Before: Parisians are rude.
After: They’re not.
Before: Paris is dirty.
After: It’s not that dirty.
Before: Paris is over-rated.
After: It’s not.
Before: The French are arrogant and hate speaking English.
After: Not true.
Before: Paris is expensive.
Ok… yes, it is VERY expensive. Got me on that one. That’s my only complaint of Paris – its too expensive for my tiny backpacker budget! More so than London. But other than the price, I like Paris. I really do.
Here's a chronology of what happened in the past 4 days, briefly:
13 Apr: Arrived in Paris, met Thierry, went for dinner with his classmates and a drink in a pub afterwards
14 Apr: Promenade Plantee (deserves a whole post on its own; very good urban renewal initiative). Strolled along the River Seine. Very beautiful. Notre Dame (just another church, but with 10x more tourists). Saw the Louvre from the outside – it's HUGE, I mean, I knew it was going to be large, but nothing prepared me for the scale of it. Visited the Jardin des Tuileries – it's well-maintained and beautiful garden with flowers in bloom and people resting on deck chairs facing the fountain. I joined them for a while and just sat there listening to music.
Champs de Elysee. One of the most famous streets in the world. Looks a lot like Orchard Road actually. Not as exclusive as I thought, it most certainly pales in comparison to Ginza in Tokyo on the ‘unaffordability’ and poshness level. Arc de Triomphe.
Impression of Paris: Beautiful. Very, very large city, and I made the mistake of trying to tackle it all on foot. It feels like the entire city is filled with huge landmarks, some of which I can’t pinpoint. Stately-looking palace-like buildings and such.
15 Apr: Eiffel Tower. Ugh, its not as good as expected. Nowhere near breathtaking. And the park behind it is pretty crappy as well. Walked to the front of it, crossed the river and sat down on the bench relaxing, listening to music and trying my best to like it. I love Paris, but the Eiffel Tower is looking pretty ugly at this point in time…
16 Apr: The other half of Promenade Plantee. As I said, beautiful, and I’ll need another post to cover it all. I came to the end of Promenade Plantee but couldn’t find the metro station. Thankfully, a friendly born-and-raised-in-Paris old man brought me all the way to the station. French people are very friendly after all!
Parc de Bercy. Paris is ridiculously beautiful. How did the French perfect the art of building good parks and planning cities so well? This is just a small park off the tourist track, but it's tranquil, quiet and gorgeous. Groups of young Parisians (comprising different races, I was heartened to see) sat on the grass, talking and eating. Couples were kissing and rolling over each other.
Opera station. All the huge brands for shopping, like H&M, Zara, etc. Galeries Lafayette, a famous department store, is very, very opulent. Like the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney – a very classy shopping centre. Nice view from the terrace on the top floor. Somehow walked towards Gare Saint-Lazare, one of the train stations in Paris, and the shops became visibly cheaper, and the streets more bustling. Enterprising young people were selling bouquets of fresh, lovely flowers to passers-by.
I spent a long time walking to the Eiffel Tower. Saw a nice church along the way. Yeah, many churches so far, but this one was quite beautiful, though I know I’ll probably forget it in a few days’ time. Sunset by the River Seine, with orange sky and Eiffel Tower in background, river and willows in foreground. Stunning. I love Paris. And the Eiffel Tower is just breathtaking at sunset. I took many, many photos of the same thing.
I sat down with a good view of Eiffel Tower, ate a crepe from a street stand and braved the cold. The Eiffel Tower is positively glowing at night, shimmering with brilliance… I left only when the sky got almost completely dark at 9:30pm.
Well, Paris is immensely beautiful. I love the parks, the River Seine, the architecture, the stylishly-dressed people, the dense network of metro trains (with buskers hopping on and off), the gorgeous weather, and did I mention the parks… they’re just superb…
Some people come to Paris and never leave. I understand that perfectly now.