More has probably been written about the charm and beauty of Paris
than any other European
city. In general most of these comments are based on the fact that Paris does indeed have certain seductive charms. Possibly as many commentators have seen fit to mention the apparent rudeness of the French
and their disdain for tourists
. This view too is most likely based on fact, but perhaps also a little ignorance
Easter was probably not the most sensible time to embark upon a sightseeing extravaganza in Paris. There were hordes of tourists crawling over, around, under and through most of the popular attractions. It rained almost constantly on Easter Sunday and for those brave enough to challenge the elements the rewards were worthwhile. Many coach loads of sightseers opted not to leave the warm confines of their transport and open space abounded in the city centre. Unfortunately the Louvre was closed on this day, which in turn doubled what would have been an otherwise reasonable queue for the Musee d’Orsay. The famous landmarks of the Parisian landscape are reason enough to visit this city, however our next planned sojourn will be in the dead of winter and midweek in an effort to avoid ridiculous waiting times for the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe and the aforementioned museum. I was still able to enjoy an exhibition of the renowned sculptor, Rodin, in the Luxemburg Gardens. Napoleon’s Tomb and the Army Museum was mercifully empty on Easter Monday.
Parisian architecture is flamboyant and stylish. Certainly a large part of the current charm can be attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte’s grand redesign of the city in the nineteenth century. Medieval Paris was largely demolished, a height restriction imposed on buildings in the city centre and large landscaped boulevards developed throughout the city. It may be a shame that so little of the medieval structures remain but Paris can also be viewed as an interesting period in European civilization and architecture, much like the wonderfully Orwellian 1960’s constructs in London. That is not to say that Paris is devoid of architectural abominations. The Tour (tower) Montparnesse is a fifty-six story brown glass and steel monolith rivalling the Eiffel tower for control of the city skyscape, however it does provide visitors with a marvellous three hundred and sixty degree panorama of the city, without the queues.
Eating in Paris is a gastronomical delight. Prices seem reasonable, even in Cafés around popular tourist districts. Eating out in Montparnesse and the Latin Quarter cost approximately fifty Pounds Sterling for a three-course meal, for two, and a bottle of wine. I’ve never eaten so many salads in such a short time span before and this was largely due to the delightful fact that all ingredients tasted fresh and chemical free. Meat was served as I like it, rare, but if this is not to your fancy be sure to order otherwise. Desserts were lavish and full of sugary goodness. I kept telling myself that walking around the city for four to six hours each day was more than enough exercise to compensate for calorific intake.
As for French arrogance and haughtiness, I honestly found very little. There were a couple of occasions when waiters could have been more attentive, however this could have been due to the busy nature of the restaurant, little experience in the job or even a hangover from the night before. Certainly there was nothing outstanding with regards to the local inhabitants treatment of outsiders. I did attempt to communicate in French, although I fear badly mangled things on many occasions. I also tried to find places to eat a little off the beaten track, that weren’t packed to the rafters and hopefully didn’t include the terms “American Beers” or “Tex-Mex” on their awnings. I fear that if a Frenchman was to visit London, ask their waiter, “Parlez-vous français?” and were returned only blank looks they too might find the British awfully rude.
Paris is certainly well worth the visit. Attempt to communicate in French and pick a time outside of peak tourist season. Four days is not nearly enough time to see everything, I missed out on the palace at Versailles, the Catacombs and the Sorbonne to mention just a few. Take your camera and enjoy the view.