Sunday, January 15, 2012

Paris: All Style, No Substance

Last Saturday I went to Paris for the day.  Mainly because it sounds really neat to say, "I went to Paris for the day."  When you're based in London, it's easy to do that. 

I had been in Paris when I was 13 on a family vacation with my parents.  I had this idea that Paris was insanely romantic.  I envisioned my teenaged self (wearing my Batman shirt and bad pink lipstick) falling in love with a Parisian boy who would play the accordion and tell me that he'd meet me on the top of the Eiffel Tower.  He'd wear a beret and carry a baguette, too.  I didn't have a romantic rendezvous, but I blame that on the fact that I was with my parents.  And being thirteen didn't help.  I wouldn't have known a romantic rendezvous if it hit me in the face.

So I went back last Saturday.  J went to Amsterdam for the weekend to see a friend of his.  I'd been to Amsterdam before, and not being a fan of tulips or legal marijuana, and having already been to Anne Frank's house, I passed.  He needed a weekend with the boys, and I needed a weekend on a train.  I had been thinking about going to Italy, but I really wanted a nice long train trip, so Eurostar it was.  

I arrived at the Nord station excited to see some glamour, and some elegant skinny moms with their elegant and well behaved offspring.  

Instead, an old lady poked me in the ribs and asked me for three euros.  

(I was subsequently poked in the ribs six times, though the amount of euros requested varied each time)

Then a smug guy on a bike honked his bike-bell at me.  Apparently I was standing in the bike lane.  

Oh, and then a guy whistled at me, asked me for directions, and when I tried to say something like "non parle Francais..." he blew smoke in my face.

Good God, I thought.  These people are as smug as the ones in San Francisco.  And at least San Francisco has the water and sunshine.  What does Paris have?
I ventured off to find out, guidebook in hand.  Surely there would be some style.  People carrying original Louis Vuitton bags and not the cheap knock-offs I see all the time.  Women walking around in four inch stiletto heels as comfortably as if they were in Dr. Scholl's.  After all, the women in London are pretty glamorous, and they have nothing on Paris, right?  And I do love Amelie.  Really, I do.  That traveling gnome is awesome.

Now, I want to be clear that I'm aware of the fact that the time I spent there was about the equivalent of judging London by arriving at King's Cross and walking down to Trafalgar Square on Tottenham Court Road.  I can't judge an entire city by one road.  But maybe I can?  I mean, in London, that journey would take you close to Bloomsbury, the publishing and literary capital.  You'd go very near Soho.  You'd see St. Martin in the Fields, and the National Gallery.  You'd see a lot of life.  

I saw an Office Depot.

No shit, I seriously saw an Office Depot.  

I saw Notre Dame, walked around the South Bank, saw Pont Neuf (a major landmark, the oldest bridge in the city, which, incidentally, was missing the "f" on the sign.  Stay classy, Paris.) and ate outside at an outdoor cafe.  I considered buying some makeup at a giant Yves Rocher store, but didn't once I saw the check-out line.  And I marveled at some fashion faux pas, including:

- skin tight turquoise jeans paired with a sheepskin coat and purple uggs.  Really?
- prostitutes wearing fur coats, and little else.  Seriously, can't Peta step in and do something about that?  Give the prostitutes some faux fur?
- a tan mini-skirt, forest-green tights, and shiny black stiletto boots.

The list went on.  I also saw a fair few mustaches.  On women.

Oh, and I have I mentioned how loud Paris is?  Everyone honks their freaking horns all...the...time.  There was some bicycle rally going on, and this guy must have just set his horn on "auto-annoy" because it did not stop.  Where was he going to go?  There were three hundred bicycles in front of him, rallying, in French.  What point did the horn serve?  Did making my lunch that much less pleasurable really do much for him?

So it had been 22 years since I'd been to Paris, and if you can't tell from this post, I don't really mind if it's another 22 years before I go back.  

And women of the UK (and the US): please get over your inferiority complex about French women.  It's like it's this made-up fairy tale that we've all bought into - that French women are more beautiful, and that Paris is more romantic.  They aren't, and it's not.     

Case in point:

awesome outfits

Only Paris can make eating at KFC outside look romantic: it's a perfect example:
you're outside, having a romantic dinner, but you're eating crap.

When I go to Paris, I like to get Used Jeans

Me and Notre Dame

This is what you get when you order a ham and cheese sandwich in Paris.
Coronary surgery included, thanks to the socialist government.

In case you were wondering, this is the Trendy Shop

French Subway: in Paris, calling cheap cheese "fromage" makes it cool

1 comment:

cindyann said...

Um...Maybe I can cross Paris off my bucket list. Still, there is the Trendy Shop and half-dressed hookers!