The Darkness and Brightness of Paris (Updated)

Paris, Paris. This is one destination where all girls want to visit with their love ones at some point of their life. The city of lights / art / cuisine / romance / love / dream / liberty / passion / fashion – whatever the city portrays itself, in my opinion, is nothing but an overrated destination. Yes, it houses some of the world’s most remarkable landmarks and international brands but the city is losing its shine. Sadly, it is rotting from within with its petty crimes, ruggedness, vandalism and snobbishness.

We had high expectations of this city. Afterall, it is Paris – we read so much about this city. This is where Chanel lives, Mona Lisa smiles and Eiffel Tower sparkles. When I alighted from the Eurostar train at the Paris’ Gare Du Nord station, I was disappointed with its messy state. What a big difference compared with London’s St Pancras station, I thought. There were lots of conmen stalking out at the station offering “cheap rides” to unfamiliar tourists. It felt like 3rd-tier Chinese cities and this is the capital of France! I asked the information counter for direction to the toilet but the assistant simply gave me direction in French! That wasn’t very useful. In the end, it was a Chinese retail staff who politely pointed me to the right direction. I wasn’t surprised – afterall, the French is notorious for their indifference and impatience towards the English-speaking tourists.

Our hotel is just a 5-minute walk to the world’s famous Eiffel Tower. The sandy path leading to the tower was littered with fresh dogs’ poos and uneven pot holes. It wasn’t pretty at all. We were also approached by a group of young Gypsies girls asking us to sign up for fake donation. These are the same old cliche tactics that were practiced in other poorer Asian cities. We ignored them but this bad experience dampen the good impression we had of Paris. Nevertheless, we were so mesmerised by the tower’s beauty that we soon overlooked these minor flaws. The Eiffel Tower is indeed a charmer. It didn’t disappoint at all! We spent 45 minutes walking up 669 steps to the 2nd deck of the tower. It was an exhilarating climb for Felicia and me. The view at the top was simply breath-taking!

Despite all our “not-so-nice” first encounters with the French hospitality, Felicia, Elkan and I had a wonderful time exploring the city. We enjoyed the bright and dark sides of Paris. We spent the next 2 days exploring the city’s rich past – Musée du Louvre, Notre Dame, The Centre Georges Pompidou etc where I shot many nice photos. Seeing Paris at day and Paris at night was 2 completely different experience. It is a beautiful city to explore on foot – every turn’s a surprise. We saw a beautiful double-decker carousel along Avenue Victoria outside Place de l’Hôtel-de-Ville and Elkan jumped right onto it! The boutiques were decorated with stunning window displays.

On our last day, my worst fear happened. Felicia was robbed at Galeries Lafayette (one of the hot spots for pick-pockets) less than 5m away from a mobile Police Station! The robbers were quite physical – they pulled her arms and pushed her around. In the state of confusion, her purse was stolen and she lost all her money and cards. While she was making her statement, 2 Japanese men walked into the station and cited the same crime story. Incredible, there is nothing the Police can do to make any difference. These crimes happened right under their noses in broad daylight!

Overall, we left the French’s capital with very mixed feelings. It is like the Mona Lisa Experience. Many came to see the painting – only to find out that it is so small and you can’t go close to see her in details. We love the old gems and charms of Paris – the museums, the historic landmarks and the big brands. We were unimpressed with its people, their indifference and snobbishness. One positive thing that came out of that negative pick-pocket incident – It taught Elkan a priceless “real life-encounter street lesson” that we need to stay vigilant at all time, how we faced & dealt with the crisis and moved on.  In my opinion, Paris is still very much living on its past architectural marvels / glories, fashion brands and rich heritage. With such snobbish attitude towards its visitors, Paris is certainly not ready to welcome its new wave of Chinese travellers. To be fair, it will take me many more visits (and French classes) to fully understand and appreciate its diversity. Perhaps I am having the Eiffel Tower Effect – Parisans found it an eye-sore when it was first built and it took them a while to discover its beauty. At the first glance, Paris is not romantic at all. To me, it is merely cosmetic for now. 

3 Responses to The Darkness and Brightness of Paris (Updated)

  1. tse says:

    beautiful pics joe! sorry to hear abt your wife being robbed but hey that also reminds how lucky we are to be in asia where it’s safe and the economy is doing decently.

  2. pearlsandparis says:

    beautiful pictures!

  3. davidmalta says:

    I am very lucky in that I have been to Paris six or seven times so far. And every time has been a completely different experience. One of the great cities of the world.

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