October 21, 2013

Perfect Paris?

Petit déjeuner à Paris

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.

Marais Bar

Such beautiful doors in #Paris!

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.


Saint Sulpice

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!

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Phil in France said...

If you took NYC and have all of the tourists move in, you'd have Paris.

Rose said...

Paris is so dirty and so expensive. This is why everyone is moving to Normandy ;-)

Sharon said...

I don't think I know a capital city that doesn't have two faces - it's the contrasts that provide the fascination.

connie said...

so glad that someone else thinks that Paris is FAR FROM PERFECT. we are living here for 6 months and we are now 1/2 way thru....to be honest, we are so tired of dodging dog shit every day on the way to the dirty metro, to stand beside people who don't use underarm deodorant or who don't bathe, and dirty beggars who come right into your personal space to beg for euros... also tired of breathing 2nd hand smoke and stepping thru all the cigarette butts that litter the streets. other than those aspects, Paris offers a myriad of activities and events.

Nina said...

I'm still in the honeymoon stage with Paris...unless you start talking about the banks, pickpockets and the rude waiters in which case I start thinking about divorce :)

Anne said...

Yes, yes, yes! You hit the nail on the head. Paris is Paris -- warts and all.

TCH said...

Living 2.5 hrs south by TGV and visiting as often as we want, I could see some of these comments being real.

But I'd like you to post your favorite city in the whole wide world and we then can go ahead and pick it apart.

Wien is would be my choice, but then there are major flaws there I could point out.

Bradford said...

Recently I have been watching the television series "Engrenages", which for some reason was translated for the English speaking market as "Spiral". In any event it is set in Paris, and it makes Paris look like a crime infested, filthy place with a corrupt legal system and overrun by violent immigrants. This does seem to be capitalizing on the perceptions that are behind the surge of the National Front. Certainly, although the program is fiction, it is based on elements of Paris (the same elements you find in many large cities) that are really there, if less charismatic.

Someone who spent time in Paris told me that it is simply a very large city where people speak French, otherwise the same as any very large city. She went south and now lives in Toulouse where she said people know better how to enjoy life.

But having been all around NYC, I suspect Paris is much the same in that I would find a few areas that fascinate me, while others not so much. And those areas that pull me back have that unique NYC signature, just as areas of Paris would also pull me back once I get to know them and have that quality that is nowhere else.

But first I have to go there.

Anne in Oxfordshire said...

Absolutely agree with you on all counts , and I have stayed in lots of areas. I am very careful indeed from the minute I leave wherever I am staying ,, until I get back , but then I treat Paris like I do London .. same rules count with me.

Melissa R. said...

I wrote a similar entry in my blog today about American misconceptions about France and Paris. It's magical but like all large cities, it has its issues. I'm loving the blog and your tweets. Nice to meet a fellow ex-pat. Makes it a little less lonely over here.


Jennifer Greco said...

An interesting idea. Paris is much more beautiful though!

I don't find it dirty...I mean, there are parts of it that are, but overall I don't think it is. Of course, I am there in short visits, so maybe I don't notice it?
And Bayeux is pretty wonderful. :)

Jennifer Greco said...

You are right!

Wow! It sounds like you really don't like it!
I know it's far from perfect, but I adore Paris. But it isn't for everyone.

Jennifer Greco said...

It's funny, I rarely encounter rude waiters in Paris. Our bank in the Languedoc had one guy that drove me crazy!


Jennifer Greco said...

My favorite city? I would say Paris and New Orleans. Lots of problems in both places, but I love them anyway.

I think you would understand Paris perfectly. You must go!

Jennifer Greco said...

A very wise way of seeing it. I agree with you wholeheartedly.

Thanks so much for commenting! It is very nice to meet you and I look forward to reading more of your posts.

Andi said...

I love Paris, warts and all!

Jennifer Greco said...

Me too, Andi! :)

Kathy B. said...

We stayed in Paris with two of our children aged 18 and 22 this past July. I had lived there a long time ago but this was the first trip with our kids ---we loved every inch of it. I fail to find it dirty - and I so miss the walking. I think in the US we drive everywhere and don't notice the grit of the city because most of us live in the burbs. Yuck. I would love to figure out how we could live there some day --I am curious because on another post you had said there is so much more to do in the winter in Normandy than in the Languedoc - why is that??

Jennifer Greco said...

We lived in a very rural area of the Languedoc and as soon as it gets cold, everyone closes their shutters and stays inside by the fire. It was kind of depressing. We also noticed that cities like Béziers and Narbonne are very quiet in the winter.
Here in Normandy, the winter seems to be much more bustling.