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Why I Didn't Fall in Love with Paris (and Why I Want to Give It a Second Chance)

Why I Didn't Fall in Love with Paris (and Why I Want to Give It a Second Chance) | CosmosMariners.com

Several years ago, before I'd even thought about travel blogging, I went to Paris, France, with my parents and my sister. My sister is a Francophile through and through, so she chose several days in Paris as her high school graduation present.

On the surface, I should have fallen in love with the City of Lights: it has an incredible history, it's the setting for many of my favorite books (The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera are two that I can read again and again), and it's chock-a-block full of museums. But the reality of Paris left me wondering what the hype was all about.

Why I Didn't Fall in Love with Paris (and Why I Want to Give It a Second Chance) | CosmosMariners.com
The Louvre
Over the course of our time in Paris, I had some great experiences and some down right awful experiences: there really wasn't much in the in-between.

While we were there, I loved visiting the art museums, particularly the Musee d'Orsay and the Pompidou Centre. I adored seeing the setting of The Phantom of the Opera at the Opera Garnier. I was stunned by the beauty of Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, and Sainte-Chappelle. I am usually a very upbeat person who can find the best in just about anything, especially when I'm traveling.

Why I Didn't Fall in Love with Paris (and Why I Want to Give It a Second Chance) | CosmosMariners.com
One of my favorite places in Paris: the Pompidou Centre!
So, given all of these great things that I experienced, why exactly didn't I love Paris?

The people were quite rude to us. Not all of them, of course--we bought breakfast from this one tiny bakery near our hotel several times, and the guy who ran it was really nice. But most of the people (everyone from the ticket person at the Metro to the waiters who served us) acted haughty and as if we were beneath them.

For example, one night we were tired after a long day of sightseeing and couldn't find the Metro station. We knew there was one nearby, but the entrance was eluding us. We went up to a food cart to ask for directions (in French, no less). I know my French isn't great (or even decent), but I was trying my best to put together grammatically correct sentences to ask where the Metro was. There were several people at the cart, and they all laughed at me. They laughed. When I then asked if they spoke English (again, in French), they said no and laughed again.

The thing is, I was trying really hard to communicate with them. I know I wasn't doing it well, but I was trying. If someone who was obviously foreign came up to me in Charleston and asked for directions, I would resort to hand gestures and drawings if necessary to help them. I'd never just laugh at them and leave them to wander.

It got tiresome being accosted by beggars at the major sites. I know that there are often homeless people and/or beggars in large cities, particularly around popular sightseeing spots. That in itself doesn't bother me. What did bother me about the beggars in Paris was how aggressive they were: they'd get in our faces, stand way too close for comfort, switch languages as they asked for money (since they were trying to figure out which language we spoke), and then yell at us when we walked away.

Why I Didn't Fall in Love with Paris (and Why I Want to Give It a Second Chance) | CosmosMariners.com
At Notre Dame, preparing to walk through the artillery of people demanding money
I'm no stranger to metropolitan areas (and even lived in London during my study abroad program), but I've never been somewhere where I had to steel myself to walk into a church or museum. If it had only been at one place, I still probably wouldn't have been annoyed. But it was at EVERY. SINGLE. SIGHT.

It's hard to enjoy the sparkling lights of the Eiffel Tower when five people come up to you in three minutes all asking for money. We couldn't even get a picture of us at the iconic structure because we were harassed so much.

We were mugged on the Metro. If ever there was a reason to be wary of a place, this would be it. The experience that we had on the Metro one day left us shaky and very wary--neither of which are great feelings in a foreign country. My dad, who was the target of the mugging, felt helpless. Thankfully, we only lost a museum pass. PSA: Wear those money belts, folks!

Again, I've been in and around large cities at various points in my life, and I'm aware that being mugged can happen anywhere. But the mugging and the aggressive beggars just led to a sense of wariness that I didn't like. Even when I lived in London alone (and used the bus and Tube systems extensively), I didn't feel that way.

Why I Didn't Fall in Love with Paris (and Why I Want to Give It a Second Chance) | CosmosMariners.com
Myself in my younger days at the Rodin Museum


"Give it another chance!" all of you lovers of Paris are yelling at me through your computers. And I will--one day.

There are several things in the city that I'd still love to do, including take a tour of the catacombs, see Van Gogh's home north of Paris, try a macaron (nope, never had one!), and visit Napoleon's tomb. Don't get me started on what I want to do outside of Paris because that requires a completely different blog post!

I know there are some amazing things to see, do, and eat in Paris, and it really is unfortunate how my first trip there transpired. Part of the issue might have been my expectations--I thought I'd get the Paris where models walk around everywhere and Remy the rat makes award-winning ratatouille and very smart, fashion-forward people linger over their meals in cafe.

Some of what happened cannot be changed (like the crowds and the pickpockets), but I can take what I've learned and apply it for the better the next time around.

Have you been to Paris? If so, what did you think? Have you ever traveled somewhere that didn't live up to the hype or your own expectations?