Paris is a city that attracts a ridiculous amount of tourists. It is a city of beauty and weird smells (and I’m not talking of the delicious pastry kind). A place to feel inspired and frustrated. Being here is like taking off the rose-coloured glasses and seeing a city of contrast. A city of undeniably, breathtaking monuments and serious social problems. The Japanese even consider this a syndrome (Pari shōkōgun) caused by an inability to reconcile the disparity between images of Paris and the reality. Incredible. While I wouldn’t go as far to label myself as a sufferer, I can empathise with the sentiment.
So here is it is, Paris in real life through my eyes.
The main attractions – Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Sacré Cœur, The Seine – are great, especially if you have the time in Paris to “take a rain check” (too often quite literally), when lines are too long or hearing “one euro, one euro, one euro” starts to drive you insane.
While the monuments are “must-see”, where there is beauty in Paris, out comes the beast. These locations are swarming with pick-pocketters, scammers and an assortment of other shady characters that play on the goodwill and/or the utter stupidity of tourists. Take it all with a large hunk of salt, a sense of humour and if you feel you have some good karma in the bank – take a seat and have a laugh at the lunacy that unfolds. Don’t be deterred though, if you have an ounce of common sense, you’ll be able to spot trouble a mile off.
Eating gluten free is possible, manageable, delicious but very expensive. I have eaten the most amazing gluten free breads, quiches, tarts (gluten free pastry that still blows my mind) and pizzas in Paris. Leave it to the creators of amazing pastries and breads to come up with equally as exquisite gluten free versions. In a city where glutenous items are cheap, those with celiac disease or those who simply just want buy a piece of steak or chicken from the grocery, need to part ways with some serious cash. Fresh meat in Paris is pricey but the frozen food section in any grocery store is a wonderland of choice. I must admit, the first time I noticed just how many grocery stores in Paris are entirely devoted to frozen meals, I had to rescue my jaw from almost hitting the dog poo riddled sidewalk. In a land famous for incredible food and produce, this is one thing I still can’t quite come to terms with.
Paris by night is the way I want to remember this city. Away from the hoards of tourists, the crap merchants and just dark enough to smile without Parisian’s thinking you’re a complete lunatic. Sitting on the banks of the Seine River, dimly lit by Notre Dame de Paris, sipping wine with new friends. Midnight at Champ de Mars, crowding under an umbrella with a picnic of cheese and red wine watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle. Lying on a blanket at Parc de la Villette gorging on foie gras and saucisson watching a late night movie at the outdoor cinema. This is the Paris I want to remember.