Sunday, 24 August 2008
Before my trip, I had high hopes for Paris. I even splashed out on a detailed guidebook to help me find my way around and to learn about the famous sights.
Unfortunately, while Paris is one of the most famous cities in the world, I also found it to be the most disappointing.
At the time I went, I was in the middle of reading The Da Vinci Code [NB. If you haven’t read it yet, you haven’t lived]. I wanted to visit the Louvre (where most of the novel is set) so that I could visualise it in my head properly as I read the book. This was, of course, before the film was released.
When I arrived, the first thing I noticed was the large glass pyramid outside. A lot of people, especially Parisians, think it’s ugly but I liked it. It enticed me into the museum. I didn’t stay in there for long, though. Granted, I’m not a fan of art so I’m probably not the best person to comment, but I didn’t find it particularly exciting. I paid eight euros, went and had a look at the Mona Lisa, muttered, “Oh, is that it?” and, satisfied that I’d had my culture fix for the year, left. However, if you want to go to the Louvre, then don’t let me put you off. I’m sure it’s incredibly interesting – fascinating, even – if you appreciate that type of thing.
The Champs-Elysees was more my cup of tea. Full of restaurants and designer shops, I spent a considerable amount of time on Avenue Montaigne. Some of the more well-known shops along the avenue include Christian Dior, Chanel, Prada, Calvin Klein and Valentino. There was a queue outside Louis Vuitton which was impressive, if not slightly annoying.
The Arc de Triomphe was a let down, because it was literally just an old arch at the end of the Champs-Elysees. It’s in the middle of a roundabout so you can’t even get near it without risking your life by walking into the crazy traffic with its even crazier drivers beeping and swearing at each other (I know they were swearing, because I can speak French). It’s somewhat terrifying.
I decided that a visit to Paris wouldn’t be complete without a trip up the Eiffel Tower, which I must admit I enjoyed. On each level as you ascend, there are museums, cafes and gift shops, and a viewing gallery on the third and final level (at 899 feet, or 274 metres) where you can see for 50 miles (80 km) on a clear day. However, I was there in the evening. It was still a great view though – the whole city was lit up and actually looked quite pretty. The tower illuminates at night too [see above pic] and looks extremely impressive.
But my verdict is: Unless you’re desperate to go, don’t bother with Paris. It’s overrated.