I don’t know, maybe everyone hyped it up too much for me. Maybe my expectations were too high. Maybe spending time in Prague, Munich, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and London in the past 1.5 months prior to arriving to Paris spoiled the splendor of European cities for me. Whatever the case, I know I’ve already upset plenty of people by saying it, but I’ll say it again: Paris is an overrated city.
Everyone raves about Paris, presenting it as a unique city incomparable to any other city in the world. However, it is comparable to other major cities such as Copenhagen or London, which diminishes its uniqueness. When I imagine San Francisco, I see the rolling fog creeping over the green hills in the Marin headlands, the majestic landscape of the bay, and the unique skyline with the Transamerica tower jutting in the distance. Oh, and don’t forget the Golden Gate Bridge. When I imagine Prague, I see the centuries-old Charles Bridge stretching over the Vltava River leading up to the Prague Castle, easily seen in the distance beyond all the red roof-tiled structures and rolling hills. When I imagine Hong Kong, I see the recognizable cluster of skyscrapers stretching up into the sky, surrounded by dramatic hills and sea. When I imagine Paris, I see a flat cityscape that could easily resemble any large city, with the only differentiating factor being the world-famous phallic tower looming over the city. Without that phallic tower, Paris is naked and is stripped of its fame. That is Paris. It is not necessary to search for that epic view of San Francisco, Prague, or Hong Kong; the cities are so beautiful, the views are everywhere. In Paris I wasn’t able to find any epic views because I wasn’t willing to pay for it. If a city truly is that beautiful, there should be plenty of epic sites all around.
Like Angkor Wat is to Southeast Asia, or Machu Picchu is to South America, Paris is the same to Europe—it’s Disneyland. Uncomfortable crowds and queues, countless selfie sticks, irritating tour buses, scams and rip offs, and irresponsible tourist behavior even during the low season of March are the obvious problems. In addition to the expected annoyances in Paris, there is also the French culture of tardiness, lack of transparency in prices, and constant delays with public transportation. I can’t even imagine how terrible Paris would be in July and August. There is definitely no other Angkor Watt or Machu Picchu in the world, but there are definitely other major cities in the world comparable to Paris. As a result, I don’t understand the hype. It’s just another big city.
Still, no one should avoid visiting Paris while road tripping around France. That would be blasphemy. So I went. And I left. Now I can say I’ve been there. Photos to follow below.
Note: If traveling with an RV, I recommend boondocking or free parking along the western end of Bois de Boulogne park. We camped at Paris Indigo, which we cannot recommend for the price and lack of services they advertised. Once we parked at the campground, we saw how there were plenty of available parking spaces throughout the park, and we even saw a number of caravans and motorhomes parked along the streets.
Arc de Triomph, marking perhaps the biggest cluster of traffic in all of Europe (an exaggeration, but still):
The Eiffel Tower, I will admit, was absolutely stunning and surreal. We lucked out with a perfect, sunny day. For €7 we climbed up the tower stairs and marveled at the engineering. The tower must also be seen at night because it twinkles for about 4 minutes at the top of the hour from sunset to midnight.
Views from the tower:
The Jardin de Tuileries, easily enjoyable from a reclining chair beside a fountain:
A half day or even a full day can be spent at the world famous Louvre museum. Entering from the metro (not outside at the pyramid) will most likely grant shorter lines, but even then, the lines can still be long.
The roped barrier and line for Mona Lisa:
Beautiful galleries within the Louvre:
Simply marveling at the Louvre’s architecture during the day and night is enjoyable too.
Hotel de Ville:
I don’t understand the Notre Dame Cathedral’s fame. France, along with other European countries, have extraordinarily more beautiful cathedrals and churches than this one, especially Cologne Cathedral in Germany. The line outside was outrageous, and inside even more so.
Moulin Rouge (scam central!):
Sacre Coeur (SUPER scam central):
Visiting the graves of some famous folks such as Oscar Wilde, Victor Noir, Chopin, and Jim Morrison.
Perhaps the best thing about Paris (or should I say France) is the food (particularly pastries and baked goods). No words can describe the ecstasy upon sinking my teeth on the perfectly textured, tastefully balanced treats of France. Macarons at Lauderée, sipping cocoa and the Mont Blanc cake at Angelina’s, pan au chocolat and cappuccino at any café, baguette sandwiches, and duck dinners:
Last and almost least, the Palace of Versailles. Outside the overrated city of Paris is perhaps the most overrated palace in the world, the Palace of Versailles. This is the line before it even opened during the low season:
Don’t get me wrong. Its rooms and hallways were still beautiful.
Its gardens were also pleasant and vast, and best of all, free to the public.
Thousands of castles lay scattered throughout Europe and to visit all would require a lifetime and a fortune. Prior to coming to the Palace of Versaille, we had already seen several castles and palaces. I can’t help but assume that most people who rave about the Palace of Versaille haven’t visited many other palaces in Europe. The only major difference is…the crowds.
Clearly we knocked out most of the must-see attractions of Paris, but with the exception of the Eiffel Tower, I was more amused by the long lines than anything else. Chris had visited Paris twice before, and he looked forward to seeing the rest of France because there is so much more to France than just Paris. Like in Angkor Watt and Machu Picchu, I felt relieved to leave Paris. I couldn’t wait to see what the real France had to offer.