Dispelling the Myths of Paris: The Ultimate Valentine’s Getaway?

Come Valentine’s Day, a mass exodus of eager young couples prepare to launch themselves at Paris, the most romantic city on earth. The Naive amongst them dream fancifully of weekends occupied by croissants, French fancies, mumbled exchanges of undying love, and strolls along the Seine. Sure, dream away by all means, but as soon as the jet touches down in Paris, you’ll wish it hadn’t.

Moan number one: The Eiffel Tower. A monstrous piece of architecture which appears incomplete and skeletal; the mass of iron bolts, nails and grids make it seem like a supportive framework for a construction which has yet to be built. The similarity to scaffolding is uncanny and only serves to emphasise its profound ugliness. Furthermore, the tower is primarily a marketing tool, a monument to Capitalism which annually seduces foreigners into splurging their hard earned cash. If it’s hideous by day then at night it can only be described as tacky. Transformed into a gaudy iron Christmas tree, the flashing lights are exhausting and unnecessarily extravagant. If principal alone isn’t enough to dissuade the hardiest of travellers from venturing forth, then consider the ridiculous entrance queues which rival the exodus of animals waiting to board the ark. And that’s without having mentioned altitude sickness.

Another niggling annoyance about Paris is the haughty Parisian attitudes to all foreigners, especially those who do not have native-like proficiency in French. Many Naives seem to be under the illusion that if a tourist attempts to speak a little French, an occasional Bonjour or a Merci, the Parisians will applaud the attempt with graceful smiles. You are mistaken. You will be given a glower, a quizzical and knowing raise of the brow, or simply a nonchalant shrug. This manner of behaviour also extends to customer service in restaurants, where believe it or not, it takes 17.9 minutes on average to serve the customer a glass of water. What are they doing, filling buckets from the local well? 17.9 minutes is most definitely pushing the acceptable time allocation of water-fetching past the brink of impropriety.

Furthermore,  the city is infamous for its odour of drainage wafting along every street in the most persistent manner, its overpriced restaurants and cab fares that leave your wallet with a Vodka hangover; the entire Paris ideology is clichéd and staler than Stilton. It has even been medically recognised that ‘Paris Syndrome’ is a specific Parisian induced depression which grasps hold of unsuspecting tourists and is sustained by the hostility of the French towards any ‘outsider’ lacking a moustache, excellent wine-tasting abilities and a somewhat frog-inclined food palate. Symptoms include feelings of persecution, hallucinations, anxiety and psychosomatic manifestations. Still planning on jumping on that jet?

Come this Valentine’s Day, I’ll be opting for the cosy and somewhat traditional English Inn. A roaring fire, long walks in the countryside and a Sunday Roast. Au revoir Paris.

Helena Murphy

9 Comments on this post.
  • vic
    13 February 2012 at 21:36
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    Hahaha it did look like a comment from a good old nationalist , nobody expects you to speak french , neither do the english to french people , but why , why did you come to paris if you didnt want to ?

  • Someone Intelligent
    13 February 2012 at 22:01
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    That’s right, sweety. The Eiffel Tower is just a bucket of bolts. French cuisine is just “overpriced”. All French men have mustaches.

    Please do all of us in Paris a favour and stay in your English country inn, eat bangers and mash, drink tepid ale and enjoy the fine scenery of your delipidating empire. Cheers!

  • Helena
    14 February 2012 at 08:44
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    Haha I wrote this article fully aware that it would rustle feathers. However this article is purely personal opinion and one of the consequences of having a personal opinion is that obviously not everyone will agree (looking at you ‘someone intelligent’. Vic; I went to Paris for the first time last year and then formed my opinion. I was very keen to visit, but then afterwards formed the opinion I didn’t want to go back. ‘Someone Intelligent’, obviously not all French menhave moustaches and obviously not all French food is overpriced, I was using hyperbole for the sake of the article. Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story. Obviously you’re perfectly entitled to enjoy Paris, it’s just not for me.

  • vic
    14 February 2012 at 13:43
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    Now what about you visit paris with a true parisian , that would show you the good spots , like cheap and good restaurants , nice bars and clubs , cool museums ! I do that all the time with my english friends , and you know what ? They showed me the english paris as well , pubs , clubs , restaurants i didnt know , because only english go there ! If you wanna learn , share , if you wanna discover , mix , if you wanna meet , wear a moustache .. LOL

  • Dave
    14 February 2012 at 13:56
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    Nice article Helena, the tone tickles my funny bone even if it doesn’t for the other commenters!

  • French student
    15 February 2012 at 11:24
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    First of all, hats off to you Helena for having and go and getting involved with impact. However, if you are going to write about Paris please bear in mind the hundreds of Nottingham students that live in Paris every year who have or would wince at this poorly researched article that is nothing more than a cheap blow in the form of excessive use of cliché and irrelevant hyperbole.
    Your experience comes across as if you were entirely naïve about Paris on arriving and just as naïve and close-minded when you went back home! Did you not think to wander why the ‘monstrous piece of architecture’ that is the Eiffel Tower, originally a temporary exhibition, was hailed as such a masterpiece in the first place? If you are going to complain about the entrance queues then why not include those outside the Musée d’Orsay and the Louvre, or did you not get that far in your guide book? For you to reflect on the ‘entire Paris ideology’ seems to me very out of place and in fact, for you information, cab fares and public transport in general is in fact far more reasonable in Paris than it is London.
    I have lived here 6 months and still consider myself unqualified to make such slanderous comments. It is a shame for you that you didn’t enjoy your weekend; that you didn’t find any cheap bars, or restaurants with friendly waiters, that you somehow managed to get altitude sickness at the top of the Eiffel tower (perhaps a record at such low altitude) but I can at least assure you that the contrary is all indeed possible and whilst I have not yet timed any of the waiters, I’m also pretty sure I have ordered water that has arrived in under ten seconds flat!
    I hope this appeals to you more and please do come again when you get bored of your fires, English roasts, and country walks, (also available in France) and perhaps take the Eurostar to avoid any potential feelings of reminiscent nausea or psychosomatic delusions of grandeur.
    Anyway, my coffee break with my croissant is over; I shall continue my miserable existence in Paris.

  • Yearabroader
    15 February 2012 at 20:16
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    Minus the hyperbole, there are some valid points in this article. Particulary regarding the Eiffel Tower, French hospitality etc. On the other hand, there are some great things to do in Paris, if you take time to discover.

  • Sedef
    16 February 2012 at 15:43
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    There are so many great things to do and see in Paris, but I agree that it’s unsuitable for Valentine’s Day! Some of the defensive comments here are pretty amusing. I personally couldn’t think of anything less romantic than queuing in the cold for hours amidst the chaotic mass of other couples that have flocked to do exactly the same activities as each other. Also, you are so right about French service. I have the highest admiration of France but having lived in Lyon for four months I can say that they have, without a doubt, the worst service out of every nation I’ve been to. Definitely service bad enough to ruin a Valentines dinner.

    It makes me sad to admit it but every visit I’ve made to Paris has ended up in disappointment, even though the rest of France has always been a delight. After being flooded with an endless tide of beautiful images, songs, and films that glorify it, the reality has never been able to live up to expectations. Having said that, Midnight in Paris makes me want to go back again! Delusional, I know.

  • French student
    20 February 2012 at 10:37
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    Worst service of every nation? You should get my colleague to tell you about her dining experiences in Russia! But in short –for fear of sounding like I have contracted the Paris syndrome myself – the point Sedef makes about Paris not being able to live up to expectations is a valid one. Paris spends a great deal of effort preserving its image, pulling in the film directors being one of the ways, so I can actually understand the disappointment expressed in these comments and the article. I was shocked when I discovered the enormous amount of homeless people in Paris who sleep in the metro or on the streets, who are constantly pushed out the big tourist areas like the Champs Elysées. There is an enormous housing problem in Paris, and other problems too. Nonetheless, there is a reason that it is so easy to be ‘duped’ – they have so much to run with! It only takes the sun to come out for even the most miserable Parisian to start boasting of living in the most beautiful city in the world. And whilst not being the most original romantic destination, spending a romantic weekend in Paris ignoring the harsh facts of reality is easily done, after all isn’t that what Valentine’s day promotes? Now, if only I’d had my boyfriend in Paris for Valentine’s Day, perhaps I wouldn’t be getting my goat up about this!

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