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

Oct 22nd, 2003, 07:27 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
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please remember that paris is a city- not one of the quaint little towns you often visit and cities do have all kinds of people and experiences...(we were robbed in rome once and almost in paris- my husband has a slow learning curve when it comes to crime)...surly people and the like seem to come with the territory...don't forget that people have bad experiences in nyc and chicago as well..i have only been to paris twice - once was magic and the second was not so great...we saw someone urinate once in london on the alley dickens wrote about and saw someone smoking crack on an italian train... cities are cities...taking a break like a wine tour or giverney help you when you get those big city blues...try some other cities, who knows? maybe paris won't seem so bad!!
wondering is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2003, 07:44 PM
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rippowam's report reminded me that, last October, on our second trip to Paris, my hubby and I saw men urinating in public twice. We were absolutely stunned both times--mainly because there was no attempt to hide what they were doing and they were in VERY public areas. We also encountered a situation at a cafe where we were ignored while French people sitting after us were served. We never did get service, so we left. There were at least two other incidents with rude people that we did nothing to merit. HOWEVER, we were approached by an elderly French woman while reading a map on a street. She offered to help, directed us to our destination and smiled as she sent us on our way. We had friendly, efficient waiters and great food at "better" restaurants.

We've been to London more times than I can count, but after 5 days we left Paris saying "Well, we've seen enough of Paris. It's okay, but no need to return." However, within a month we were both saying "let's go back." We missed it! The architecture, the art, the lights, the Seine, the food... hoping to see it again in the Spring!

Paris is like any city in that it has good and bad aspects. rippowam, I absolutely respect your right to say you found Paris less than cordial--you spent your money, not mine. But in a million years, I can't imagine thinking of Paris as "a dump."
MelJ is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2003, 07:55 PM
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We had a beautiful time in Paris. Our hotel was on a tree lined street near the head of Champs du Mars. (spelling) Neither my wife not I speak more than a half dozen French words and yet we had no trouble finding people who would help us.
I too was not impressed with the food but then I do not like French food in the US either. I thought the portions were fine. If our (US)resutrants would serve smaller portions we (I in particular) would not be so overweight.
Those of you put off by this less than flattering thread go to the search and type in "paris trip report" and see dozens of satisfied travelers reports-mine included.
Yes pickpockets and scam artists abound in Paris and DC and the county fair in Minot and Bay County FL. Be aware and as one other poster said "do not talk to strangers" _ didn't your momma teach you anything? <grin>
I spend (or used to spend 12-14 weeks a year traveling to every major city in the US and guess what? I could have the some same complaints seen here about all of them. (ever try to find a tree in KC?)(sorry KC, I know there are some-it is unfair to pick on you).
rippowam, I agree with others that the apt probably soured your trip even though you tried to not let it.
When I discovered the beef was always raw (a kind waitress on our first night warned me) I ate salmon and had vegi plates almost all of the trip.
I must be blind or stayed in a better neighborhood than most of you. I did not see any dogpoop (I walked 4-5 K before we went out for the day each and every morning.) and I never saw anyone peeing in public (although that is not something I would look for) Anyone in the Versailles (sp) parking lot was probably not Parisian but was probably a tourist.
Sorry your trip was less than a success rippowam and the others. Maybe we were just lucky or maybe just more experienced and had lower expectations?
As warned, never book with www.yourstayparis.com although I have seen the same bait and switch complaint with hotels.

Nite all
Mikex is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2003, 11:18 PM
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Having lived and worked in Paris for 3 years, I can sympathise with some of the gripes that Rippowam has. The public peeing surprised me a lot too (I came home from work one afternoon to find a guy dressed smartly in suit and tie having a leisurely pee against the wall next to my front door - in broad daylight! And it was a "decent" neighbourhood). People don't tend to pick up after their dogs. And I too find that Paris does not give the impression of a "green" city full of parks and trees, even if in reality it has many (Lyon, where I live now, feels much greener). Many of the trees are badly pollarded by people who obviously have no idea what they're doing, and so appear stunted and crippled.

However, as for the restaurant remarks, I agree with Christina. I think it all boils down to research. Certain areas in Paris are notorious for the poor quality, "tourist-oriented" restaurants: St Michel is one, the rue Mouffetard is another, the area round the Ile de la Cité and Chatelet is full of tourist traps which I would avoid like the plague. Personal recommendations and guide books are the best way to go in a city where you can eat extremely well, or extremely badly, on the same budget. (The green bean issue just sounds like the kitchen finished one batch of beans and by the time the next customer was served, freshly cooked beans were ready.) The raw meat thing is true, but not just in Paris. The French eat their beef and lamb way rarer than many people are used to. I always tell my mother when she visits to ask for her meat to be cooked more than she would at home (i.e. for medium rare, ask for "à point", for well done ask for "très bien cuit") as they tend to err on the side of rareness.

I'm afraid I'm with Rippowam on the customer service issue. Although in France, in general, customer service is not the priority it is in the UK or the States, Paris is notorious for its surly service staff. My Parisian BF, when we arrived at a busy café for lunch in Lyon, couldn't get over the fact that the serving staff was smily and friendly, even chatty!! I'm not going to list all my experiences of dreadful customer service in Paris, as it would take all day. (by the way, my French is fine, I don't speak with a foreign accent, and don't look particularly foreign, so I was not being treated differently from other local residents).

Overall, there are many things that bug me about Paris (that's why I moved away) but it remains a lively, vibrant city that will always have a place in my heart!! Perhaps it's simply a victim of its own success?
hanl is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2003, 11:27 PM
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I am returning to Paris for the fourth time next month, but am going with what I hope are realistic expectations. I really like the city, but can't say I love it. I've encountered many friendly, helpful locals, but can also relate to everyone here who says they were met with indifference. I guess, as with any experience in life, if you expect it to be perfect and don't have realistic expectations, then you are only setting yourself up for disappointment. Paris can be magical if you're willing to accept the negatives as part of the experience and savor the positives.

As for the restaurants, I can partially relate to Rippowam. I don't have the budget to sit down in a really nice restaurant, and have had several experiences with just okay meals. Recognising that though, I now search out the small ethnic restaurants where I can usually have a fantastic meal for a lesser price. Since my husband doesn't like Indian food (and he doesn't care for Paris and so doesn't travel with me) I make it a point to head for a little place I found in the Latin Quarter and feast! I'd recommend it here but I myself usually have to walk around for a bit trying to find it and can never remember it's name. Maybe this time....
sardog10 is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2003, 01:02 AM
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I simply do not understand why so many of the so-called "experienced travelers" who post here are unable to accept the fact that people view different cities in different ways AND not everyone has the same experience in the same city.
Instead, there is all this energy wasted on "challenging" people to "explain" and "justify" their remarks.
Accept it for what it is worth (to you) and MOVE ON!
Oct 23rd, 2003, 02:50 AM
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To each his own. I love Paris, but don't particularly care for London, which has many fans (I find London dirty, stressful and overpriced, and the service--with some exceptions--is worse than in Paris).
BUT...I think part of the problem Rippowam had was in renting an apartment in the first place. I would HIGHLY recommend first time (or even second time) visitors stay in a hotel.
As for the restaurants, I do have to say that I find that a lot of Parisian restaurants are simply coasting on the great reputation of French food; I have noticed a lack of effort in many places. In the inexpensive to moderately priced range, you do much better in other parts of France. Or here in Brussels (once you get outside the Grand'Place tourist trap places, you can get great food at moderate prices).
As for the Marais, I have to admit I am not one of the Marais addicts. I think it's too busy, crowded, and yes, it is one of the neighborhoods where you don't have many trees, especially compared to the Luxembourg Gardens area, and the 7th, 16th, 17th (parts of it anyway) and over near the Bois de Vincennes. I am very surprised to read rippowam's comment that it was a "break from traffic crowds"--we find it one of the most crowded parts of Paris!
Montmartre is a place I now refuse to go to. It's mobbed, even off season (thanks to Amelie), dirty, completely over the top as a tourist trap.
The men peeing in public is not just a Paris think. They do it here in Brussels, too. Yuck. I see some well-dressed mothers, carrying Max Mara and Devernois shopping bags, *encouraging* their little boys to pee right on the Avenue Louise, one of the best parts of town. It is a really bad habit, up there with not cleaning up after dogs. There is NO excuse for such self-centered behavior!
Anyway, sorry you didn't have a good time. Try going back to Paris someday, stay in a nice hotel, and explore restaurants in the less touristy parts of town.

BTilke is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2003, 03:21 AM
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Our family spent a week in Paris in August (trip report is posted) and encountered some of the same issues. I speak french to a limited degree and tried to be as polite as possible. We found street vendors everywhere but especially agressive at Sacre Coeur - my husband literally had to shove them away. We didn't see any public peeing but we did have one man jacking off in front of the louvre on the next bench while we were planning our morning! My 14 yr old son noticed him right away and we got out of there. Also found that when my husband was not with us (business trip to germany for 2 days), we got far less attention and respect in restaurants. At Balzac, the waiter as clearly miffed that he was seating us and we asked for a table by a window. Our hotel was 3* in the latin quarter; the front desk help was incredible - turkish gents. they even allowed my husband to use their fax/data line for his computer since the one in our room was so slow! I have no desire to go back to Paris; other places to visit. I would go back to Rome in a heartbeat and that city also had some garbage issues but no public crap and we had no rude or indifferent waiters. oh well.
cmeyer54 is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2003, 04:48 AM
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Well, this post is graphic evidence that everyone doesn't love Paris. Though thousands of Paris lovers have posted wonderful stories of their trips, we now see that there are a dozen or so who don't much like Paris of who have had unfortunate experiences there. Even Paris isn't perfect (though almost!). I have had some bad experiences in Paris - a pickpocket in the Metro station - but it remains the city I love most. On the other hand, I don't much care for Brussels and can take or leave San Francisco. To each his own, or vive la difference! To those who are considering changing plans because of a few posts, read the thousands on this site who have had great visits to Paris first.
mamc is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2003, 05:02 AM
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Rippowam, I'm very grateful that you posted your honest impressions. Negative remarks would never put me off a place but they do help keep expectations in check, which usually means that I end up enjoying the place better than I thought.

As for the comments berating rippowam, come now folks, this forum too is like a city, it isn't supposed to consist of like-minded people who chant in unison. If I wanted nothing but positive reviews, I'd stick to reading the promotional material put out by tourist departments.

That said, I think that it is generally best to set oneself a minimum quota for for a certain number of negative experiences before undertaking anything, be it life or visiting a new city. I'd go to Paris again in a heartbeat, but always with my moneybelt well hitched, and with my nose on 'standby' while I traverse the metro corridors, which do indeed have the pungent aroma of kidney by-product. It helps that I have prepared myself to think, "ah, another one for the quota" -so that I can move on.

In all, Rippowam, I notice you had many positive experiences - keep focused on those. Twill be a great habit to acquire now that you're married. : - )
Sue_xx_yy is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2003, 05:08 AM
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Hi rippowam,

Sorry that your honeymoon was spoiled. I think, however, that your complaints could be applied to almost any city in the world.

I have been scammed, hustled and robbed; treated rudely by surly waiters and other personnel; have had people attempt to pick my pocket; seen dog poop and other unpleasant things in the streets; have seen drunks and dopers doing nasty things; been offered poor food or been ignored at expensive restaurants; visited museums, art galleries, theaters and cathedrals that were less than expected; found tourist sites closed when they were supposed to be open; been exposed to diesel fumes and smoke; nearly run down by reckless drivers; been solicited by beggars, bums and streetwalkers; have had my hotel room switched or been offered unacceptable lodgings; found souvenier stands clogging the view of what should have been an aesthetic experience; and, in general, have had less than satisfactory experiences in a number of hamlets, villages, towns and cities in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa.

As some philosopher once remarked, "S..t happens".
ira is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2003, 06:10 AM
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Hahahahaha. Great teaser title. Way to grab our attention. Of course, Paris is not a dump, by any stretch, even if it isn't "your thing." During my 3 trips I have never observed public urination. That doesn't mean it doesn't happen, but it isn't like the Seine flows golden, or that the Egouts needs to shut down.
Bitter is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2003, 07:03 AM
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Here's an update on my post and your comments:

1. I don't know how to "edit" my original post, hence the typo's. I hit post instead of edit by mistake. Get over it.

2. We didn't eat in the tourist trap areas. Latin Quarter was "lively" as we walked through, we thought that it was interesting and great people watching.

3. Although I did do much research on recommended restaurants, etc...there was just too much great info to keep track of. What we did instead was to go to "locals" places and places where the menu's were not in English. A mistake? yes. But, it's worked in other places for us.

4. As far as places that we've really liked: Venice, London, Rome, Hawaii, NYC, SF, Montreal, etc. We did not care for Paris or Florence, both major disappointments for US, not everyone.

5. Trees: Yes, tons of trees in the gardens and parks. Just not as many as we thought in the neighborhoods. It's not a knock, it's an observation.

6. I stand by our observations of the whole urination issue. I used to live in NYC, so I've seen the "big city". That should give you some perspective on just how bad the problem had to be for us to even notice.

7. Crime: We saw a guy try to get pickpocketed our second day there. Exiting the subway, a young guy coming the other direction stuck his hand down this guy's front pants pocket. The victim turned around and yelled at the kid who ran. Nothing taken, lucky. Should people expect this in the big city? Yes. We wore our $$ belt.

Lastly, the restaurant service issue. When I asked our waiter how to say "well done" in French, I was told how to say "rare" instead. My wife told me this after we got home, she knew I'd probably give the jerk a smack. Kidding.

Enjoy Paris and wherever else you travel. We made the best of it, but won't be going back. There is too much of the world that deserves our time, money and effort. That should be good news for most of you, you'll have Paris to yourselves.
rippowam is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2003, 07:39 AM
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How refreshing! Rippowam has a "way with words" and calls the shots just the way he sees them. Paris, I have found, brings out the "political correctness" of too many travelers who gloss over its crummy sides and prefer to dwell only on its romance. As one who first saw Paris more than 50 years ago (and has been back several times since), I can testify that "The City of Light" has dark and dirty aspects. If you think Paris is smelly, urine-soaked, and grasping today...you should have seen it back then!
USNR is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2003, 07:51 AM
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We've been to Paris dozens of times and even have family living there (7th Arr) and never have encountered the type of things rippowam mentions. We do speak French (altho mine is not great) and have never had anyone treat us poorly in restuarants, cafes, stores, etc. When I asked for meat well done it was well done. We've eaten our fair share of veggies as well. People (waiters, store clerks, hotel staff, etc.) have gone out of their way to speak English to us. I think a lot of the way you are treated has to do with you attitude and the way you treat people. Smile, be nice, attempt the language and you will be surprised at how well you are treated in return (and this goes for anyplace you visit, not only Paris).

I think like any big city Paris has good places and bad places -- and lots of tourist places. Take it for what it is, a large city with a very diverse population and millions of tourists thrown into the mix. Get out and explore areas away from the main tourist sights, stay in a nice hotel, and keep an open mind!
Lori is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2003, 09:18 AM
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Sorry to hear that your first visit to Paris was so bad that it has turned you off from even wanting to visit Paris again.

I've returned to Paris five times after my first visit, so that tells you how I feel about the beautiful City of Light.
capo is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2003, 09:39 AM
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I suppose Paris is not for everyone, not that surprising really - to each his/her own.

I will take issue with one topic that appeared frequently in this thread. That is the issue of bad customer service (or the myth of the rude Parisian). First, the french (in general) are very formal when dealing with each other (unless they are familiar), and tourists. It would appear to me that many confuse this level of formailty (which is not the norm in the US/Canada) with "rudeness". Second, "bad customer service" when it occurs, is a worldwide phenomena, it's not localalized in Paris/France!
SandC is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2003, 09:43 AM
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Rippowam -- we are safe! I did a Google search through the law archives and we are entitled to voice our negative opinions about Paris without fear of legal reprisal. I for one am relieved.

We are allowed to describe the good and the bad and decide, that for us, the bad was indeed bad enough to keep us from returning. We are not required to be browbeaten into retreat by the Paris lovers, and they are entitled to maintain their own opinions.

Having gotten that off my chest, I would just like to say that I too have been to many large cities, here and abroad, and I have seen the good and the bad, but for some reason the bad in Paris really stuck with me.

An example of the opposite occuring is our experience in Florence -- talk about a big city with traffic, and noise, and pollution -- we loved it -- despite almost being runover by numerous Vespas. I can't explain the difference, but it is there.

I know that many, many people love Paris -- my own parents have been there many, many times and would go back tomorrow. We just agree to disagree, so maybe those of us here on the Forum can do the same.
Tries2PakLite is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2003, 09:43 AM
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In my experience in Paris, "brusque" treatment by Parisians seems to correlate with being in high-tourist-volume positions, such as ticket sellers in Metro booths, etc. And, while I'm not excusing that, and realize that answering questions is part of their job, it's also somewhat understandable since people in positions like that must get tired of hearing the same questions over and over and over again.
capo is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2003, 09:55 AM
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I am sorry that you did not see the Paris that most people see and fall in love with. Especially on your honeymoon.
Yes, you have the same rights as those who post that they like somewhere and have to hear the negatives.
We all have the right to post our opinions here. Unless I missed the part where rippowan was told not to post?

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