtyard and the building itself were a work of art in and of themselves.
And the inside is no less magnificent. Being able to witness works of art that I’m used to reading about or seeing in photos only was an incomparable privilege, like this one.
Tatiana’s Travel Tips, Paris Edition:
- If you’re an EU student, most museums and monuments are free!
- Try to arrive close to the opening time for museums. That way you won’t have to wait in line as long.
- It’s very difficult to find decent wifi anywhere (even Starbucks? I have never felt so betrayed) so be prepared to know where you’re going without relying on Google Maps (or just make sure one of your party has data).
Next up: Howth & Kilkenny!