I have never expected that I'd write these words - I have very fond memories of my previous trips to Paris, I spent in this city quite a bit of time, even lived there for sometime, as a student learning French. The city used to be kind to me, and I was kind to the city. But something has changed in the city, or something has changed in me. This time me and Paris haven't fit each other as we used to.
If one expects that the reminder of this post will be the ksenophobic crap that has littered the entire World Wide Web, you'll be disappointed. No, I haven't seen any evidence of Syrian refugies rampaging through the streets, while oppressed white Parisiens hide somewhere in the bomb shelters. I suppose one can travel out of his way, to the specific troubled neighbourhoods, to find the material that feeds these ksenophobic stories.. but we haven't done such silly things. We've kept our itinerary to the upscale neighbourhoods and major attractions, Latin Quarter, Saint-Germain, Notre-Dame, Louvre, Eiffel Tower, etc.. and in all these popular places, the business was 100% as usual...
So what is that I didn't like? First of all, long lines. Starting from the arrival to the Charles-de-Gaule, we've spent 1.5 to 2 hours waiting in the line for Immigration. The mechanical voice habitually lied every 5-10 minutes that longer than usual lines are due to "heightened security concerns". What a BS! I know exactly why the line was barely moving - because out of about 20 security gates, only 3 to 4 were open at any given time. Michelle has remarked that it was the longest line she's seen in her life... and perhaps this was the longest line in my experience as well. While we were stranded in the motionless human sea, in front of the immigration gates, Zara had plenty of time to recall the efficiency of Dubai's Airport, and fantasise how wonderful it would be if Dubai's sheiks would extend their rule to France's flagship airport or perhaps the entire country, it was quite clear that French are not capable of running it well on their own.
This, btw, wasn't the only line where we've stayed longer than desired, it seems that most of our experiences in Paris involved some slow moving queue. For example, on the evening of the same day when we arrived, we went to Moulin Rouge. The ticket has warned that to get good seat on has to come 30 minutes before the show. We did. And show has started 1 hour later. So what we did we do in these 1.5 hours? We, together with at least a thousand of other people, were herded to a large barn-like structure, apparently a former movie theater, but now abandoned and dilapidated. There we had to wait about 1.5 hours without food, toilets or entertainment. The only difference from the airport was that here most people were nicely dressed, and many women wearing high heels. By the time we all got to our seats, nobody had nice words for the administrators of ths venue. While the show itself was good, it's the art of annpying people, which French have mastered to perfection!
Secondly, I didn't like French food! Well, as far as I recall, finding quality food in France, other than pastries, has always been hit and miss, more of a miss, actually. Now, with the help of Yelp's ratings, the luck was more on our side. However we would have to pass quite a few establishments, to find one that had more positive reviews than curses. And even there, the food be just ok, nothing special. Besides, French food industry seems to have lower hygenic standards than most of the civilized word, definitely lower than in USA. It was rather strange for us to observe food workers taking money and than handling food without plastic gloves. And, of course, I can avoid mentioning, that sanitary standards of French toilets are about 100 years behind the rest of the Europe and most of Asia. No matter how pretentious is the facade of French establishments, and how pricey is the menu, more likely than not, the toilets will be somewhere in the dangeon-like basement, and have a certain degree of disfunction. It seems that French always treat their sanitary facilities as an afterthought - after everything else is built, someone realizes, "oh, we forgot about the toilet", so they'd squeeze it somewhere in the darkest corner, and because all the budget has been already spent, it will remain partially unfinished. And if something breaks, or e.g. as toilet seat would gone missing... owners wouldn't even notice.
Our last meal, when leaving France through the same Charle De Gaule, has only reinforced the bad aftertaste - the food was bad, overpriced.. and there was the unavoidable long line to get even that. As the ultimate insult, even the croissants weren't fresh! I think that selling stale croissants in France should be punished by law as desecration of the flag. Airport vendors have ultimatly destroyed whatever little was left of the French culinary prestige.
I don't want to have my entire travel note in such negative key, so here is something positive at theend: I loved Italy!
Actually, most of our vacation was through Italy, and some of the negative thoughts I have about Paris were amplified by the comparison with our wonderful Italian impressions. Even the famous sights of Paris looked bleak and uninspiring after their Italian counterparts. Everything was great in Italy - sights, food, weather, efficiency! Forget Paris, now I have my new favorite country!