To Know Paris…

“…Is to know a great deal.” ~ Henry Miller (controversial author)

Paris is a place of lore. After years of listening to people I love and respect talk endlessly about Paris, we had arrived. Albeit, only for a long weekend. It wasn’t enough time.

It’s not only clients or friends. Paris has been revered throughout history as an artist’s haven.

“An artist has no home in Europe except in Paris.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

A divine place of historical significance, beauty and culture.

“A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of Life.” ~ Thomas Jefferson

And of course, surrealism and the années folles or the golden twenties. The birth of pop culture. The modern development of fashion and style. A melting pot of American influence, tremendous economic growth, film, theatre, and athletics.

Many of my favourite writers and artists have lived in Paris at some point in their career.

“Paris was always worth it and you received return for whatever you brought to it.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

For the novice traveller, Paris comes with quite the résumé.

Dare I say it is the the most over-hyped city I’ve ever travelled to. My feelings are more mixed than history’s. Possibly due to over-saturation and cost of living. Which is saying a lot coming from Vancouver (another high cost of living city). Then again, it could be because I don’t have any Parisian friends to show me around.

It’s the 3rd most visited city in the world, but the average dollar amount spent by tourists is double the top two cities (Bangkok/London). $301/day USD compared to $153–173.

The line to the Louvre, ~1km long and minimum 45 minute wait. Yes, it was the first of the month ‘free Sunday.’ We should have planned better…

It’s extremely expensive, and shockingly packed with tourist destinations.

You can’t walk more than a few hundred meters without tripping over the next museum or historical landmark. Seriously I can throw a rock from the Louvre to Saint Chapelle.

We saw the outside of pretty much everything on day one. Then we were left wishing we had planned some skip the line excursions. Getting ready to leave and Oktoberfest were so busy we forgot to plan things that weren’t accommodation. Even in October, it was crowded with tourists!

Yes, I understand the irony of that statement, being that I’m a tourist. No matter how I may like to pretend I’m not, or try to experience places as locals do. I remain an ignorant tourist.

I can only wonder how @#%@ing crazy Paris is in the summertime.

Paris, has a population of ~2.3 million. The majority of the city is composed of five story walk-ups. Making it the most densely populated metropolis in a developed country and it’s geographically tiny!

Vancouver is tiny, at only 115 km². We build towers exceeding thirty stories and have a population of only 600k. San Francisco, another tiny city, is 121 km² and 800k people. I’m amazed by the density of Paris without the need for many tall buildings.

Paris is a mere 105 km² with triple or quadruple the people. That means it’s chaotic. Very walkable, with an somewhat outdated and packed metro system. At least it covers a great deal of the city and they post hilarious signs in it.

Translations: “Disco dancing may result in dismemberment.” | “Diving onto the tracks will result in a phone call from Skeletor.”

And my personal Fav…

Translation: “Don’t be an idiot getting on the metro or we will karate kick you in the back and we’ll both die squeezed between the tracks and the train.”

The Parisians

Are misunderstood. I had full on expectations of being forced to stumble through my poor French. While the person I’m attempting to communicate with snickers behind my back about it.

You hear stories. Few of them true.

The service doesn’t suck, it’s just not Americanized. It’s supposed to be felt and not seen. They are not coming to check on you every 5 minutes. They are not coming by to crack jokes and entertain you for tips. They want you to enjoy your meal or coffee or whatever. When you’re done, ask for the cheque s’il vous plaît and you’re off.

I kind of like it. I’m not fond of being waited on.

People are not rude. But you should keep an eye on your stuff and your wallet when travelling on packed transit. As you should in any major city.

People are fashionable. I should have brought a scarf. A concern Jenny and I both have about travelling to Europe, is only obvious in Paris so far. Not that I’m fashionable to begin with. I have for the better part of twelve years worked in shorts, a sweat-wicking shirt and maybe a track suit of sorts.

There is a pervasive feeling in any country about the largest city. Canadians outside of Toronto like to hate on it. The French outside of Paris also seem to hate on Paris. I get the feeling Parisians are in love with their city.

There is an air of smugness. I feel the same way about Vancouver. The French tend to think that Parisians never shut up about Paris when they leave it. Everything is better in Paris! I don’t feel this way about Toronto but I know some who do.

Highlights

I’m choked I missed the Catacombs. Things were so crazy before we left and at Oktoberfest we forgot to book any tours.

The only non-negotiable thing for me was the Louvre. I’ve had a fascination with Leonardo Da Vinci since I was a kid and seeing the Mona Lisa was a top priority.

It’s true that no matter where you stand in the room, it feels like she’s staring just at you. A special technique Da Vinci used. Of course the world’s most famous painting is so famous due to the mystery surrounding it.

The Mona Lisa. Surprisingly Small. She is staring at you no matter where you stand in the room. Yes I was that tourist who took a photo of a piece of art I could easily find of better quality online. This was a bucket list item.

There are many other famous works in the Louvre like Venus De Milo, Winged Victory, The Coronation of Napoleon, Dying Slave and Liberty Leading Leading the People. Michelangelo. Delacroix. Who cares? I’m all about Da Vinci right now. 😜

A surprisingly worthwhile short but sweet visit: Sainte-Chapelle the stained glass marvel. | Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

We crushed a few kilometers of walking every day. I thoroughly enjoyed taking it all in. You could have a great weekend without going into a single tourist venue.

We stayed near the Eiffel tower. Had a bottle of wine on the grass during one of the hourly light shows. Roamed through a beautiful market. Rolled down Champs-Élysées past the Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre.

Eiffel Tower: Once the sun goes down there is a light show every hour on the hour. Grab a bottle of wine and blanket. Try to ignore all the other people.

I know French food is amazing but we cooked in our tiny AirBnB more often than not. Who can resist French cheese and charcuterie?

After a costly Oktoberfest, we’re attempting to be a little more budget conscious here. It seems more likely we’ll be back to Paris than Munich anyway.

I’m just going to say it. If you like red wine, it’s the best in France. End of story. I’m convinced they don’t ship any of the good stuff to Canada.

Oh and don’t forget about the street art and a surprising coincidence. An Alphonse Mucha exhibit was on when we were there! One of the few pieces of art we own is a print of Zodiac. I’m a much bigger Mucha fan leaving Paris.

Mucha Exhibit. Revered for his advertising work in the 20’s. | Invader Art Finds! My second favourite street artist…

That’s our world-wind tour of Paris. It isn’t my favourite city yet but I can see the charm and appeal. We’ll be back for the catacombs.

It was the weekend so neither of us worked which was nice, Bordeaux will be different. Back to work...🤘