We just returned from our second visit to Paris yesterday night, and…..
We remain unimpressed by the La Ville-Lumière.
Yes, the city is beautiful and very much dazzling, especially at twilight and against the black backdrop of cloudless nights. Tour Eiffel is magnificent; the view from its summit is breathtaking. Champ de Mars charms with its manicured greens and effusive glow. River Seine sparkles at twilight and invites admirers to glide on boat cruises as it meanders through the city of lights. Musée du Louvre is beyond a treasure trove with its multitude of sculptures and paintings; Cupid and Psyche brings the bittersweet longing of lovers to life, and the mysterious Mona Lisa and the sadistic dark paintings depicting death and decapitation still enthrall me five years later. Our choice of temporary abode for this visit, Hotel Warwick Champs-Elysées was a minute’s walk away from Champs-Elysées, the rooms were spacious with king-sized beds and quality pillows, we were given posh toiletries from Gilchrist and Soames, the staff were delightfully helpful, all of which were vast improvement from the shabby, dingy cheap hotel that we stayed in 5 years ago at Château d’Eau.
But there is something that still detaches me, us actually, from the city.
Perhaps it’s the lack of belly-rubbing meals. During our first visit to Paris five years ago, we were poor undergraduate students and survived on €5 cold sandwiches bought from random stalls in the middle of nowhere; I am being cordial when I say that the bread had the uncanny texture of rags. For our recent visit, I did some research on the internet for good casual bistros to satisfy the food monsters in us, but my family members, who fell ill one after the other, were challenged by the long walks and unforgiving weather, so we settled for Chinese takeouts and McDonald’s instead. The good food in Paris still eludes me.
Perhaps we hated the weather…..oh the weather. The first time we were in Paris, it was summer but it was too cold and too windy. Nevermind that, because that’s typical English weather. We visited Paris Disneyland less than two years ago, and we experienced four types of weather in one day – hot sun, heavy rain, hail and snow. This time, the weather was fickle; we were whipping out our umbrellas and having them flipped by the strong icy winds every five minutes, so much so that one of our brollies succumbed to multiple fractures and suffered an unfortunate demise in one of the bins at Château de Versailles. That’s not all. The last hours in Paris were insane. We had popped into Adidas along Champs-Elysées for a fun session of core skills test whilst avoiding the scorching sun. When we came out all exhausted from the test, it was still incredibly sunny, and we thought ‘Yay, the weather is finally dry and hot‘. Right about halfway up the tree-lined street, I exclaimed ‘Oh my gosh, not heavy rain again!!’ when I saw huge droplets of water falling from the suddenly overcast skies. And then my husband went ‘What is tha…OUCH!’. Yes, hail, my dears. We struggled to whip out our battered umbrellas and they refused to open to shelter us from the ice attack. It was soooo painful to have huge granules of ice hitting our scalps and faces at incredible speeds. Even our legs, which were covered in denim, hurt. It almost seemed like Paris wanted me to hate it.
Oh right, there were queues snaking everywhere too, at Tour Eiffel and Château de Versailles even though we had advanced tickets, at Musée du Louvre where the queues extended to beyond the other square because it is free to enter the museum on the first Sunday of every month, at Notre Dame de Paris because a portion of the Crown of Thorns is on display on Good Friday and on the first Friday of every month. I’ve not seen such faithful queuing since the days that Hello Kitty made its debut at McDonald’s in Singapore. And then there was a queue at Pierre Hermé, obviously because of its famous macaroons.
What about exceedingly expensive everything, mostly snooty attitudes, the trying flights of stairs that we had to climb to get from one metro line to another in the same station (and that is saying something because we do a hell lot of legwork in London), and the trio of teenage girls who purposely squeezed into the same coach with us in the metro just to try and pickpocket my mother?
I want to love Paris, I really do. But maybe I need to save up for a more luxurious vacation and decent meals, pray for good weather, hope to meet less snooty people, stop visiting the popular attractions, and just go for good stuff, you know, like Pierre Hermé’s macaroons and vanilla millefeuille, caramel au beurre salé from Denise Acabo whom I would love to hug a million times, and do more affordable luxury shopping.
For now, I shall sit back and admire the illustrous pictures of Parisian desserts and views taken with my very capable and intuitive Lumix LX3, cultivate an extra belly with the macaroons and caramel au beurre salé, and wait for my slight distaste of the city to ebb before I make my third foray into the streets of Paris. Three time’s the charm, or so they say. And so I hope.