October 21, 2013
This might come as a surprise to some people, because after all, we are talking about the most romanticized city in the world. But here it is...
Paris is not perfect.
I know, I know...
I am guilty of thinking that it was too.
Almost everything you read (anything that doesn't mention the rude waiters that is) will convince you that Parisian women are the most elegant creatures on the earth, the French are superior in the bedroom and raising their children, and that Paris itself is a virtual paradise of cafés, wine, cheese* and art. This perception of perfection is practically beaten into us by the mainstream media.
Despite all of that, please remember one thing: Paris is a big city. With big city problems. It has both good and bad qualities, good and bad weather, good and bad people.
And while it does offer incomparable beauty, world class museums and a lively restaurant scene, it also boasts a plethora of social problems and an unfortunate, recent surge in street crime.
That doesn't mean you shouldn't come and experience it for yourself and learn to love it as much as I do. Paris is a city like no other. It has grace and elegance and seeing it through your own eyes and at your own pace will leave you with lifelong memories and (most likely) a desire to return. A single visit of running around to see the "must see" sights means that you will barely have time to scratch its glorious surface.
Just remember to keep your eyes and ears open while exploring Paris's quartiers.
I know how easy it is to let everything around you fade into the background when you find yourself awestruck by the beauty, the golden light, the fact that you're actually standing in front of that famous monument you'd dreamed of seeing for so many years. Unfortunately some of its inhabitants will happily take advantage of your undivided attention. So please, take care and don't let your guard down.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that while I think Paris is truly wonderful, it does have flaws. What place doesn't? It is far from perfect.
That is something it took me a long time to accept.
I used to get frustrated and defensive when expats complained about their adopted city. And I didn't even live there! To me it seemed like heaven, so I couldn't understand what the problem was. Then I learned that Parisians themselves are the first to whine about every aspect of life in Paris. And I started to notice the cracks in its facade. It is a bustling city where people live and work, not a European theme park after all.
I appreciate every minute I get to spend in Paris, even if it means I never put my bag down at a café or restaurant, either don't use my phone on the Métro or hold on to it like my life depended on it, and avoid walking alone at night. It isn't like it used to be, but again, what place is?
The reality of a modern day, imperfect Paris doesn't make me love it any less.
*Paris is truly a cheese lover's paradise!