RtW Cities: Paris

This is probably my final one of these for a while due to leaving Zurich and no longer being employed, but after 2.5 years of living only a few hours away, I finally made it to Paris! It's one of the most popular tourist cities in the world, as quickly made clear by the lines of non-french folks everywhere. Having only been once before, when I was about the age of two, it was definitely high on my list of places to visit - and so as I was leaving, I felt now was my last opportunity.

First up - Paris is huge, over 12 million in the Paris metropolitan area, and it certainly feels like it. I came in by train, so managed to avoid the much maligned CdG airport, but still, getting from Gare du Nord station to my hotel (about 10 mins walk) in the dark and rain was a serious introduction to Paris traffic. For most of the trip I'd resigned myself to doing completely touristy stuff rather than trying to get a better feel for the city - partially for language constraints, but mostly for time ones - though the various pâtisseries I visited for breakfast seemed a bit more normal, and lived up nicely to the french cuisine rumours.

As with many of these European cities, in particular the bigger ones, the density of interesting stuff is very impressive, in particular around and just south of the Seine, which is where I spent most of my time. For example, the Eiffel tower (of course!), Arc de Triomphe, Musée d'Orsay, Sacré-Cœur Basilica, ... so many attractions, and most seemed like things I'd be happy to visit multiple times or if I were living there, e.g. the park out the back of Notre Dame was an awesome place to kill some time reading (once the weather had improved). Top of the list though was the Louvre - I'm not a huge fan of Early-modern-France paintings, and have never been amazed by the Mona Lisa, but you can easily spend a day in that place - for me it was mostly the statues plus roman/egyptian areas. Plus, for anyone a fan of Monet, make sure to visit the Musée de l'Orangerie - a small place, easy to miss and it doesn't have much, but I really like the idea of dedicated galleries for certain works, and in this case, the Water Lilies there are amazing (for those that can't make it, check street view)! And then there's Versailles - where most castles are proof of extravagence beyond utility over normal houses, Versailles was proof of extravagence beyond utility over other castles...crazy.

As mentioned, getting a feel for Paris as a city was tricky - it's just too big, and I didn't get to do the things you'd normally do while living there. The bus/metro/train system seemed well equipped to cater for the size (albeit crowded, confusing, and a bit dirty, but I have the high bar there of Zurich). I enjoyed the residential/commercial mixing (i.e. everyday stores and restaurants were mixed well, which makes living easier) although I feel like I missed out on the famed french dining, most places looked more like what I'd consider italian restaurants, and served stuff like lasagne or burgers... It seemed that apartment density was a bit high centrally, I guess population and demand is high so those who don't want to spend heaps on housing end up crammed into small area; there must have been about 100 people standing outside the hairdressers in the area near me each day, waiting for partners to get haircuts which also suggested high people density. Although some things were skewed because it was easter long weekend, and from the sheer tourist numbers. Smoking is quite big there (it seemed more than zurich or berlin) and I did get asked for spare change quite often - though usually only in French. Perhaps I looked local? As I also got asked for directions three times in the three days I was there, and there was that 2011 french eurovision guy... :) But probably just the higher number of tourists (I got asked three times in five days in London too, the week after).

Photos available in this album. As mentioned at the start, this is probably the last of these for a while as I'll be moving to Canada and going back to being a student; I have a few more blog posts planned though, some for pysch/neuroscience, some for other musings, and a few review-style. Stay tuned!


  1. Well, you just bumped Paris higher on my to visit list :D (and buying a DSLR as well)


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