Paris & Its Two Personalities
Paris is a lot of things to a lot of different people. It can be romantic and beautiful or it can be dirty and difficult. Or it can be all these things rolled into one. In my opinion, Paris has two distinct personalities and depending on your trip, you could either meet one personality and fall absolutely in luvv, or you could meet the other and have a completely different opinion of the city. One personality never exists without the other, but depending on your state of mind, you might only notice one side of Paris, and then in my opinion sell yourself short. Let me explain... I first went to Paris in 2009. I was so excited about the trip I watched every classic French film. I purchased French language books, and studied them. I mapped out the city and knew all the places I had to see. And out of my travel plans to also visit Barcelona and Rome, it was my most anticipated destination. I arrived to Paris early in the morning after a 14 hour train ride from Barcelona. I was greeted at the station by one of my best friends. She was staying there for the summer with her French boyfriend and they had decided I could stay with them for the week I was in Paris. I was more than excited about this. I would get to explore Paris with actual locals and my friend who spoke fluent French. It was going to be an amazing week. After grabbing my bags, Liz and I hit the subway to head over to the apartment where I would be staying. We were minding our business when a teenage girl jumped on our train with a stereo. She proceeded to do some breakdance moves where she then went around asking for money for her performance. I reached in my pocket where I only had a couple coins, not totaling a Euro, and I placed it in her hat. She looked at it, cussed at me in French, then threw it at me. Yes, she threw the coins at me! And, just like any normal human, I was absolutely horrified. I had just experienced Paris's first personality and it was scary. It was the hard surface side of the city that is rude and dirty and apparently doesn't accept anything under one Euro for street performance. At this point I could have made up my mind, thrown in the towel. These people were rude and nuts and too good for my hard earned post-graduate money. It could have been that I hadn't slept in over 24 hours, but after the awkward fear of getting money thrown at me I couldn't help but laugh and the trip turned out to be every bit of what I wanted it to be. It was beautiful, romantic, and different than any place I had ever experienced. At night we would attend street music festivals, drink wine on the Seine, cook Ratatoulle in the apartment, and sit on the balcony watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle. We spent our days people-watching at cafes and picnicking in parks. It was magical. It was everything I wanted it to be. It was so amazing that after I traveled to Barcelona, then to Rome, I convinced my sister to come with me back to Paris for our last week of traveling rather than visiting another country. I fell in love with the city. This is Paris's second personality. It captures your every romantic notion and you never forget it. Ater leaving that summer, I couldn't wait to get back. I had talked about my love of Paris for 4 long years, so for our 5-year wedding anniversary, my husband bought us tickets to London, but we would be spending a few days and my 30th birthday in Paris. I was so excited to show Matt what I loved so much about this city. After riding the crowded train from the airport, we arrived to the city late in the evening and then walked a decent distance to our hotel. We were starving, tired, and slightly lost. So when we finally saw the little lights of our hotel sparkling, we were elated. We entered the hotel and rather than being greeted by the Monsieur at the desk, he gave us a befuddled look. I instantly knew this was not good. We told him our names and he shrugged his shoulders and shook his head no. Like, No I am not expecting anyone else. No, you cannot stay here. No. No. No. With his limited English and our limited French, and his book (not computer) of a penciled-in guest list that didn't include us, we thought we were finished. We basically begged and pleaded with him. After some convincing, he let us use the hotel wifi code to pull up the receipt of purchase for the room. He persisted in saying no, that he had not received payment. It wasn't until we showed him a very long number in his book that matched a very long number on our receipt that he finally gave us a key to the room. We hiked up the spiraling staircase to our tiny room having, theoretically, just gotten the change thrown in our face by Paris. Matt had just experienced Paris's first personality, and based on a few things he said when we got up to our room, something to the effect of "this bed is so old I bet Napoleon slept on it," with the addition of some choice words, I wasn't sure he was going to survive long enough to see Paris's second personality. In fact, if it wasn't for my obsession I am sure he would not have. The rest of this trip was much better and he began to understand. We had fondue in the Latin Quarter, placed a lock on the Lover's Lock Bridge, and had plenty of wine and cheese varieties, and cafe time. I wouldn't say he fell in love like I did that summer 4 years ago, but he got it, and that is all that mattered. Paris is a place where you could have just had the most romantic and delicious dinner of your life, and then while on your way home be uncomfortably close to a man in so much agony he insists on moaning loudly in your ear (yes this also happened to me, but I was really afraid to give him any spare change). This city is rough around the edges. I have a theory that Parisians tend to be rude because they love their city so much, they just don't want to let anyone else have it. They get jealous at the idea that their language and culture might be taken from them. So you may run into some push-back as a tourist, and there might be graffiti everywhere, and homeless people on the subway, but don't let that ruin your delicious Boeuf Bourguignon, the first time you saw the Eiffel Tower, or the company you kept. It is all part of the adventure.