Friday, April 18, 2014

A decade ago in Paris, via Instagram

In my mind, I am still 25, so it seems impossible that I can say an entire decade has passed since the trip to Paris I'm going to describe for you today. (I guess I am not alone in this feeling, right?)

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.
Speaking of Parisian cliches, this was the one visit to Paris that got me into the Louvre. I prefer the D'Orsay, I have to say, but it was closed the day we had hoped to visit it. But as I write this, a decade on, I have just learnt that there is a new Louvre trend. A friend of mine is visiting this Easter (just as I did ten years ago - hi Jen!) and she added a photo to Facebook this morning - a selfie of her and her husband with the Mona Lisa in the background. She said that's what everyone does these days! It's incredible what a difference ten years makes - nobody had phones that took self-portraits at the tap of a button and nobody had thought to do it in front of the Mona Lisa, but now it's the "done thing"!

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 you

On 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?


I'm linking up with Instagram Travel Thursday - check out some other great posts below:

12 comments:

  1. Paris is always so impressive and full of things to do. I just like to walk alone the Seine river and relax in the parks, look into little shops - but I must also confess that I do end always by the Eiffel Tour, although I don't always go up if the queues are long. There is just something magical about that tower! And I still remember my first visit like it was yesterday, although it was some 25 years ago...

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    1. Me too Reeta - my first Eiffel Tower visit is now - gulp - almost 30 years ago (how did that happen?!) but I remember it so vividly and I can't wait to be able to let my son experience the same wonder!

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  2. Yeah.... I'm still 25 too!! :)

    My husband actually proposed to me in Paris - that's a Parisian cliche if there's one, but I haven't been there since and I think it was 8 years ago... I'd love to go back, I also worked and lived there for about six months, I know it's not a long time but it was just long enough to start feeling like a local..

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    1. My husband proposed to me in Paris too, Satu - on the Eiffel Tower no less! That must be 8 years ago for us too. Living there for six months would be great, certainly long enough to get a proper non-touristy taste for the place, I'd love to do that.

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  3. For me, sometimes being there is enough, do I have to head to the top of the Eiffel Tower to be happy? Nope, I am content to take a picnic basket and sit on the grassed area of Champ de Mars and eat and talk with the tower in the background. Great restaurants, cafe culture food all add to the atmosphere - Paris is an impressive city. I have been to New York and not seen the Statue of Liberty, yet I don't feel like I missed anything after interacting with friends who live there, so for me no, I am sure others would be disappointed. That being said, there was no way I was going to miss Musee d'Orsay or the Met in New York.

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    1. A nearby picnic is a good idea Jeff - possibly better than hanging around in long queues, which I know people often complain about at the Eiffel Tower (I have been lucky each time I've visited and found ways to avoid the queues!).

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  4. I think it's fine to do the touristy thing too to know what it is about. I have been to Paris twice and still have so much to see, and haven't really gotten off the path yet.

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    1. That's what I think Katja - Paris just has so much to offer and much of it is well known so it's hard to avoid!

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  5. I look forward to going back to Paris. I went the first time, and mainly ate. I still have lots to see.

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    1. Aha - but mainly eating is also an excellent way to experience Paris!!! But it's a city you can keep visiting. I've been three times but feel I could return many more.

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  6. Love that metro sign! I've been to Paris 2wice.. once for my 8th birthday and then again with my husband and 2 month old 2 years ago. Guess what? Louvre and Eiffel tower both times! I wanted to get the tourist stuff out of the way for the hubby so that the next time we visit we can go out of Paris into the vineyards and small towns.

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    1. Haha, yes I think you've nailed the problem there - I have been three times but always with different people. Next time will include my son who's never been there so yep, Eiffel Tower again. Perhaps my fifth visit will be different!

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