Ahh, Paris… Sweet paihr-ee conjures such romantic images. And in less than 24 hours, I will meet this beautiful city because last week’s pity party about the downside of London life resulted in a fantastic impulse buy.
So these vague ideas of a place I have never been to will soon evolve, crystallizing with experience of roaming around the City of Lights. As I prepare for this trip, my predominant pre-departure thoughts boil down to:
Embrace the Excitement.
I am no Francophile, but even mouthing (and likely botching) basic French phrases on the bus made delight bloom through my being. With memories of Belgians sweetly saying “Voila!” I am excited to hear snippets of French conversations in everyday life. I hope to exchange “bonjours” with someone, feeling happiness like I did during passing <konnichiwa’s on the trails of Mount Takao.
I’m thrilled to see the iconic Eiffel Tower, stretching over the skyline, in person – and I look forward to milling around the pyramidal Louvre sculpture, even if I have to share the view with a few hundred people. I love the idea of sitting on the white steps of Sacré-Cœur, and I can’t wait to scoff a croissant, park myself in a café and chomp on brie or camembert in their home country. Perhaps I’ll even embrace the pastel desserts hysteria and indulge in a macaron.
But Excitement Must Not Escalate to “Paris Syndrome” Levels.
When Paris Syndrome strikes, tourists experience supreme disillusionment. Japanese visitors are the most commonly afflicted, but it has also been reported among Chinese visitors. Before arrival, to-be-tourists assume romantic schemas of Paris through movies, such as Amélie and Chanel commercials. Upon arrival in a gritty and diverse metropolis, the actual lived-in city seems too harsh by comparison. Symptoms of Paris Syndrome are hallucinations and feelings of persecution. A hotline has been set up to help Japanese tourists, but occasionally the only remedy is immediate repatriation. (Luckily, when the Japanese return to their country, they will always have Tokyo Tower…)
Locals Have a Reputation for Rudeness.
My grey-haired gentlemanly French colleague scoffed, “Parisians. They think their city is the centre of the whole world. They may be rude, yeah, but you’ll still have a good time.”
Though I made the sweetest Parisian friend in Taiwan, her friend ignored me and spoke French the whole time except for an English excerpt, detailing how an American called her a bitch… (Lol.)
And when a Taiwanese friend asked for help in Paris, locals told him that they didn’t speak English… In perfect English.
So I will give French a hearty try, keep my expectations low, and imagine all my future encounters to be like the following one-sided “exchange” on the French side of St. Martin:
As I stood in line at the beautiful bakery, the beautiful blonde counter lady said, “ ‘ello?” with a lovely, endearing accent – though her tone and demeanor communicated: “Hey stupid, hurry your ass up and order your goddamn pastry. Now.”
Soak Up The Scene – Solo!
Spending a weekend in Paris on my own means that I can explore at my own pace and follow any whim that emerges. And although I am no longer daunted by taking a trip myself, as a (supposedly) young-looking, petite female traveller, I do feel the need to be extra aware of scams and pickpockets. Even moreso because Chinese-looking tourists are targeted for cash, though they would be sorely disappointed to find how little cash I do have.
As the recent robbery of Kim K in Paris shows, anyone can be a target. (At least I can be sure that no one will come after me for Instagram photos with million dollar jewels.) And as for threats of terror, on Tuesday the underground (“tube”) station nearest my work was evacuated and set off a controlled explosion to destroy a mysterious object. So the city I live in is a target, too. Thankfully, terror attacks have temporarily subsided, and I do not feel that this trip poses great risk. (I’m not one of the folks trying to get glimpses of a war-torn country…)
But I am not vain enough to claim that I will just “be smart” to avoid such attacks because “terror” implies these horrific events are meant to alarm and surprise. Victims that were caught up in past incidents were not reckless; they were innocent people going about their business.
And, Like Arnie, I’ll Be Back.
Despite asking for and receiving wonderful suggestions from friends, I am not-not-not going to try and squeeze every attraction into a weekend. That is a recipe for failure. All suggestions are color-coded and saved on a Google Map, started by the gracious Parisian friend I mentioned, and I will see what I bump into on my romp. But because Paris is only 2 hours away, whatever happens, there will be more to see on the next trip!
Any tips from Parisian experiences of your own? How did your views of Paris change pre- and post-trip? Share in the comments section below!