Eurotrip Day 52: Hello France

Left Joao’s house in style on a taxi (5 euros), my first taxi ride alone on the entire trip (I took it before in UK and actually also in Porto, but both times I was sharing with others). Partly because it’d require a long walk/change of metro and train to get there, so the taxi was more convenient, faster, and not much more expensive either. Well, and also Portugal’s probably the only place in Western Europe I can afford to take a taxi in on such a tight budget...

My impression of France before visiting: mostly negative. Let me write my preconceptions here before I actually visit:

1) French people are snobbish, arrogant and rude. They like to ignore strangers who ask them for directions. Especially if you ask in English.

2) Paris is expensive. Very expensive.

3) There are lots of tourists in Paris. 45 million tourists visit Paris each year, making it the most-visited place in the entire world.

4) Paris is over-rated. I expect that its probably beautiful, but I don’t think its going to blow me away or anything.

5) I can’t speak French, and no one’s going to be happy talking to me in English. Help!

6) The people in the service industry like waiters and people manning counters are extraordinarily rude. And you’re supposed to tip the waiters still. Ugh.

7) Paris is a dirty city with a lot of dog poo on the pavements. Must be careful when walking down the streets lest I step into one of them and prompt sniggers by the French behind my back.

8) I really want to see the Eiffel Tower. It's probably the attraction I want to visit most in Europe. It's like a symbol of travel, of a foreign land… one of those places I must see before I die…

9) To me, the ranking of major world cities goes like this: 1) New York, 2) London, 3) Tokyo, 4) Paris, 5) Beijing. Paris is somehow still a very important city despite France’s declining status on the global stage. Diverse, cosmopolitan and crowded. Everyone wants to go to Paris. Me too.

10) Arts and cultural capital of the world. People are elegant and fashionable when they’re not being rude to you.

As you can see, almost my entire impression of Paris is negative (and heavily influenced by stereotype too, I must say). Even before I’ve set foot there. It's strange how this image is rooted in my mind. Especially that whole impression of how the people are rude and cold towards non-French speaking tourists.

Haha, so why did I decide to visit Paris? Well, ask me that again. I could have spent an entire month in Portugal instead of two weeks, but then that’d mean forgoing France (specifically Paris, because I didn't decide on going anywhere else in France). But you know what? I have to see Paris. I don’t like making lists of must-see places, but in my opinion, you could come to Europe and not see London, but Paris is one place you can't miss.

Okay, and two weeks in Paris alone? Well, it's a major world city, as I’ve explained. It's population is 12 million. It's huge. It’s one of those cities you can apparently never get bored of. And I want to give myself enough time to distill and understand this unique city and culture, and hopefully leave with a positive impression. I’d want to go to other parts of France too, of course, but the only way to get there cheaply is to book in advance, and the website of the French national railway doesn’t accept Singapore credit cards. And I’ll be spending too much money and time. Need to return to my beloved Singapore soon. Too bad then. Its Paris for 2 weeks.

I'm excited to see what it looks like, and I hope my negative preconceptions don't turn out to be true.