Trip Start Nov 15, 2005
248Trip End Aug 15, 2008
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My feelings towards Paris are somewhat mixed; certainly, I am not so in love with this place as so many people are, probably for the fact that I'm trying to do this leg of the trip on quite a tight budget (and failing miserably, but there you go). Paris is most definitely not a cheap place to be; prices compare with London, which is kind of frightening for me.
Enough about the cost, that wasn't really ever so important. Paris is everything you've heard about it, but also has an oddly welcoming feel to it that I hadn't expected. Maybe because it's quite a centre for immigration, and maybe because so many people from all walks of life pass through here, but I didn't encounter the famous Parisian snobbery at all in my few days here, and found most people I spoke to were actually quite patient and helpful, despite my French being quite atrocious at best
Then there were the things I hadn't expected. The irresistable smell of freshly baked bread all over the city in the mornings, the dozens of boulangeries and patisseries with beautiful cakes to tempting to resist in every part of the city (I would grow so fat living here), the thousands of little cafes in which to shelter from the incredibly unpredictable weather (I've never known it to go from clear blue skies to light rain to clear blue to heavy rain to clear blue to hail and back to clear blue again in the space of 3 hours before!) and the small, almost village like districts that seem to exist. In particular the Latin quarter was actually good to walk aorund, and Montmarte (to the north of the centre) has such a relaxed, unprepossesing feel to it, it was one of the few districts that got me into the whole cafe culture side of things, something that has never appealed to me much before
Walking around the Pere Lachaise cemetery was oddly peaceful too. The world's most visited graveyard and home to the graves of Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde (amongst many, many others), the size of it meant there seemed not to be anyone there, and it was interesting to walk around and see the occasional name on a headstone that I recognised.
Absolutely my favourite unknown-to-me-but-apparently-quite-famous landmark was the Basilique du Sacre Coeur (Basilica of the Sacred Heart). As much as I don't do religious buildings, both Notre Dame and this place have something special about them. Here, it wasn't so much to do with the building itself (which was in itself pretty impressive), but more the atmosphere surrounding it. Set atop a hill, it commanded some of the most impressive views of the city (aside from climbing the Eiffel tower, of course, but here you don't have to go up 670 steps!) and was the only really relaxed open space I found in Paris. Whatever time of day, there seemed to be dozens of people just hanging around on the steps leading up, or (preferably) the grassy verges on the hill, doing nothing but letting it all sink in. A perfect place to rest the aching feet after a long day of walking and muse on life a little.
Which leads me on to what I really didn't like about Paris - the size of it. It's huge. In four days of walking, I barely covered the centre and didn't really have time for the museums, unfortunately (the one time I attempted to get into one, I went slightly late in the afternoon and found an estimated hour and a half queue, which would have left me with all of one hour inside the museum
Worst of all by a long way (in my opinion) is the pollution. Everyone drives here, and when walking, I found myself having to stop every couple of hundred yards to wait for the traffic to stop so I could carry on. The stop-go made everything seem so much more tiring. After a day of walking around in all these fumes, I had developed a really unpleasant, irritating tickle in the back of my throat that just got worse as time went on. I can't explain just how nasty it seemed to me, coming from so much fresh air when hiking to this.
So, mixed feeling then. Some aspects of the city I liked so much more than expected, especially as I only stopped by here to visit a friend (who I only saw briefly, but it was great to catch up with, until the digusting drunkenness took over) and hadn't ever considered Paris as a place I had any great desire to see, but other aspects I really didn't like, and above all I could not spend much time here for the fact that my lungs could not take the pollution. One day I think I will come back (especially as it's so close to home) on less of a budget and do things properly, but for now, I was happy to leave.