It’s been a couple of weeks since my long weekend in Paris, and I still haven’t gotten around to recording my thoughts. I went there with high expectations, given the city’s reputation and hype. How to describe my feeling on this famous old metropolis? I don’t think I’ve ever been quite so disappointed with a city. I guess that is one of the consequences of going with such high expectations. But where to start…?
Let’s go with the architecture to kick us off. It’s all quite grand. The fact that the French surrender whenever an enemy gets with gunshot of Paris has ensured the city has survived remarkably intact. The trouble is, as grand as the buildings are, they are all a bit too similar. Which means the streets start becoming bland and uniform. It lacks the architectural diversity of other cities I’ve been to. I blame the Germans. A few bombs in the 1940′s might have mixed the city up a bit. Also, the oldest buildings, such as Notre Dame, seem over-preserved. Almost like new. It reminded me of the restored paw on the Sphinx in Cairo.
Let’s move on to food. Again, I had high expectations. I knew it’d be pricey, but I hoped to have at least a couple of good French meals. The UK has a terrible reputation for food, so surely Paris could impress my quality starved palate there. I ordered a Boeuf Bourginon. Played it safe. One quality meal would do me. And at least it wouldn’t come served with chips, like it might in London. It was served by a delightful waiter. With chips. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
Art and monuments? Paris has the best in the world, as far as art galleries go. I visited just one of them though. I only had four days in the city, and that seemed to be the length of the queue to go to the Louvre. We did go to the Pompidou Centre, and that was a fine, if quirky, building. With a fine collection. The building was designed by a Brit, by the by. They actually had to amend a Parisian planning law to allow a non Frenchman to design a building there. The Eiffel Tower? Didn’t bother going up there either. They only had a single elevator working. Can you picture the queues? Paris is broke in more ways than one.
There also seemed to be no buzz to the city. No background hum. No energy. I didn’t see a single Ferrari, Porsche or Lamborghini. It all has a strange blandness. Even the metro lacked any real charm – it was functional but terribly bland. Which is a shame. I normally love metro systems. This isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy my trip. But it really wasn’t the city I expected it to be. Everything is grossly overpriced. Grossly. Which may explain why the vast majority of cafes, brasseries and restaurants were empty.
Are you tossing up between a trip to Paris or London? I may be accused of bias, but I promise I’m being objective. I’ve been thinking about this for a good couple of weeks. London has energy, diversity and surprises galore. You can eat well, affordably. In fact you can eat at a Michelin star restaurant for less than some fairly run of the mill Parisian restaurants. The Tube is an adventure. The best London museums are just as good, more diverse and -get this – free to enter. Different neighbourhoods in London can appear to be from different worlds.
It’s not just London I’d recommend over Paris though. New York, Chicago, Mexico City, Budapest, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpar are all cities that I’d prefer to visit a second time rather than the French capital. Sorry Paris, but out of ten, I award you four stars. Not that Paris will care. My stars count for little. Still. At least I can say I’ve been. But I wouldn’t recommend anyone else to bother. If you do, I suggest going out of season in January or February. Did I take any photos? Sure. But I have to say my camera stayed in my bag most of the time. I was just that apathetic. I reckon I took fewer snaps in four days than I have sometimes done in a single day in Mexico City or London. But anyway, there’s all here on Flickr.