I lied in the title. Our trip to Paris wasn’t exactly disastrous, but it was particularly pleasant either. We went during Easter 2013 and I was undeniably excited by the prospect. Paris was up there with New York as one of the cities I wanted to visit since I was a child. My mother loved it. Audrey Hepburn loved it. It is referred to as the city of love so surely it was a given that I would love it.
From the offset I found Paris to be underwhelming. First there was the cold. It was April, so granted I wasn’t expecting it to be tropical. Equally, I wasn’t expecting to nearly freeze to death. To say it was bitterly cold would be an understatement. In this respect we were under prepared and only have ourselves to blame. But it was APRIL. I was not expecting snow.
Aside from the freezing temperatures there were other things I disliked about Paris. It is big, I mean really big. Or at least that’s how it felt. It also felt quite unwelcoming. That is not to say everyone was rude. In fact many people helped us out when we were clearly struggling to negotiate our way round. It was the city itself that felt unfriendly. That may have been to do with the extreme temperature though! We also had a very uncomfortable experience at a restaurant where a local thought it would be great to sit and smirk at us for our entire meal. Unfortunately bad experiences seem to really stick with me and overshadow everything else.
The main reason I found Paris to be a problem was entirely my fault. I simply tried to fit too much into a long weekend and got stressed out. I had not long come back from a year and a half of solid travelling where I had the luxury of time and could see as much as I wanted and not miss anything. I was struggling to adjust back to the real world where you only get so many days annual leave and therefore there are limitations to how much sightseeing one can fit it in.
Not only that, I got sucked into the idea that I wanted to explore major tourists attractions such as the Lourve. I should have known better. I do not like museums. Hours spent in a massive museum was never going to be an enjoyable experience. Especially when queuing in the cold was involved. I like queuing even less than I like the cold. There were also several failed attempts at queuing to go up the Eiffel Tower. In the end we decided it probably wasn’t worth the effort.
One good thing that came out of this trip is it made me reconsider how I travel, especially on weekend breaks when time is of the essence. City breaks in particular can be quite overwhelming, they usually have a list of ‘must see’ sites as long as your arm making it impossible to see them all. Because of this I am very picky about what I choose to see and do on any trip. Also, just because someone else thinks the Lourve is the best thing since sliced bread does not mean I will enjoy it. I know the sort of things I like to do on holiday and the more I have travelled the more I have stopped doing things just because everyone says I should. I used to think I had to just tick sites off my list to prove I had seen everything a place had to offer – whether I wanted to or not. This is not how I travel anymore.
These days I am more likely to be found aimlessly walking the city streets than hanging out in museums. I am much happier to go sit in a coffee shop and people watch than spend an hour queuing for something that if I am honest I am not really fussed about seeing. I get that some tourist attractions are totally worth the effort and will of course visit them but I will never o and see something just for the sake of it, I have to really want to experience it.
The following Easter we ended up going to Barcelona and had a much more successful trip. We were chilled out, we saw the sites we really wanted to see and spent the rest of the time eating tapas or enjoying beer with the locals in the pub. Perhaps, not very exciting to some people but those are things I really enjoy.
Have you learned any valuable lessons from a bad travel experience? Did any of you find Paris a little underwhelming like I did? Let me know below.
P.S. sorry about the crap photo’s I have hardly any good ones from our trip to Paris. I managed to salvage these from my Facebook album and turn them black and white in the hope it would make them look a little better.