Paris is synonymous with love, baguettes, the stylish and elegant, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower.
This is the danger when choosing the right city to chase and explore. We have a preconceived fancy notion in our head and pursue it wholeheartedly. This could be the danger of romanticism in general. We “romanticise” in our minds without facing the reality.
in reality, Paris is swarmed by tourists who have also been swept away by the dreamy notions of the city presented in films and magazines. In reality, Paris is a bit pricey, Parisians can be arrogant and raucous, there is a lot of crime and gypsy gangs roaming the street threatening to pickpockets, Paris can be noisy, smelly and infested with rats (especially near the River Seine) and other insects during summer. In short, Paris is actually overrated.
And yet, I relented and fell in love. Granted, it was a short trip. Only 2-3 days. My first night was spent trying to figure out the unhelpful subway system, the streets and the way to my hotel. There was also an unfortunate and isolated racist incident directed towards me. Shocked? No. Dismayed? Yes. Western Europe always reminds you that you cannot be too relaxed and after all, we are gripped in a burgeoning far right attitude in spite of the decades of multiculturalism and understanding between other nationalities. Oh well.
Was it the famous bookstore on Rue de la Bucherie, Shakespeare and Company, that won me over? Was it the spacious surroundings of the Louvre? The long and winding streets along the quarter of Saint Germain des Pres? The petit Palais with its free entry and lovely collection of Cezanne? The Boulangeries with its abundance of fine baguette and macaroons? The Eiffel Tower at night? The River Seine, all lit up? No. It was a nice cemetery walk in Pere Lechaise, on my stealth mission to find the grave of Jim Morrison with a Parisian guy via an app. No, not Tinder. It’s funny, that’s what I will remember most from Paris: Cutting peppers in his flat, walking around the Belleville district, the Metro rides, Hopscotch, introducing people to the beauty that is “Careless Whisper” by George Michael, and watching “Stranger than Paradise” in an open air cinema in La Villette.
Twice, Paris at Midnight was beautiful. Drinking and reflecting along the River Seine. Lying on the ground watching a Jim Jarmusch film next to the warmth of a Parisian gentleman unable to act on his attraction.
It was Paris all right—– Without the Romance.