Ah, Paris. The third most visited city in the world in 2015 (apparently), home to such delights as the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and smells that exist solely in France’s capital. In truth, we started our journey in the so-called ‘city of love’ for the convenience. We were able to get a cheap flight from Birmingham to Charles de Gaulle airport; it was a familiar location for us to get our bearings on the continent and we knew exactly what was on offer.
That isn’t to say that I particularly dislike Paris. There are plenty of attractions for the intrepid backpacker, the nervous first-timer or the amorous couple, but the novelty does wear off after the third visit. After a while, you stop looking up at the towers and monuments and start noticing the faults. That strange smell of stale urine that likes to remind you intermittently of its presence; the water streaming down the side of the curb and the uncleanliness of the metro, to name but a few. I don’t want to paint too negative a picture for anyone who hasn’t been – it’s definitely a bucket list location – but I was glad to be staying there for just one night.
On the positive side, our hostel was perfectly adequate for our needs, if only a little way out. We opted for Le Monclair Montmartre which, if you’re familiar with Parisian geography, you’ll know is in the north of the city, not far from the Sacré Coeur. This wasn’t a problem for us since we were only there for one night. Our only plan was to have a look around and dinner by the tower in the evening, so geographical convenience was not really an issue. However, it does place you a fair distance from the more interesting famous attractions such as the Eiffel Tower or the Champs Elysées which you might want to consider you’re visiting for the first time. Still, good wi-fi; a satisfactory breakfast and safes (BYOP – bring your own padlock) made our first night a pleasant one.
When we finally got there, we enjoyed a relaxed picnic watching families play in the fountains at the foot of the tower. Despite all of my complaints, Eiffel’s glorified radio tower does still have a surreal charm about it. When we surfaced from the Trocadéro metro station and the tower slowly emerged around the corner, I felt the same awe that I felt when I saw it for the first time over a decade ago. As strange as it sounds, it still looks fake to me, as if someone has dropped a 1,063 foot canvas from the sky. However, that doesn’t take away any of its charm and I can’t deny that it still puts a smile on my face whenever I see it.
I’m sure I don’t need to warn you of the dangers in Paris. Of course, any city has its dangers but particularly tourist hot-spots such as this. We came across some Senegalese gentlemen at the foot of the Sacré Coeur, smiling and chanting “hakuna matata” (as if I didn’t know that’s Swahili) offering thread bracelets for as much money as they could take. Take my advice and don’t give in to their claims of respect and friendship. Walk on and keep your wallet close. It sounds obvious now, but if you’re terribly British like me, you might find yourself drawn in by their initial friendliness only to fear for your life when they grab your hand and coerce you into a scam. I don’t think I need to remind you to be careful, but do remember there’s no shame in ignoring people if you don’t trust them.
So, after that roller coaster of a review, what do I really think of Paris? I think it’s a great place when you first go. Seeing those famous sights that everyone has been raving about is great to begin with, but having done it all before, my love for the city of love is dwindling. I love France and will always have affinity for all of its cities, but for the little time we were there, all I could think about was seeing places that I had never visited before. I was definitely ready to see what Nice had to offer.