Long Trip Report - PARIS...what a dump!

Oct 22nd, 2003, 02:31 PM
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Long Trip Report - PARIS...what a dump!

OK, I know that the title of this post will be alarming to some of you who absolutely adore Paris. I'm not trying to change anybody's mind here necessarily, I'm just giving my impressions of my first visit.

Before I begin, let me give some background about us:
- We are reasonably well traveled and in our 30's.
- My wife speaks French, I don't.
- We are openminded individuals without any "political baggage".
- We always say hello, please and thank you.
- We dress well and appropriately.
- We aren't "nickel and dimers".
- I love big cities and expect that large, multi-cultural cities aren't like Topeka.

OK, here we go:

Impressions:

Taxi's are cheap and efficient. Metro was great too, but upon reflection, we should have cabbed it more.

L'OpenTour Bus tour. Very good for the most part, but we wouldn't bother with the Montmarte portion EVER again. Complete waste of time, unless you want to see working class Paris for some reason. One day is enough.

Eiffel Tower: A must do and we're glad we did. Went to the top on a clear night, great view. Worth it. Approach from Trocadero metro stop, best view. Watch for pickpockets and you'll have to put up with the souvenir hawkers who were more than annoying the night we were there.

Bateaux Mouche: We did this twice. One day, one night, two different companies. We enjoyed both, great to rest feet and relax.

Rodin Musuem: Good, not great. We did like this neighborhood though.

Marais Neighborhood: Pretty and quaint. We did a couple of the walks in our guidebooks, very similar to Greenwich Village to us. A nice respite from the traffic and crowds (at times).

St. Michelle pedestrian area/Latin Quarter: Very lively and lots of "action" going on. Wished we found this area earlier.

Restaurants: We're not "foodies", but we do enjoy good service and good meals. I can honestly say that I was shocked at how bad the restaurants were. Generally speaking, the service was marginal, the portions were ok, the prices were about right, no fresh vegetables anywhere (but salad), Beef is served ONLY bloody rare (regardless of how you order it, OK for me, but maybe not for others) and more than once we received meals that were substandard compared to the tables right next to us that ordered the exact SAME thing at the same time. I had heard stories about this, but never believed it. It's true. I don't know if it's an American thing or just a tourist thing. But, it IS ridiculous.

Versailles: Interesting and worth seeing. We did the audio tour and the tram ride. We recommend both, the tram lets you see how big the grounds really are.

Dept. Stores: No airconditioning, smelly and stuffy. It was quite warm when we were there, but not hot. However, in each store it had to be 90 degrees. Unbearable. Printemps, Samartine and Galleries Lafayette.

Tuileries: Very nice, but it closes fairly early. We're still surprised that Paris has so few trees, except in the gardens.

Museum Pass: We bought a 3 day pass, but it turned out to be worthless to us. Our third day was the first Sunday of the month, so almost ALL musuems were free anyway. We thought that this was true of the Louvre only, but it's just about everything. Since there was no line at the Louvre, the advantage of the pass was worthless to us. Although I did extensive research beforehand, I saw no mention that most would be free. Good to know if your timing is right.

St.Ouen Flea Market. Glad we saw it, but not worth going again. I think it took 3 different Metro connections for us and about a 15 minute walk, but we were planning to visit Montmarte that day anyway. Lots of stuff, but it depends on your interests whether or not it's worth it.

Montnmarte: Their annual winefest is always the first Saturday in October. Everyone says so. NOT! We blocked our day to spend the entire afternoon here, only to find out that this year it's the second Saturday. Typical tourist information experience with Paris. We did enjoy our walk thru Montmarte and eventually we did make it to the Erotic Museum in Pigalle. Probably worth a visit, if you're interested in this sort of thing, but it was at least 100 degrees inside and on seven different floors, no lift. It was hot, but not in a good way!

Customer Service: Almost uniformly it was indifferent. Although we spoke French, were polite and spending our hard-earned dough, it didn't matter. All the talk about Paris missing the American tourist dollar is a joke. They couldn't care less. I'm not talking about your avg. citizen, I'm referring to those folks who work in the service industry; airport workers, waiters, store clerks, tour operators.

Louvre: Great musuem of course, but signage is all in French and tJust prior to leaving for the airport, we received an Email from www.yourstayparis.com that they switched our apartment (supposedly due to maintenance issues) and upgraded us to another place. Needless to say, we were hesitant about what our new place may look like. How right we were.

Instead of the large and sunny one BR on a pedestrian street in the Marais, we were given a small one BR directly across from St.Chapelle, perhaps the noisiest location in all of Paris. We were directly above the police station and Boulevard Palais, between the bell towers of Notre Dame and St. Chapelle, and 1/2 block from the main Emergency Room in Paris. Noisy? HELL YES.

(Do NOT use www.yourstayparis.com, we feel strongly that we were bait and switched. We made our reservations much earlier this year at a discounted rate for one of their best apt's. They not only gave us no notice, but refused to meet us at the apt. as planned, forcing us to take a cab to another hotel to pick up our keys, etc, etc).

Not a good start, but it was our honeymoon so we were going to make the best of it.

Our first morning, we walked to the Louvre. On the way, we were greeted with what was to be the one constant of our trip...public urination. Yes, nobody will tell you this, except us. Paris is full of piss. It is EVERYWHERE, and we're not just talking about the dogs.

French men routinely pee against walls, car tires and anything else that isn't a toilet. In front of the police, on the steps of the subway, in the parking lot of Versailles (x7)and on the sidewalks near the Seine. It's absolutely disgusting and the smell is unbearable at times. I have never experienced anything like it EVER. It's 4th world.

I had a completely open mind before visiting, but my experience really has disallusioned me from bothering to visit Paris again. There are too many great places in this world that not only are interesting, but are interested in welcoming people as well.




rippowam is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2003, 03:00 PM
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There are about a million things I could ask or say, but I'll just stick with two:

#1: "Rodin Museum: Good not great."

I'm curious what would have made this museum great in your opinion.
Would it have been better in a new, modern building instead of the actual studio and home where the artist worked?
Would it have been better if the sculptures were better displayed? Like maybe more of them in artificial light instead of being outside in a garden?
Would it have been better if it had more variety, like if it wasn't all Rodin's work?
Would it have been better if there were fewer works? More works?

Just trying to figure out what they should do to make this museum "great" in your opinion.

#2: I'm curious how extensive your advance research about museums was if you never found mention that nearly all museums are free on the first Sunday of the month.
Patrick is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2003, 03:16 PM
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I'm sorry you were so disappointed. I think the apartment fiasco set you up to find fault with many things and I'm so sorry you had to experience something like this on your honeymoon. What restaurants did you eat in? We've only made a bad choice once in three trips, but it was a rainy night and we didn't follow our best instincts. Well, make that twice -- we had a perfectly fine meal at Bofinger and it was a pretty place, just too big to really do it right. (But it had been mentioned in a lesson in my high school French book back in 1964..) Hindsight is 20/20. You just don't want to find yourself saying that after your HONEYMOON!!!
uhoh_busted is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2003, 03:24 PM
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Heck with asking about the Rodin and museum research, Patrick. Good vs. great, and a few euro wasted or saved on a pass don't break or make a vacation. But things like "shocked at how bad the restaurants were....we received meals that were substandard compared to the tables right next to us that ordered the exact SAME thing at the same time....Noisy? HELL YES....Paris is full of piss. It is EVERYWHERE" sure will.

rippowam has me second guessing a decision to take my wife there (for her first time) next year.
beachbum is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2003, 03:26 PM
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I also agree that the apartment situation would color any trip. We just returned from a trip to Ireland; stayed in a dump and were depressed about everything else because of it. But, Paris has much to love and not be depressed about. I find that people in the United States can be as rude as anyone. (I'm American) I also feel that the rudest people I have encountered were in London and more specifically Heathrow. But, I am sure that there are many friendly and welcoming people in England. Point being, sorry your trip was unhappy, but give it another chance sometime and under different circumstances you may have a better experience.
opaldog is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2003, 03:32 PM
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Regarding the Rodin Musuem: Although we are not art lovers, we do enjoy visiting specific pieces. His sculpture is great, no doubt about it. But, there was quite a bit of construction outside (ugly fencing) and the cafe area was closed.

The apartment was substandard compared to what we were supposed to get. But, we did our best to put this "negative" aside and try to enjoy our trip.

One specific restaurant was "Philosophes" in the Marais. My food was good, but my green beans were a joke. They literally were the remnants that should have been tossed, not served. I chalked it up to a late lunch, until I saw amazing fresh green beans served to the next table over, 10 minutes later. This couldn't have been a coincidence. Minor? Yes. Shameful. Yes.

PS: Take your wife to Venice. Our second visit there, no disappoints for us. I have a great place to stay, email me @ [email protected].

rippowam is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2003, 03:44 PM
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My only reaction--NOT intended as a criticism--is to feel sad that rippowam did not experience the magic of Paris! Is it the greatest destination in the world? No, to us Italy is higher on the list. But, Paris does have magic.
And to beachbum: Don't let one negative report on Paris discourage you from taking your wife there.
HowardR is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2003, 04:20 PM
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I also think it's a shame rippowam's experience in Paris was not what he was expecting. On the other hand, (1) seems to me about 85% of his notes are positive, not negative; (2) comments about the Rodin Museum strike me as silly, as there is construction in every city somewhere, someplace, and how can that spoil what the museum is offering? (oh, and the café, like many that cannot be heated, is always closed in cold weather, and heck, there are a zillion cafés within 5-10 minutes' walk from there); (3) the comment about "complete waste of time unless you want to see working class Paris for some reason" strikes me as peculiar, as what's the problem with seeing working class anything when you travel? (but I'll concede it was a honeymoon, so maybe that changes things, just sounds a bit snotty); (4) if wife really did speak French, there was no reason whatsoever not to refuse to accept unacceptable food; and (5) good research would certainly have unearthed the fact that a lot of things are free in Paris the first Sunday of the month, and it's not Paris's fault he didn't know that. It's also interesting that rippowam found the St-Michel area to be so interesting. Sure, there are some great landmarks there, and strolling the boulevard and side streets is part of every Paris experience, but for my money it's darn hard to find a decent restaurant in that part of town if you don't know what you're doing, and hey, there are working class people everywhere, along with throngs of students and tourists. The comment about Paris having so few trees also stunned me. Oh well, à chacun son goût.
StCirq is online now  
Oct 22nd, 2003, 04:21 PM
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I have to share our Paris experiences. Was in London last week and went to Paris for a day via Chunnel (Eurostar train.) Upon arrival, was IMMEDIATELY subjected to sweet, older Frenchman con artist who "assisted" us with using the automated ticket machine for the Metropolitan (the subway.) He wanted 29 Euros for tickets that cost about 10 Euros, and he wanted an additional Euro for assisting us! This must be a very lucrative scam as two other college age men approached us with the same offer to help. Beware.

I was also appalled at the number of vendors selling trinkets at the Eiffel
tower, at least 15 times we were approached by vendors. Although my husband insists that watch sellers at the ferry to the Statue of Liberty are just as numerous.

Had a nice, simple lunch at a restaurant that had menus printed in French and English. Waiter very polite. We failed to notice that everything except the soft drinks had a price listed next to it. Hence we did't find out until we got the check that the Coke I had was more expensive than anything else we ordered (including the two glasses of wine my husband drank).

Two times were approached by Indian women in saris, PLEADING for money, one followed us halfway down the block. I was particularly concerned about the one following us down the street as I was afraid that she was trying to distract us so that we could be pickpocketed (is that a word?) by an accomplice.

Finally, my husband was either groped or experienced an attempted pickpocket event while on a crowded Metro, whatever it was the perpetrator firmly ran his hand fully across my husband's thigh while exiting the Metro. Co-workers with more travel experience are divided as to whether this was an attempted pickup or pickpocket.

AS you can imagine, the sights we saw (Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe) took a back seat to the other adventures.

We were in Paris for only 7 hours, all daylight hours. We won't be back, as I will not spend my hard-earned vacation time in a country where I constantly have to be vigiliant about what new scam will confront me. We were in London for six days, never had any problems with anything (except wondering what the hell was David Blaine trying to prove?) It's been many, many years since I have been to Europe, this was my husband's first trip and while we thoroughly enjoyed London, Paris was a horror. My elderly parents travelled abroad extensively, and never reported problems like this. It's unfortunate, and I still can't believe all this happened in one day, one place.
We knew to guard against pickpockets, but we weren't prepared for the great variety of other cons awaiting us.
deni is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2003, 04:57 PM
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No trees? - There are trees EVERYWHERE, and I have the shapshots to prove it! Are you sure you were in Paris?
Hagan is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2003, 05:11 PM
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I don't get it - you say "what a dump" and then procede to give mostly positive comments. And the "no trees" bit - that is just nutty. There are trees EVERYWHERE.

to each his own, and nobody says everyone has to love Paris - but your comments just don't totally add up. As the others said - the flat switch probably set you up to be unhappy.
janis is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2003, 05:25 PM
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The first time I went to Paris was with some people from work. We got out of the Metro, pulling our luggage behind us, and had no clue where our hotel was. I stopped an elderly woman for directions, which she gave us, and we started walking where she told us to. We made it to the end of the block, and she came running after us, out of breath, to tell us she had mistakenly given us the wrong directions, and then she led us to our hotel. Other than one rude cabdriver, I haven't encountered any rudeness . Maybe I've been lucky during both trips to Paris.
orangetravelcat is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2003, 05:32 PM
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And maybe I've been ultra-lucky in my 50+ trips there - rearly bad food and very little rudeness.

By the way, Paris parks and gardens amount to 7,500 acres of natural spaces, with 490,000 trees and 3 million seasonal plants. No trees? Pfffff!!!

That's not counting the trees on the boulevards and in courtyards and gardens and museum entrances and so on. Donnez-moi un break!
StCirq is online now  
Oct 22nd, 2003, 05:36 PM
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yikes - bad typo. I meant to say "rarely" bad, not "really bad," as some might construe it.
StCirq is online now  
Oct 22nd, 2003, 05:49 PM
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No trees in Paris. Funny, but my Parisian friends who come to San Francisco complain about its lack of trees.
Michael is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2003, 05:51 PM
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Do a search on www.yourstayparis.com on this site, you'll find that a few people have been "baited and switched" by them, myself included!
irishdame is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2003, 06:04 PM
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I am a person who adores Paris, actually, and I have spent a lot of time there, including classes at two universities and a music conservatory -- however, I think I am somewhat unusual in that I don't view it with the glowing remarks that some others on here or other places do. For example, I don't think it's such an amazing example of how wonderful treatment tourists get because someone answers a question about directions or something, which I think is basic human courtesy.

It's a big city and has a lot of the disadvantages and advantages of any big city. I personally feel at home there but I know my experiences and opinions are not those of the average casual visitor.

I find these kind of reports interesting, actually, to read what others like or dislike about Paris. What I find always kind of surprising are the remarks that could pertain to any large city or things that have never once occurred to me in over 20 years of visiting Paris.

Some of the statements in this report are simply not true and are presented without qualifiers. For example, it is not true that beef is only served rare or there are no vegetables. I will say generally meat is cooked slightly less in Paris than you might expect from the same term in the US, and vegetables tend to be overcooked. However, I have often order beef medium rare and it was indeed cooked that way, or I may order it "a point" and it is. I've had many vegetables other than salads in Paris. I think this post reflects the problems with someone who only stays in the heaviest tourist areas, eats at tourist or cheap restanrants, and thinks the St. Michel area near the Seine is great.

I also am a little skeptical of how well someone speaks French (sorry) when they make some of these statements and can't spell basic place names, even ones obviously feminine or masculine and the gender is wrong. I know rippowam didn't say he spoke French, but his wife did -- so why do people persist on writing "St. Michelle" or "St. Germaine" or "St. Chapelle". One never sees these names because they are wrong so why do people write this when they've never seen it? Germain may be more excusable, but do they really think there is a female saint named "Michelle" that this boulevard is named after? If it were a female saint named after a Beatles record, it would be sainte, not saint.

The remark about how bad the Parisian restaurants are must be a reflection of eating in the tourist area in the cheap restaurants. There are many wonderful Parisian restaurants. As I said, I have been treated rudely or ignored by some Parisian waiters (sometimes I think because I'm a single woman alone and sometimes in the tourist areas of St-Germain) but I avoid those places if possible. However, I have never once in all those years been served food that is worse than other diners. And, I think French restaurant service is generally very good, and on average, better than in the US because waiters and restauranteurs are more professional there.

I've never once been bothered by all these scams, either -- why? Because I won't talk to those people or have anything to do with them. As soon as one approaches me, I ignore them or tell them clearly to get lost. It's really quite simple. No man has ever tried to cheat me with my ATM card because I would never even talk to a strange man on the street or in the metro or at an ATM machine long enough to allow one to do that. It's really not that difficult.

The apartment situation is unfortunate, but it is one reason why I don't promote casual visitors getting apartments as much as some others do.

I realize my comments on poor spelling of French names may be regarded as unfair or picky, but I am really sick of seeing people write "St. Michelle" as even someone who doesn't know French would know that is a female name.
Christina is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2003, 06:11 PM
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My experience in Paris was not a positive one either. Though I am an artist myself and did enjoy all the cultural the city has to offer and would definitely agree that Paris CAN be a beauty city.... But, I definitely will never go back again. My fiancee and I were almost pickpocketed, broad day light at the metro station. The thief literally stuck his entire hand down my fiancee's pants' pocket, pulled my passport out only to have me catch him in action while I turned around to look at my fiancee. Just that alone, ruined our entire first trip ever to Europe!!!! It's hard to try to enjoy your environment when you no longer feel safe! We do not speak French, but we are very polite people, we tried speaking simple greetings in French to everyone just so the locals would know we are trying, but either we were unlucky to not have met one single nice Parisian or perhaps they really do not like non-Europeans! We did however liked the Latin quarter, perhpaps maybe it was more touristy, but there are so much happy spirits there! It gets kind of tough after a while when you try to be nice and polite and all you get were rudeness all across! From a small bakery to the largest department store! The sales ladies at Galleria Lafayette just look at me and pretended they didin't understand or spoke any English! Now everyone knows that most American only speak one language, most countries around the world know at least two different languages! Needless to say, she just didn't want to help me! I also felt that they don't care about the fact that tourist brings money to the country. I don't regret that we went there, but will never go back again unless it's for business! Friendly people and surroundings make or break a vacation! We also did find Paris very dirty in some part, it seems that people don't pick up after their dog... I would not avoid Paris altogether, but I would definitely not recommend it for Honeymoon and or first trip experience to Europe! Go to Italy instead!!!
CPT is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2003, 06:36 PM
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My husband and I were similarly unimpressed with Paris. The Louvre was wonderful, we loved the D'Orsay museum, the Metro system was relatively easy to negotiate, the Eiffel Tower was worth seeing, and the chocolate croissants, devine. But, the streets were filthy - dog poop everywhere, men urinating wherever, and the occasional pool of vomit. Not too lovely! I never took a step without looking down first.

Our first night in Paris we went to a restaurant close to our hotel that was mentioned in my guidebook. It was pouring rain, and we did not have a reservation, but the restaurant was empty when we arrived -- we were turned away because there were no tables available. The doorman was nice enough to direct us to another restaurant nearby that was packed, but we were seated immediately. Go figure.

We really did want to try the restaurant, so we had our hotel call and make a reservation for us the following night. We sat at a tiny table in the middle of the floor. The banquetts filled up as the evening progressed and a woman and her dog ended up with a better table than we did. The dog actually sat on the banquette! I didn't have room to rest my elbows or a place to put my purse.

As for anti-tourist/anti-American sentiment, we saw an American couple turned away from an outdoor cafe because they both wanted to sit on the inside of the table to watch the world go by. They were sent packing, and after listening to the waiter regale his fellow waiters with the story, two young frenchmen sat down -- in the exact same seats. It seemed to be rudeness for rudeness sake.

I'm glad, all in all, that we went, but neither of us has any great desire to go back.
Tries2PakLite is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2003, 06:48 PM
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I love going to Paris, I have always been happy when there. I have not been to enough cities in the world to be able to say that Paris is the one that I adore, but I do like it an awful lot.

If you are reasonably well-traveled, what city would you say made you happier?
We loved the Rodin, but of course, we liked just sitting in the garden and enjoying the place as much as the art.
I remember one year the Pompidou was all encased in scaffolding, but the art inside was still fun to look at.
We always go to Paris in the fall or spring, so the heat in the departments stores is welcome .
I would never think of the Marais as "quaint" somehow that better describes a village in England to me..the Marais is dripping with history and drama and I think is most interesting but not quaint. What part of the Village do you liken it to?
I had no idea that my husband and I were so lucky, to be able to visit Paris so many times and miss someone pissing on a wall each time!
I am amazed and I think this is a good time to use the word 'flummoxed' at the idea that you can say the restaraunts were bad! I have had a dish that I did not like for some reason, but to make a blanket statement that the food is bad is in my opinion, a touch ignorant.
I think you would have to eat in many restaurants and many types of food before you would have the experience to make such a pronouncement. Then if you said the food was bad, with that sort of experience behind that statement, I might think you knew what you were talking about.
How much homework did you do? What made you choose a hotel in the heart of a tourist area?
And to sum up my dismissal of your critique of Paris, I find your comment on the lack of trees ridiculous.
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