I have a confession to make: I didn’t love Paris.
I have a few theories as to why, so before you say, “What! How can you not love Paris?!” and vow never to trust me again, let me explain.
- I went to Paris for the first time over Christmas, and maybe that was asking too much of Paris. Like having a first date on Valentine’s Day, it was too much pressure.
- December was a busy month, and I was already worn out by the time we went.
- It was winter, and winter makes me sad.
- Paris is the romcom of cities, and the real thing can’t live up to the falling-in-love montage scene set to song.
- I’m biased. (German things > French things)
I fully admit that it could be my fault Paris wasn’t the magical experience I was hoping for, and this post by no means should discourage anyone from going. Anyway, I’m pretty sure everyone has to go at some point. It’s probably in fine print on your birth certificate.
Ok, now that you have some context, here is my Christmas in Paris story. Let me know what you think in the comments. I’m curious if any of you agree with me, or think I’m just crazy. 🙂
Paris has always been on my travel list, and I was excited to finally visit. We took the Eurostar from St Pancras to Gare du Nord, and it has to be the least stressful way to leave the country. The border checks are all completed before departure, so there’s no waiting in line upon arrival. We picked up lunch at the train station and made it to our cosy studio apartment in Paris before dinner.
We booked a food tour for our first day in Paris. Food tours are my favorite way to get to know a city. This was the fifth one we’ve been on, and so far we’ve only had good experiences.
The tour took us through Montmartre district and finished at the top of the hill in front of Sacré-Cœur Basilica. We sampled fresh macarons, pastries, meats, cheeses, and bread from a traditional boulangerie that won an award for baking the best baguette in Paris. Our guide explained the criteria for quality baguettes and declared, “If the crust doesn’t snap when it breaks, it’s a disgrace! If there are no bubbles inside, it’s a disgrace!” Andrew said he was “very French.” He certainly kept our group of 8 Americans entertained. His favorite expression was about killing things that didn’t please him. When the baker packed a warm loaf on top of a chocolate pastry, he said “The chocolate is melting! I want to kill that guy right now! It’s a disgrace!” When he forgot the napkins at one of our stops, he said, “I want to kill myself right now!” After a while, the phrase didn’t make us nervous anymore, and we were all like, “Yes, yes, Eric you want to kill something again. Calm down and tell us about our food.” We learned a lot from him about all the disgraces we should avoid in Paris. Mainly chain cafes and bakeries that don’t serve freshly baked bread.
After the tour, we made our way down to Champs-Élysées. It was two days before Christmas, so the shoppers were out in full force. We ended the day at the Christmas Market at Jardin des Tuileries.
The next day was Christmas Eve, but Paris doesn’t really stop for the holidays so we still found plenty to do. We went to the Louvre and skipped the queue for tickets by getting a Paris Museum Pass. The pass didn’t help us beat the crowd around the Mona Lisa though! That girl is popular.
On Christmas Day we headed out around lunchtime to the Eiffel Tower and the Christmas Market there. A lot of other people had the same idea so it was pretty crowded. But the sun was out, and it was CHRISTMAS so our spirits were high.
We had Christmas dinner in our little apartment and Skyped our families. It wasn’t the same as being at home, but it was still a special day.
The weather really turned after Christmas. It got colder and my Christmas enthusiasm started to wane. I started to really notice the special fragrance of the underground. The stop at Gare du Nord was particularly pungent – like sour milk. But we still had so much to see!!! We went to Notre Dame on the fourth day and visited the underground Crypt first (included on the Paris Museum Pass). The excavations on display in the Crypt give the history of Paris from its Roman occupation to the present.
After exploring Notre Dame we went to see Napoleon’s tomb at Les Invilades. The military museums there were pretty fascinating. Napoleon’s favorite horse is on display along with plenty of weapons, uniforms, and trophies brought back from various battles.
We finished the day at the Pantheon, and snapped a few photos of the impressive architecture.
We had one more day left on our Paris Museum Pass, so we used it to visit Versailles. Up until that point, the pass had gotten us out of waiting in line, but not at Versailles! We stood outside in the freezing cold for an hour and a half waiting to get in.
This picture of Andrew proves how cold it was because for him to bundle up, it has to be freezing. Once we made it inside, we had the jaw-dropping reaction to palace interior that is expected. Unfortunately, the fountains in the gardens were turned off because #winterproblems.
On our last day in Paris I shattered my phone screen on the way to the Catacombs. I was standing on the platform looking up directions when someone bumped into me and knocked it out of my hand. I’d just gotten it weeks earlier for my birthday, and so it was really one of those moments where you have to choose to be happy and not let something ruin the whole day. Well… Nothing helps you forget about material things like seeing thousands of skeletons. It has a way of putting things in perspective.
We booked tickets in advance for the Catacombs and I’m so glad we did! We were given a time slot with the ticket, and it saved us waiting in a line that wrapped around the block. The walk through the Catacombs took us about an hour, but we went at our own pace listening to the audio guide at each stop.
Alright, who’s ready for my unpopular opinion? Here it is: I don’t get why Paris is so popular. Of course it stands out from other European cities. It’s a fascinating place with a rich history. It just didn’t sweep me off my feet, and felt like a tourist bubble. I don’t want to come across as ungrateful for the opportunity to go there because I’m truly happy with my experience. It’s a privilege to be able to travel as much as I do, and I feel guilty having negative feelings about a place. But… I don’t think I need to go back – for awhile anyway. There are other places in France that I’m still looking forward to seeing, but I don’t see myself going back to Paris soon.
I’ve honestly never felt this way about a place we’ve traveled to. Normally after visiting somewhere I look up the cost of living and browse apartments online because it’s fun to imagine life there. There’s a first for everything I guess, but I didn’t expect Paris to break the trend.
What about you? Have you been to Paris before? Did I miss something out of this trip that would have made all the difference? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear about the different views out there!