Likes & Dislikes

Opinions

,, My Likes&Dislikes list:

Likes

1. Driving down the illuminated Champs Elysée in the evening
2. The Dali Museum in Montmartre (Espace Dalí Montmartre)
3. The cathedral of Saint Denis, where it’s possible to learn about the history of the Kingdom of France
4. Being able to disprove through personal experience certain negative stereotypes about Paris and Parisians (many of them do speak English, for example)
5. Whenever I tried to speak French, it was always repaid with respect
6. The dog-friendly attitude (though I find it a little grotesque that they allow dogs inside cafés)
7. The catacombs that lie beneath the city, a small portion of which can be explored (the Empire of the Dead)
8. The Cluny Museum
9. The legendary cafés of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, frequented by so many famous artists
10. The Conciergerie complex on the Île de la Cité – a museum where you can see Marie Antoinette’s cell, complete with prison guard puppets.

Dislikes

1. Montmartre – the huge flood of tourists has robbed it of its authentic character
2. After about three hours in the Louvre I was suffering from a serious overdose of art
3. The typical yet effective techniques of the pickpockets on the Paris Metro
4. If you’re visiting non-tourist sights in Paris, distances between them can become very long
5. There are a lot of rude waiters in the old, traditional cafés – they talk down to guests, correct them, and forget orders
6. The bathrooms in many small cafés are smelly and disgusting
7. The difficulty of deciding whether to go by metro, and get there faster but see nothing en route, or take the slower bus, but get a view on the way
(H.A., 2017)

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“Trying to choose what to see in Paris is an excruciating process. We spent six days in Paris, and even then we didn’t manage to see a third of the things on our list.

I advise everyone not to spend more than four hours in the Louvre, unless you’re obsessed with art history. You have to use a guidebook to decide in advance what to see, so that in this building of four floors on three wings, you know where to focus your attention. You could limit yourself to just a century or two – it’s not the end of the world if you hurry through a few room.
Also, bear in mind that there are some other great museums in Paris, so leave some time aside for them. The Musée d’Orsay, for instance, with its masterpieces of impressionism, is no less important than the Louvre.
In any case, like many of my friends, I’m convinced that a visit to Paris should not be overloaded with too many museums and visits to historic monuments, as there may not be enough time to get to know the Paris of today.

This big city is composed of many different districts, and it’s very worthwhile just to wander aimlessly. The elegant townhouses of the 16th arrondissement are fascinating, but so is the multiethnic ambience in the 10th. Paris is diverse in every respect, including its population.” (S.d. 2018)

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“The French capital is both fabulous and awful. I have never seen such striking contrast in one place. On the one hand, there is the beauty industry, with sparkling, aromatic boutique shops, but on the other hand, the streets are filthy, and the parking lots stink (literally – we came across human excrement in one corner) and rats roam freely in the magnificent parks…
The people are free, many are rich, many are artists (or at least ‘artistic’)… but there’s so much poverty, and so many people – often immigrants – living in miserable ghettoes.

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“The French capital is both fabulous and awful. Nowhere else have I seen so much contrast – at the same time – as here. To be specific: the shops of the beauty industry and the big perfume houses are wonderful and delicately fragrant… but the streets are dirty, the parking lots are stinky (they literally poop in many corner areas…) and in the wonderful parks cat-sized rats run around… The people are free, many are rich, many are artists (or have artists’ souls) but there are also many poor, often immigrant people living in ghettoes. I know you can even find the same contrasts in many cities, but in Paris, it comes out very sharply on every single street and at every moment…
All the same, I’m happy we came.” (2017)

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"The language: the French are really unwilling to learn foreign languages and are even proud of it. This can be forgiven when it’s a random passer-by on the street, a bit more annoying when it’s a server, and really too much when it’s a museum employee. This isn’t some remote village, where it’s to be expected, this is Paris, which is full of tourists. In other words, if you often win at Activity, your language skills may come in handy here.

The smell: a lot of cars, but it’s not the exhaust fumes you smell, but the ever-present reek of urine. There are quite a few public toilets, but I can safely say they don’t bother to use them. The metro is an even bigger ‘experience’: first, because, the smell lingers longer in the tunnels, and secondly because here you get to choose between vomit and urine. There must be some good reason why they don’t keep the city properly clean, but they could make more of an effort.

The dirt: staying with the previous topic: Paris is dirty.

Prices: Not just expensive, very expensive. And you don't get quality for it.

The sights: Nice, nice, really stunning buildings, the banks of the Seine, the sights. But I think the experience loses quite a bit of its value if, for instance, you’ve spent an hour and a half standing in line in front of the Eiffel Tower and is so cold up that your hands freeze solid in 5 minutes. The view is breathtaking, but I would only recommend it in the summer and with a pre-ordered ticket. This also applies to everything else that is preceded by miles of lines.

Survival Tips for Paris:

1. French knowledge/pro Activity skills
2. Nose plugs, though sooner or later you get used to the smell
3. A full wallet
4. A strong stomach or good medicine
5. At least 4-5 days in the city (may lead to complete financial ruin), giving you time to wait in the endless lines and also look inside the buildings that, on a shorter visit, you could only admire from the outside.

Since I’m not going to try to describe a whole city on the basis of just one impression, and since there were also wonderful parts to the weekend (which I’ll list once Paris has been removed from my blacklist) I would actually like to go back. But the city/ country really has to make some kind of effort to tackle its disadvantages if I’m going to be persuaded to forgive it the bad parts.”

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“Never in my life have I spent so much time standing in line. At the major locations (the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower) we had pre-booked tickets, but it still took a long time to get in, because there’s a security check everywhere (for obvious reasons). The Mona Lisa in the Louvre now has a separate line, so after 45 minutes of waiting you can look at it for two minutes, but even then the people posing in front of it mean you can’t really see it properly (the rest of the museum is great, though, especially the interactive boards – but it would take you a year to see everything). At the Eiffel Tower, you have to wait half an hour to get in a lift, so it isn’t easy (but it’s still better to get a pre-booked ticket – the lines are even longer without one.)” (sz.m., 2019)





 

Montmartre - gardeners - r.g.- photo

Paris - installation - r.g. photo

Practicals

Transport

If you have to drive in Paris: First, be prepared for the constant traffic jams which can leave you stuck in neutral all day, and for the unusual driving style of Parisians. What counts as bad manners in other countries is completely natural here. They turn at the same moment they switch on their indicators, change lanes without warning, turn right from the third inner lane, or vice versa, and most surprisingly, the other motorists stop and let them do it. There are so many cars that it simply cannot be otherwise. It is almost natural to park in two rows. On a horizontal road, the parking brake is not applied because the other car wishing to park pushes the car forward or back a little to fit. Of particular interest is the roundabout around the Arc de Triomphe. There are about 10 lanes without lane markings and there is a right-hand rule. The first time I did two laps because I didn’t dare turn off, meaning I couldn’t go out. Then I took over their style, turning right and setting off from the eighth lane to the right, and, the miracle of miracles, came out unscathed. Actually, there is a right-hand rule almost everywhere. If you want to change lanes, it’s not worth indicating and hoping they’ll let you in, because by that time the chance will have passed. You have to adapt their style – turn signal and then veer into the other lane. The rear car will brake and let you in. This is natural here. Pedestrians need to be very careful because they’ll happily stroll out on red lights. With all this, I didn’t hear a single horn honk. In summary, the whole of Paris is insane chaos, but once tried, it an experience of a lifetime.

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“Surely everyone has seen the kind of romantic, cultural image of France, with young people cycling through beautiful countryside. This isn’t really true of the country, but Paris does provide pretty good conditions for cyclists. From bike paths to rentals, everything is provided for an easy bike ride, allowing you to explore Pari, which has more and more bike paths. As cycling is extremely good for the environment, some roads in the city are closed on Sundays, meaning they can only be used by cyclists. (2019)


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‘We bought a public transport pass for the two middle days of our trip, so we could get to attractions further away from the center, such as the Père-Lachaise cemetery.

It is fantastic that the metro network covers practically every quarter and every major tourist attraction while providing a handy meeting point for Parisians. In our opinion, it is easy to travel by metro, there is a map at each station and the directions are clearly marked along with the stops. It was a bit of a negative point to see so many fare-dodgers hurdling the ticket gates. Locals jump over the gates with incredible agility, and where the gate is too high, they mostly hide behind someone who has a valid ticket and goes through the entry system with them. This is very unusual for tourists, I was also intimidated by a local resident who stood right behind my back trying to get in with me.

What was also interesting to us was that there are only very few escalators in the Parisian metros. This is probably a good thing for Parisians in their everyday lives since anyone who has to transfer more than once to get to their workplace is getting a substantial workout, while for tourists its no big deal either – we’re walking and looking around all day anyway (though I can’t deny there were a few times when a moving escalator would have been a welcome sight). It’s the older people for whom it must be a real inconvenience.

With regard to traffic in Paris, it was strange to observe how the locals seem to take no notice of traffic lights. Sometimes, even though we had a green light to cross the road, the motorists still did not stop, but we also saw some foolhardy pedestrians step out into the road even when they had a red light, and sometimes even forced traffic to stop. It probably follows from the fact that there’s no gap between traffic signals here – the same second the traffic light turns red, the pedestrian light turns green. It’s best to keep your wits about you when you cross the road here, rather than relying on traffic signals.” (Fanny, 2016)


Paris - classic Metro entrance - v.j.

Paris - That is a bike repair stand, located on one of the busiest streets in Paris. Look closely - a complete set of tools, a tire inflator, and no one steals anything !!! - r.m. photo

Food

"French pancakes, or crêpes, are not exactly like our classic pancakes, mainly not because they are thinner and lighter. Today, French crêpes can be found all around the world, so you may already have experienced how much larger they are than a regular pancake. They are cooked in a large, round platinum pan with some Teflon coating, onto which a little pancake batter is poured and then spread out with a spatula. You can find creperies, or establishments selling these pancakes, everywhere in Paris, especially in small street stalls and mobile buffets. There are sweet and savory varieties, depending on what filling you choose. I’m in the savory camp, so I tend to pick a ham and cheese filling, but even the plain cheese version is heavenly.

The large pancake is later folded into two and then four with the spatula so that it becomes a quarter circle, and this is placed in a suitably shaped cardboard box to take away. I love street food unless it drips or gets on my hands, especially when my hands get greasy – I have a real phobia of that - but well, in Paris, even I admit that you should be relaxed during your holiday and sweat such little things ...

Anyway, you don't have to be afraid of this, feel free to eat pancakes in Paris: you can also hold it with your bare hands, because the pancake itself is fat free, and I mean really NO fat in the dough (and according to them, there’s none on the baking sheet either)!! Unfortunately, this cannot be said of pancakes in other countries. If you’re past this little snack, you’ll have to have lunch at a coffee shop again. They offer all kinds of food at lunchtime, at which time most cafes actually turn into restaurants, but of course not with the same range of options as a normal restaurant. There can only be one true Parisian café lunch: salade composée. I write: "only one", but it exists in a thousand different versions because the composition is limited only by the imagination of the French chefs ...


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"Obviously I was preparing for a culinary experience (not that I’d go as far as snails or anything like that, but at least for quality and interesting things.) I’m sure you could find such things in the restaurants where you pay half a month’s salary for your dinner, but in cheaper (though still outrageously expensive) places, you shouldn’t get your hopes up. As for breakfast, forget about it, you’re better off with an extra hour’s sleep. Nowhere else have I been served such disgusting eggs. The next step in this chapter is the macaron, Paris’s most upscale cookie. I searched the net to find where they sell the best ones, and we went out of our way to try some. I don’t know what the bigger disappointment was: this or the wait in front of the Eiffel Tower. These tiny mouthfuls (and each one costs 2 euros, by the way) are sweetened to a degree that covers my full year’s sugar intake. Plus, I tried some special iris-violet-rose flavor, but this floral fragrance and flavor mixed with concentrated sugar were revolting. Even now I feel sick if I think about it. (Earlier I tried a cheaper orange favor macaron elsewhere, but it was no better).”

Paris -Montmartre - r.g. photo

Paris - brasserie - g.l. photo

Paris - Escargot is a dish of cooked land snails, usually served as an appetiser in French restaurants - Tom's photo

Shopping

 “A practical piece of good advice for everyone: if you’re buying cheese but the damn hotel doesn’t have a fridge, either eat it or pray it doesn’t spoil by the next day, but don’t put it on the balcony on a cold day in Paris – not if it’s not tied down, and definitely not just in a nylon bag – because the crows will tear open the bag and steal it. Based on a true story…” (2017)

Paris - Á la Mére De Famille - confectionery since 1761 - r.g. photo

Paris - Galerie Lafayette - bld Haussmann - r.g. photo

Paris - Dior - r.g. photo

Fun

Street dance

r.g. photo

Paris - live concert in the metro car - m.s. photo

Public safety

"The steps at Montmartre are practically lined with very aggressive African black-market peddlers. In addition to wanting to sell their crappy little souvenir statues to tourists, they keep trying to put their 'friendship bracelets' on people. If they succeed, then they’ll immediately start rudely demanding that the person pays for it. One of them tried very insistently to put the bracelet on my arm, and I was compelled to use my prerogative as a woman and slap his hand away. They actually block the way up the steps. In addition, along the edges of the steps – in a spirit of division of labor – Arabs whisper offers of drugs. The police seem to be unable to do anything about it, even though tourists are very irritated by this continual harassment.” (K. M., 2015)


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On the way to the Eiffel Tower, we saw real conmen.

The first category is what we call jangler-danglers. They are decked out with Eiffel towers strung on small hoops, possibly together with fake designer sunglasses, or stolen stuff, and their primary characteristic is that they are in constant motion or carrying a small stand that can be folded up and down again in seconds. They have to be ready to run at any time.
The aggressive bracelet guys. They even grab your arm (yes!) to tie some leather strap or other junk too. Then charge you for it.
Then here’s-the-red-ball-where’s-the-red-ball guys. They always work as a team. Great to observe for anyone who’s seen these how-they-do-magic shows on TV… There is the gamemaster and, interestingly, there are always 2 people out there playing. But they’re plants, of course. One wins, the other loses. The winner attracts the sucker, the guy who will lose his money, by making it look so easy he wants to try. He’s rinsed in minutes. Then, if nobody is watching and they run out of chips, they swap roles. It’s worth noting that the relatively large number of soldiers – whose job is to protect against terrorism – don’t bother with them, but the scammers are afraid of the police, which is why there is a sentry posted at each end of the street.
Fund-raising gypsies are also constantly out there, raising money for themselves, of course. The torn sheet of A4 paper has probably been with them for years – at least they could replace it now and then for the sake of appearances. It is best when children 12-13 years old are trying to raise funds. What are we to think? At such a young age, to be so committed to this selfless cause? Yeah, sure. Their best lines are, "Do You Speak English?". As if they knew English because some (many) of them don’t at all. If, on the other hand, you answer anything at all, you’ll never get rid of them.
And then we didn’t talk about the guys who sell illegal goods, who mostly harass the locals – the guys with the razor blades. (2017)


Paris - CRS - riot police - r.g. photo

Health

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Paris - handstand - k-t.g. photo

Others

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Paris - Stop! Can you hear me? t.r. photo

Paris - the shy self-portrait painter - s.u. photo

Paris - The sinking house of Montmartre - g.v. photo

Paris - Stylish tourists from Africa - r.g. photo

Background

Paris - The Tricolore Parisian style

Destination in brief

Population (in 2012): 2.1 million in the City area and 11 million in the Urban (or Metro) area

Religion: 52% Catholic, 35% no religion, 10% Muslim (15% in Urban area)

The 18th borough (arrondissement) is also known as ,,Little Africa" because its inhabitants are mostly from countries that were former French colonies of West Africa.

Average net monthly salary (in 2020): 2200 Euro - (France's average 2000 Euro)


Climate

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Paris - as usual

Nowadays

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Paris - multiethnicity - m.s. photo

Paris - La Defense - t.k. photo

Paris - luxury - r.g. photo

People

Stereotypes:

No fake friendliness and plastic smiles, like in US cities.

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“There are countless stereotypes about French hospitality and the language difficulties that tourists may face if they do not speak the local language. I don’t deny, I also had problems with French people who could not or refused to speak English. However, it was much more common for them to try to express themselves and help me despite the language barrier, and even more, people gave funny, instant language lessons to help my integration.
Like all stereotypes, the one about the French is just a rough generalization that is far from accurate for every single person. During my stay in Paris, I met a lot of wonderful, kind, and courteous people who are proud of their culture and are happy to talk about it, so for me, the locals definitely tilt the balance towards the positive.” (2018)


Paris - sitting - m.s. photo

Paris - woman in the cafe - g.l. photo

Paris - man on the cafe terrace - g.l. photo

Paris - street artist - m.v. photo

Paris - Montmartre - playing boules (also known as petanque) - r.g. photo

Gastronomy

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Paris - mussels - r.g. photo

Attractions

Museums: 

Musée d'Orsay


Bal du moulin de la Galette is an 1876 painting

by French artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir - r.g. photo















Louvre

Louvre - m.v. photo

Museums

Paris - Louis Vuitton Foundation - an art museum and cultural center - r.g. photo

Bridges

Paris - Pont-Neuf - b.i. photo

Pantheon

Paris - Panthéon - r.g. photo

Sacré-Coeur

Paris - Sacré-Coeur - t.k. photo

Eiffel Tower

Paris - a ham sandwich and yogurt with Eiffel Tower - Ata photo

Arc de Triomphe


,, The Triumphal Arch, or Arc de Triomphe, is one of the most popular sights in Paris, and a symbol of the famous Champs Elysées, but many people argue that there’s really ‘nothing special’ about it. Unfortunately, I can’t argue with them, since while this the neo-classical monument is certainly very elegant, it doesn’t leave much of a lasting impression, especially when you think that it was meant to commemorate the glory of Napoleon’s armies.

In any case, it stands in the middle of an enormous roundabout, and even getting to it is tricky since there’s no zebra crossing to help curious tourists get to the other side. The fact is, I’ve no idea how an elderly lady or a gentleman with mobility issues could ever get to the Arc de Triomphe, and I’m sure most people are content to take a quick look at it from a distance then carry on. "

Paris - Arc de Triomphe - K Elter photo

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