Is Paris always a good idea?
Paris was okay, my friend said, I like (insert another European country) better. Other lukewarm responses came from family and friends who had visited Paris. We heard things about the French people too, especially their attitude towards the Chinese race. According to a friend who lived in France, Paris is not a stroller-friendly city too. The food was not bad though, a friend gave me a tinge of hope.
Paris doesn’t seem like a good idea.
Furthermore, I prefer nature to a big city for a holiday. However, travel restrictions due to Covid greatly reduced our options and hence, we settled for Paris. We didn’t have high expectations of the trip.
What happened in France?
According to the locals, the weather in France turned much colder a day or two before our arrival. It’s ramping up for winter. From hot humid Singapore to dry cold France, our bodies were shocked by the cold. Hence, throughout the trip, the girls and I took turns falling sick. Feeling uncomfortable from our sick bug, we still had to contend with the laborious layering time and the bulky layers wrapped around us. Adding which, our many layers didn’t ward off all the shivering cold!
Being sick and cold, recovering from jetlag, and taking care of two sick children would have made this trip miserable and unpleasant for me.
Winter in Paris doesn’t seem like a good idea.
The magic of the city whirled around us.
I fell in love with the city — the orange lights, the Haussmann* architecture, the croissants, the macaroons, the museums, and the magic. Not being a city girl, this is the first time I truly love a big city. Staying like a local in a Haussmann apartment was quite an experience too.
Someone asked me what I like about Paris, and I couldn’t pinpoint it. Was it the streets of Paris, filled with orange hues and romance? Or just a general vibe of the city that rejuvenates the creativity and romance in me?
I walked the streets, and I was inspired to write. I walked around their museums, and I was tempted to paint or draw, reviving the buried artist in me. My heart was full.
Sadly, I knew the demands back in Singapore would claw on and choke this inspiration and passion.
Perhaps after being confined within Singapore for such a long time, anything out of the island was exhilarating. Or perhaps I had very low expectations of the city. Under normal circumstances, we might have skipped the city for another. So it turned out to be all things working out for the good. We spent a week in Paris, and yet I felt like we have yet to fully enjoy what Paris had to offer us.
Usually, I don’t fancy going back to the same country a second time. Doing so means I couldn’t explore new places. It’s usually the budget rather than the allure of the country that made me return. The last time I had such a yearning to return was after my graduate trip along the West Coast of the US. I found that spark again, looking forward to a day when I can go to Paris again.
Paris, the city of lights, illuminated part of me.
So yes, Paris is a good idea for me.
* Quintessential Parisian style of 19th-century architecture
Food in Paris
Contrary to my friend’s opinion, food in France was not the highlight of our trip. In fact, the food was a bit of a struggle for my girls and me. Although disclaimer, I didn’t visit famous Michelin restaurants due to children and budget. Nevertheless, we came across a few gems in France that are friendlier to the wallets. Find out what they are in “Food Diary: What’s Our Food in Paris?“.
p.s. Sweet treats are good though.
We heard things. Nose in the air, snobs. A distaste for the Chinese. Refusing to speak in English but French. We almost skipped France because hubby didn’t want to deal with such unfriendliness.
When we decided to go in the end, we braced ourselves for rude and racist encounters.
“Put them back,” I told Grace. She was holding on to a small bundle of cherries that costs about EUR 1 per cherry. The cashier saw her disappointed look and plucked out two cherries. “Here, take them,” he said to Grace with a chuckle.
I was in a snaking long queue at the Shakespeare and Company and the “bouncer” signalled for our family to enter. Our children gave us a priority pass. However, I think I did piss him off slightly (although he didn’t say anything about it) when I went in and out — first time to ask if my husband wanted to head in (he didn’t), the second time because I forgot to get a book for Grace.
Btw, it’s a nice and quaint bookstore with a history to soak in. It might not be worth the time to queue unless you are a bookworm or into literature. Prepare some budget for this bookstore, the atmosphere somehow compels one to buy a book, at least I did. Got one for myself and the kids, and they would stamp the first page of the book with their logo (with your permission), transforming the books into souvenirs.
The Parisians turned out to be quite the opposite of our expectations. Most of the people we came across in Paris were friendly and helpful. In fact, the service at F&B outlets was generally better than those we experienced in Singapore. Was it because we have two children in the tow that softened them? Was it because they have been closed off to Asian tourists for a long time?
Okay, there’s one exception — a saleslady at NOCIBE (Westfield Forum Des Halles). She ignored me and acknowledged other customers. She even walked away when I was clearly approaching her for help. I persisted because she was the only staff who was idle. She brushed me off with an I-don’t-know. Unhelpful.
When we first arrived in Paris, I was wary of helpfulness though. “Hello, miss”, I turned to see a man standing really close to me. I stepped back in red alert. All the warnings I received came flooding into my mind. Pardon my stereotype, but he was very dressed down in rugged clothes and much bigger than me in size. What did he want? “Do you need help with the luggage?”
My husband carried the heavy luggage up the train station’s flight of stairs, leaving me behind with the two girls and a piece of smaller rolling luggage. I had attempted to follow him and carry the luggage up the stairs.
I heaved a slight relief inside of me. I thought he wanted something from me. Thinking back, I was not sure if it was genuine help, or an attempt to pickpocket or something else. I hate to suspect, but I tend to be extra hypervigilant when I am overseas.
Speaking of which, read more about my witness of a pickpocketing attempt in “I saw a pickpocket in Paris. Tips to stay safe in France.“. In the post, I included helpful tips on how to stay safe in France and who to look out for.
A final note on Paris or France
Thinking back, I always like things from Paris. The first luxury bag I bought was a Louis Vuitton, and I am a fan of Clarins and Longchamp. I didn’t know these brands were from Paris until I went there. Pardon me, I am a noob in beauty and brand knowledge. I like their effortless chic fashion too. Perhaps, there’s already part of me that appreciates the Parisian style.
Memories could be sweeter than actual events. Regardless, there must be a reason why many others fall in love with the city. Or that fascination with Paris. It is always a good idea for some people, and not for others. You just got to go there and experience it for yourself. A tip before you go, Paris is a place for travellers to savour and appreciate the nuances and not a quick stopover to gobble and leave. And learn some basic French phrases like ‘s’il vous plaît’. ;)
If you have children, my next post will shed some light on whether Paris is always a good idea for children.
Let me know what you love or dislike about Paris! Leave your comments below. Love to hear from you. :)
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