A Glimpse: Paris, France

Ah, Paris, the City of Light and the capital of Amour… this is exactly what the French have been propagating for decades. Is it true? Would you find true love? Face the epiphany of your existence by strolling through its streets while writing on your silly journal and sipping an overpriced (€4.70?!) cup of coffee? In one word? ‘No.’ In three words? ‘Yes and no.’

The city is by any world standard a true cosmopolitan metropolis. Trees and parks abound. Beautiful neo-classical edifices along architecture from different centuries can be found literally on every corner. The city hosts some of the world’s most famous art galleries and museums. A Latin-based language which sounds more like a poem than it has a right to when spoken does add to the charm of the region. It would be almost impossible to find fault. However I am confident in my talents, so let’s begin.

An ancient settlement with archaeological signs going back as far 4200BC reveals the inhabitants of the area had some serious head start in which to perfect their now famous baguettes and croissants. But hey, this is why the world is not a fair place.

Paris, which original Roman name was Lutetia, began to be known by its Gaulish name of Parisii after six centuries of Roman occupation. So around 5AD the name got into vogue and has stayed on like a cheap suit for the next sixteen centuries.

Now, Paris is renown for the snobbery and rudeness of its people, which can easily be found at numerous locations and in copious quantities the moment you open your mouth. However in their defense, with over 30 million tourists a year and therefore 9 times the entire population of the Région Parisienne asking the same stupid “I am lost. Where is the Eiffel Tower?” question in languages other than French year in and year out; its commendable they haven’t stopped being rude, snapped, taken an AK-47 and legislated open season on tourists. Since even a blind man shooting randomly could take out more than his share per capita of tourists. Really, it would be like firing a cannon into a school of fish. It’s that easy.

Let’s not all play saints here. Since the beginning of time and this includes the Bible, there has been an inherited local disdain for tourists and interlopers of any nation or kingdom (Let my people go!). Thus Parisians can hardly be found at fault when realizing the quagmire they are in: A positive cash flow from tourism which also doubles as a dilutant of local culture.

Simply read what Le Lido and the Moulin Rouge where originally all about and how they have devolved throughout the years in order to satisfy tourists’ cliched expectations. This a social danger which few modern cities have to deal with. However Paris as the most touristic destination in the world will have to face this threat soon or later.

Back to the city today: Its huge. It’s over-priced and it takes some time to get over the ever-present musky smell of dry urine around the Seine. Especially in the hotter months. Now I am not saying the city is filthy, just that it has a huge nightlife and not enough public washrooms. Trust me, you can find almost anything along the Seine. From book-stands near Notre Dame encompassing the renown second-hand book market on one side to thong-only wearing retirees catching sun along really shocked stares from tourists on the other.

Their subway (Metro) is massive yet needed since the metropolitan area of Paris is over one hundred square kilometers. Interesting to know that due to the historical nature of the city core, no legislation allows for the low-density buildings to be torn down and create the infrastructure of say New York or Toronto with their sky-reaching high rises. Therefore France as a whole is a very flat city. As such, most inhabitants along with the financial district, in their quest for space have moved into the suburbs. Thus having the rare situation where the center of the city has an old town vibe –but with lots, and lots of cars.

Oh Paris, you are a true Metropolis, in both size and style that is is truly your own. France too lives up to its reputation as a country where ANYTHING you order to drink at a restaurant will cost you more than a glass of wine. Including water. Yet like in Spain, I hardly saw drunken people, especially taking into consideration just how accessible alcohol is. Toronto should learn a lesson here. Importing a few better cheeses would not hurt. Are you listening Toronto? However, it is the lifestyle which is the biggest difference. Even as a financial, fashion and artistic European powerhouse you cannot shake the feeling that somehow they are doing a little more living than North Americans. Whether it comes down to the food, their outlook, their jazz or the musk of urine during hot summer nights, I have to admit that a part of me fell in love with Paris. Just not with their $#%$@!@#% overpriced coffee. Avoid it.

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