As you may or may not know, when I did my study abroad to London a couple of years ago, Mom and Aunt S. came and visited me over spring break, and we went to Paris, Frankfurt, Berlin, and Prague. Paris was probably my favorite, and here are a few things that you often hear about Paris that I didn’t find to be true.
- Paris is dirty.
While I’m sure that this is true about some parts of Paris, the part that we stayed in was not only fairly clean, but beautiful. Our hotel was only a couple of blocks away from the louvre, which I realize is not possible for everyone. However, we went to several different neighborhoods in Paris, and everywhere seemed like it was clean and well kept.
2. The Mona Lisa is small.
I had heard this for years. All I ever heard about the Mona Lisa was that it was much smaller than anybody expected. So, when it was finally time for me to see her, I was expecting something like a 10×12 painting. In reality, it’s 2 ft. 6 by 1 ft. 9. (I didn’t just know that, I googled it.) anyway, it was much larger than I was expecting. And I was very impressed. One thing I will say though, is that you couldn’t get very close because of the large crowd of people. I felt bad for the other paintings in that room, because no one looks at those, everyone’s sole focus is on the Mona Lisa.
3. Parisians are rude.
Despite taking two and a half years of French in college, I speak very little French. I understand far more than I can actually speak, but I was a little concerned about how we were going to communicate. I shouldn’t have worried. Everywhere we went, people were incredibly polite. We greeted the shopkeepers when we entered a store, and since we were speaking in English, everyone that we spoke to had not trouble responding in kind. Even the waiters and waitresses were, while not always effusive, they were happy to explain what a menu item was, or were patient with the language barrier.
4. Paris is too expensive.
Well, that depends on what you want to do, and how you decide to spend your money. If you’re eating at the super fancy restaurants, and are shopping in the frou frou stores, then yes, your expenses are sure to add up quickly. However, we all tried to be not cheap, but thrifty. I would recommend not eating at restaurants that are right beside popular tourist attractions if you can help it, because those are going to be more expensive. Most places, though not all, have either a menu online or outside the restaurant, so you can see the offerings and the prices before you go in. also, there’s often menus in other languages outside, because depending on where you eat, the menu inside might be only in French. (This is true of other countries as well.)
5. Paris is too crowded
Now, to be fair, we were in Paris late February, early March. That’s not exactly peak tourist season. However, we did frequent the tourist sites. While we did have to wait in line sometimes, I don’t think we ever waited more than about fifteen minutes at any one place. I think our longest wait was in the line for the elevator for the Eiffel Tower, and that wasn’t very long at all.
6. The metro is awful
As I’ve already said, my French is not very good. And all the Paris Metro signs are, understandably, in French. In my favor, however, I had already learned how to use the London Underground. Thankfully, we stayed out of the metro at peak times, so it was never so crowded that we were packed in like sardines. If you take your time to figure it out, the metro isn’t so bad. I would recommend that you not ride it for the first couple of times if you’re on a tight schedule, but other than that it wasn’t bad at all.
7. It’s overrun with gypsies tramps and thieves
Now, I’m not going to say that you don’t need to be on the lookout for pickpockets. As with traveling anywhere, you need to keep your wits about you. I carried around a backpack, because I go with a lot of stuff, and it was somewhere to stash my camera, as well as an umbrella and some other items. (You can read more about what I keep in my bag for outings in an upcoming post.) We did notice someone following us on the walk over to the Eiffel Tower. He shadowed us for a few minutes, and kept creeping closer. Because it wasn’t incredibly crowded, we spotted him, and Mom kept her hand on my backpack. She gave the guy a look, letting him know that we were on to him, and oh, mercy, the dirty look he gave her back. Like she had the audacity to notice him trying to steal from us. That was our only experience, that we noticed anyway, and we didn’t have anything stolen. We didn’t have anyone come up to us for money, and as with anything so long as you pay attention to your surroundings, you should be fine.
All in all, I loved Paris, and I would absolutely go back. I feel like I could stay there for two weeks, and still not see everything I wanted to see. Now, I really enjoy museums and sightseeing, and if you don’t, then Paris might not have the same draw for you as for me. C’est la vie!