I spent three nights in Paris, the City of Lights. I found it wanting.
To be honest, I stayed in the 7th district, a short walk to the Eiffel Tower, and never really went very far afield. The Tower itself was quite tall and very brown. There was renovations going on and part of it was closed. I did not venture up into it, nor did I visit the restaurant up on the platform. Perhaps that is why the huge Tower, the one that 5.5 billion people come to see every year, did not really impress me. I found it to be an almost ugly thing. Maybe that makes me a little more French.
My traveling companion (my sister) and I braved the metro to go see the Catacombs. With our days short in Paris, this was the one thing I wanted to see the most. So we walked down the stairs into the underground and found an information booth. The woman behind the glass was very helpful. We were given directions and purchased our tickets. We knew from Rick Steve’s book where to get off and to look for the enormous bronze lion as we emerged from the underground. Sure enough, the first thing we laid our eyes on was the bronze lion. He was beautiful. And there, right across from him was the entrance to the Catacombs. We took our place in line and waited.
After waiting for about an hour and a half, a man came along the line explaining that they were doing renovations and had not yet decided if they were going to open that day. Renovations? How do you renovate dead people? I mean these guys have been dead for centuries! So we waited some more. After a bit, the gal in front of us went up to ask just what was going on.
Okay, they weren’t renovating the dead people. They were renovating the ventilation system. Kind of an important thing when one is hiking about underground. And they were not going to open.
Another Paris landmark unseeable. Poop.
I did find the people of Paris to be friendly and helpful. Many went out of their way to help us find what we needed or point us in the right direction. No one was snotty or rude. Even the one ticket lady who was angry that we interrupted her visit with her friend, still came out of her booth and showed us how the use the ticket machine, staying to be sure we got it right and received our tickets.
I saw homeless people a few times, lounging in doorways with dogs and bags. There were several panhandlers asking for money or cigarettes. I watched one man manage to get 5 free cigarettes during the course of my lunch.
The traffic whizzes by on tiny, narrow streets. Horns honk constantly, scooters zip in and out. Traffic lanes in Paris are a suggestion of where to drive. No one really uses them as lanes. Traffic circles are fascinating to watch. Cars don’t really around in a circle. Some go straight across, some sort circle, other weave back and forth. Horns honk and tires squeal. Amazingly enough, no one gets hit.
All in all, I found Paris to be a typical big city with big city issues. It is loud, dirty and busy. I did not find it to be romantic, or slower paced. Maybe I was just in the wrong place with the wrong companion.
But I was happy to leave.