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Paris, a concise look back ...

by name Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 08:57:18 AM EST

Some time ago, back in Feruary, I posted asking for tips about what to do / where to go in Paris. THANK YOU to all those who responded. I used some of your hints, dismissed others, and found out some stuff by myself. Paris is not only a beautiful city, it is impressive. At the same time it is a place I could imagine living. I am posting a very short summary of what I found out in the week I went there by the end of February.


All in all we were VERY impressed with the city as a whole. It feels homey and at the same time it is a luxurious place to go (and live). Parisians are generally friendly to polite, many people speak good enough english.

I found out that my (nonexistent) french is enough to make myself understood, and to understand when people slow down a bit.

The market on Rue de Italia is impressive (hint: we lived in the vietnamese quarter before metro Maison Blanche).

The metro ticket for tourists (orange/silver) lasts 5 days. We found out that the train to/from CDG is not included and you should buy it before boarding the train, because else you'll find the gates blocked at the airport (we jumped them when the guards were not looking). The metro security are a bunch of ugly, low-down thugs, in any case they look like blood-thirsty psychopaths.

Paris is expensive, so take care of your money. The corner cafes ("brasseries") are everywhere, they have more-or-less the same offer. Avoid the brasseries and other places which look too 'tourist-friendly' as they are generally crappy. As a general rule, the menus offered at various places suck. 12, 15, 18 or 20 euro for "that" is misspent money. Better go for whatever they have on the carte in the non-menu version. Avoid the eateries and tourist-traps around the Montmartre.

Per Lachaise is overrated, not worth the trip. We got out after 5 minutes. It is mostly an old, unmaintained cemetery, and it smells.

The Eiffel tower is a MUST. Take the lift to the top and enjoy the impressive view. After sunset it has strobes which go off every hour, giving it a very beautiful sparky look.

We went to the Musee d'Orsay and to the Louvre. Both should be planned in, but the Louvre, if one plans to seriously look at everything, would need at least one week. The gardens outside the Louvre are beautiful enough, the building is impressive in its own right.

Walk around the city, take the bus and look at everything. Paris has pretty much succeeded in pushing social trouble out of the core city, so you'll find a neat, clean place bubbling with activity, all for your privileged gaze. Even 'trouble' spots as the muslim quarter near the Montmartre still have an appeal to them. If you dont know where to go look out from the top of the Eiffel tower, for Paris is one giant collection of beautiful sights. Next to the muslim quarter there is an indian quarter. They have yummy indian food, but very different from what I remember from London.

Weird (to me) is the fact that most places have one toilet for men and women. I guess that the reasoning is that nobody would think of cozying up to somebody peeing or defecating. Hygiene in general seems to be an issue rather far from the soul of Parisians.

Check out the patisseries (bakeries). Paris is dotted with them, and I had the distinct impression that most patissiers (spelling ?) make an art of their profession.

Cathedrals: Notre Dame YES, Montmartre NO.

If you have the luck of being invited (as we were) check out the Maison de Ville. There are many public events there and the rooms accessible to the general public are beautiful enough.

Food: Priceworthy (not cheap) and good and cozy: Cafe de L'Industrie near the Bastille (I'll post GPS coordinates sometime in the future). Looking at the beauties who serve the food there I understood something about some of the paintings in the Orsay, and why they were painted. There is one called "L'Origin du Monde" by Gustave Courbet which more or less says everything about the inspiration and preoccupation of many artists. The issue seems to be current and universal, judging from many decorations throughout the city.

There is much more to be said about Paris but no time, as my life is more-or-less in turmoil.

Overall rating: A strong GO THERE. Consider taking two weeks in town. As a city I'll give Paris 4,5 of 5 stars. Barcelona gets 5 stars, but that is another story.

Display:
This is a timely post. I've just made my way back to Paris after a 2 week stay in London and find the contrast really difficult to take. Thank you for highlighting the good sides of that city.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 09:19:09 AM EST

 Agnes,

 I'd be very interested if you offer your views of London and why you "find the contrast [with Paris] really difficult to take".  

 thanks.

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 03:31:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Will do.
I see in you info section that France is your country of "registration" at least for ET purposes.
Goes without saying you're free not to answer, but may i ask whether you are French ?
I would be happy to count you among the French tribers that made my opinion about French people change for better.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 05:30:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]

  " I would be happy to count you among the French tribers that made my opinion about French people change for better."

 Well, it would be my pleasure to be counted among any who might improve your opinion of the French people.  I cannot, however do that as a native frenchman.  I'm bound and obliged to try it as a mere
US/UK guy.  

  Though I can certainly now see after years in residence here that the French, like every nation of people have their stronger points and their weaker, I find that their favorable points outweigh the negatives.  I still love france and the french, despite the faultiness of all such generalizations.  I could live in the US (and have) or in Britain (and have) but I live here because it is by far the place that suits me best of all that I have known so far. (US, Britain, Asia).  

  I suspect that your attitude comes from some number of unfortunate experiences for which you feel the french are primarily responsible.  However that may be, perhaps there are things you can find--if you're obliged to stay--which compensate.

  It may be that you'd be happier elsewhere; I was. France is that "elsewhere" where I am happy--even while "poor" financially.  Seek your happiness and seize it, is my advice.  Nous n'avons q'une vie.

  Amitiés,

  P


"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Wed Apr 26th, 2006 at 11:02:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ET is surely lucky you joined. Hope you will post more and look forward to your diaries. I keep in mind that I owe you one on the reasons why London is my favourite place on earth.
Can be summarised though using your own terms : it's the place that suits me best and where I am happy. on top of that, there is sure to be my rationalising a posteriori. But you're right, happiness is what matters.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Wed Apr 26th, 2006 at 01:08:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]

 "I keep in mind that I owe you one on the reasons why London is my favourite place on earth."

  Thanks.  It isn't for nothing that I ask.  I lived in London twenty years ago (it was wonderful for a while!) and I'm very curious about how it is today.  Of course, I must go and see for myself, but, first, I need your intelligence report ;^)  .


"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Wed Apr 26th, 2006 at 01:44:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It will be really enjoyable for me to write on London. And I hope for objections and questioning of what may be an ideal image.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Wed Apr 26th, 2006 at 04:19:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]

 Ah, by the way :

  actualités (en kiosk) currently at your newsagent
  Le Point magazine cover story

  "101 raisons d'aimer Paris aujourd'hui"

  "101 reasons to love Paris today"

  --or something like that.

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 11:41:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Now ET also gets Travel Reviews. Me like. And YES, to sharing GPS coordinates for favourite restaurants and bars!! I do that wherever I can. Please do. (Of course we'll need to switch to Galileo coordinates some years later.)
by Nomad on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 09:31:44 AM EST
For me ...

Good places:

  • La Villette's free open air movies in summer, watched while lying on the grass
  • Les Buttes Chaumont, a small park that just feels right
  • the Louvre, the Museum d'Histoire Naturelle complex (never get tired of those)
  • all the areas with narrow, twisted roads and the general sense of packed coziness they convey
  • the "chic" neighbourhoods, that are frankly beautiful
  • all the tiny squares where mothers bring their toddlers and where I like to play palets or pétanque with friends (when I'm there)
  • the Bar de l'Ourcq, one of my main hangout places when I go to Paris ... a bar near the Canal de l'Ourcq: cheapest prices (associative bar) and they give you lounging chairs to hang out near the canal which is lined up with people in summer (people with drums, beers ...) ... but it's a "prolo" neighbourhood, meaning it's working class, immigrants, and not-too-rich students and not-too-rich trendy youths that hang out there

Bad things in general:
  • the drunkard urine and dog shit all over the place
  • not enough parks, unlike London
  • the metro in some parts feels threatening and unfriendly
by Alex in Toulouse on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 09:38:43 AM EST
Buttes Chaumont:

Bar de l'Ourcq (in building on right, and on left is sand and the canal). Notice the cycling paths which occupy half of the road? Mayor Delanoë has vigorously implanted these all over Paris (going to the point, on some boulevards, of pushing cars onto sidelanes and reserving the central lanes to buses and bicycles, which is truly awesome when you're a cyclist. the idea is to discourage people from taking their cars and opting instead for public transport or bikes ... pollution-wise this hasn't been very good for now, because people persist in using their cars, which makes them drive longer in them, due to the extra crowding, but in the long term it will work out great):

La Villette park's free open air films (July 4th to August 13th in 2006, will be showing The Brothers Grimm, The Fly ...)

by Alex in Toulouse on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 12:35:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Alex, did I meet you in another life ? ;) You went straight to the 3 things I hate most about Paris ...

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 05:31:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Only for the Barcelona you would get my rec. Paris is fine too :)

Yes, Barceloan is five stats... why I am not coming back sooner!!!!

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 11:33:16 AM EST
I found out that my (nonexistent) french is enough to make myself understood, and to understand when people slow down a bit.

...

The metro security are a bunch of ugly, low-down thugs, in any case they look like blood-thirsty psychopaths.

These two observations should be required to be included in every Paris travel guide, if they aren't already. :)

Glad you had a good trip!

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 11:50:55 AM EST


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