Warning! Paris is a city of tourist cliches!
|Beware! Warning sign on the Paris Metro a decade ago|
This is one of my favourite pictures from that Paris trip. It's a stereotype that the French are an emotional and dramatic culture but stereotypes often tend to arise from somewhere. This warning sign was in a Paris metro station; I've asked around to find out if they're still there but without getting an answer to date. I must admit that I can be a slightly anxious traveller when I'm underground (it's a kind of unnatural place to be, right, unless I'm a burrowing animal, which I'm not) and these signs didn't exactly put me at ease!
But on to the cliches ...
To Eiffel Tower or not to Eiffel Tower
I've been to Paris three times, and I have visited the Eiffel Tower three times, so you can probably guess where I come down on this question. My son's currently obsessed with a book about famous buildings and one of them is the Eiffel Tower so I feel certain that on our fourth visit to Paris (not yet planned but Paris is inevitable, right?) it'll be yet another Eiffel Tower visit. I know my son will be thrilled to see such a famous monument in real life. Yes, it's a cliche, yes, it's not even a particularly beautiful one (I remember the Parisians were going to pull it down at one stage), but it's a place that so many people know and aspire to see. That's just the way it is.
Selfies in the Louvre
|The expected Louvre visit. Yes, we saw the Mona Lisa too.|
My Hunchback of Notre Dame reward
Ahead of this trip to Paris, and at the urging of a teaching colleague in Bratislava (hi Dave!) I had begun to read Victor Hugo's work. He is (all due respect) one of those writers who should have lived in our century so that a good editor could have slashed about half the word count from his manuscript. If you have read The Hunchback of Notre-Dame or Les Miserables then I'm pretty sure you would have to admit to skipping entire chapters in exasperation at times because Hugo wanders so far from the story and so deeply into architecture or history that you almost forget why you picked up the book. Somehow, though, they are nonetheless satisfying reads and I had just finished the Hunchback before our Paris trip - and that made my climb to the top of the tower at Notre Dame so much more worthwhile. I felt utterly transported back to a Hunchback daydream.
Then, of course, I looked down and remembered that it was Easter Sunday and there were enormous queues of people still waiting to enter the cathedral. What luck that I'd got up early enough to only stand in line for a couple of hours and not all day!
The occasional touristy trip won't kill youOn reflection, I barely remember speaking to a single Parisian local on this trip and beyond baguettes from streetside vans I hardly consumed much local food. I didn't really go off the beaten track at all, and in a city like Paris which has a whole lot of beaten tracks this probably isn't surprising! But sometimes this kind of travel is okay too. I'm still glad I did it!
What's your ideal day in Paris? Eiffel Tower or an anonymous stroll elsewhere?
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