For my boyfriend’s 30th birthday I decided to take him to Paris- it was a bit of a landmark, afterall; 30 years living and breathing on our tiny planet, and never in that period of time had he ever been. So along with a packet of Haribo, I also bought a couple of plane and hotel tickets, and in our short stay at the infamous city of love, we came to learn just a few little things… tourists take note!
1. All Taxis are Driven by Mobsters and Madmen
I do not tell a lie when I state that 100% of the taxis we took in Paris were driven by French mobsters, scars adorning the sides of their faces, the Thrift Shop Song playing loudly in the foreground of the vehicle. Their piercing eyes bored into your very soul, and their 18 Euro standard fare to simply sit in the cab molested the deepest crevices of your Tesco-purchased travel money. Also, when I state ‘100%’, the actual figure rounds up to a grand total of one taxi- so harrowed were we by the 81 Euro ride from the airport to the hotel that we swore we’d walk the entire length of Europe if it meant we could avoid another taxi fare.
2. The Metro c’est Magnifique
If intimidating taxi drivers aren’t really your sort of cup of tea, then the preferable alternative is the Metro. Made up of a series of underground rail networks, the Metro is everything that the London Underground should be- comparable by smelliness and being mostly constructed from mould- refreshingly distinctive by the handsome frequency of the trains, and the ridiculous cheapness of the tickets. A ride from the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre takes a matter of minutes, and you still have more than enough money to stuff your face with macaroons when you arrive. For reference, the ticket from the hotel back to the airport cost 9 Euros- nine! Sacrebleu! If I had been high on cocaine at the time I would have tracked down the taxi driver and raped him with a spoon, though, alas, hindsight is a wonderful and drug-fuelled luxury.
3. The Latin Quarter Makes You Hungry
The Latin Quarter, near to Notre Dame, is very worth a visit, or indeed several. We found it to be the most authentic French place that we visited- it’s lively at all times of the day, and compromises of little back-streets filled with wonderful French food. We didn’t even take many pictures once we found ourselves there, as we were enjoying the atmosphere far too much- you can find excellent, welcoming, traditional French restaurants and delightfully tacky gift shops. Mona Lisa on a cigarette tray, anyone? Bitch won’t be smiling when I’m melting her face.
Terry eating snails!
4. Erh Mah Gerd. Stairs.
For any visit to Paris, I would highly recommend bringing shoes that you are happy to wear down to nothing. I would estimate that around 85% of the city is made up entirely of stairs. Going up and down the stairs in the Metro stations doesn’t seem so bad until you have descended 170 steps into the catacombs and 80 steps back up to the surface, 400 steps to the top of Notre Dame, and the many stairs of the Eiffel Tower which you can choose to ascend if you have some sort of death wish. So take shoes, or at the very least piggy-back on the elderly for an amusing and Werther’s Original scented experience.
5. Macaroons are the Greatest Foodstuff in All the Lands
Buy macaroons at your earliest opportunity and do not stop eating them until you have exploded. Then at your funeral, ensure macaroons are available for the broken hearted patrons stood weeping at the buffet table. In turn they shall also explode, and the circle of macaroon death continues. The world will find themselves in a glorious state of Catch 22, but it will all be worth it for the sheer joy within macaroon indulgence… I am still shuffing dem into ma murf as we shpek.
6. The Louvre is Big
Before I left, someone told me that the Louvre was big. They lied. The Louvre is actually fucking massive. It is bigger than big, simply staggering, and should not be underestimated in the slightest. If you are planning on going, literally take a whole day out if you want to see it all (including the fist-bumping gangsters who mysteriously run the café). Hell, even take camping equipment with you and sleep with Venus de Milo, caressing her lovely arm stumps, if you want to continue onwards the next day. We arrived around 14:00 and by the time we were ushered outside by closing time, 17:30, we had barely covered a quarter of the whole place. We did manage to see the Mona Lisa though in all her glory, and the highlight of the whole museum, the Raft of the Medusa, as shown below. It was worth the entrance fee just for the caption.
The Raft of the Medusa: dramatic and hilarious
7. The Eiffel Tower is also Big
… and not for the faint of heart. When did I ever get so scared of heights? Probably when I looked up at the wobbling, see-through metallic structure, stretched out above me, an impressive dagger forced into the heart of the sky, making my arsehole clench tighter than… well, something very tight (suggestions are welcome). We didn’t make it to the very top because it was ‘oversaturated’ with people, and I was also pooping myself. But the view from the second level was in itself utterly panoramic, as evidenced by my awkward-as-fuck posing below.
There isn’t even money in the goddamn machine.
8. The City of Love
When you hear Paris being referred to as ‘the City of Love’, you can’t help but think of couples holding hands atop the Eiffel Tower, mesmerised by each other’s eyes as much as the view. The reality however is far more disturbing. At each and every corner you turn, there is someone licking someone else’s wisdom teeth, actually, literally, whispering loving things into their partner’s ears, stroking the back of their necks as though their skin was going to flake off and choke babies if they stopped. I don’t mean to be so against public displays of affection, it’s just I’m trying to get out of Notre Dame here, and as you’re snogging in the doorway, my face is literally on your face and it’s FREAKING ME OUT.
9. French People are Humans
I know you can’t believe it, but it’s true! We’ve all heard the rumours about how rude the French are, but I have to say the entire time we were there we didn’t find it the case at all. Everyone that we met- in the hotel, the airport (sans Joe le Taxi), train stations, tourist attractions and le petit boulangeries, were absolutely lovely and so helpful. I think the human condition all over the world involves the desire to be treated with respect in order to show respect, and it is no different in Paris. The people are lovely, you just need to stop stabbing people in their spleens to find that out.
10. Pantalon et Fenetre
Lastly, prepare to be embarrassed by how little French you know, and how much English the French know. In our first attempt to buy a sandwich, we about managed to gargle out something about jambon et fromage, and then the woman kindly asked us if we were British and we giggled nervously and had a conversation about teapots. Everyone we encountered in Paris could speak English, which was of course very helpful. Pathetically we got excited when we recognised various French words on posters and signs and then came to realise that the phrases we had learned at school were never designed to get us very far in the first place. Where is the swimming pool? I would like some trousers. Open the curtains. My dog is green.
Terry at L’Hotel national des Invalides
The Eiffel Tower (rather proud of this one!)
In the catacombs…
… 6 million human remains
A chimera atop Notre Dame
Me, outside the Louvre
Mona Lisa, what a babe
The French understanding of vodka & Coke; half a glass of vodka, and a jam jar of potato juice. Perfection!