There is a slight feeling of disorientation that stems from culture shock. It is a sense that like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, the realisation has hit that you are not in Kansas anymore. While not an exact translation, this description best fits the French word “Dépaysement”. Paris was the first European city that I travelled to alone where English was not the official language. I had no expectations except for the cliched culture references seen and heard from the media (and the French action thriller “Taken”). But since then, I’ve managed to travel there enough times to be somewhat comfortable to construct a city profile for beginners. To keep this short, I’ve broken this into 3 parts outlined with a 5 W’s, 1 H approach. Part 1 covers the Who and Where.
Paris Experience: The Who?
More than 2 million people live in Paris’ city limits, with millions more, in the form of tourists, visiting annually for all its experiences. Paris is one of the world’s most visited cities. Rough Guides lists it as number 1 in its Top 10 Cities to Visit in 2017. While French census data does not include details such as religion or ethnicity, I noticed a mix of different cultures in the streets. They were predominantly European but also included African and Asian as well.
There seems to exist a stereotype about Parisians that they are cold or unfriendly. And while I personally have not had any particularly bad experiences, I did notice a degree of distance from the locals. However, I chalked this up to a basic difference in culture and standards of openess that in some respects are not unlike New York City. To be fair, I also kept to myself for fear of being exposed as a non-French speaking tourist.
Paris Experience: The Where?
Paris is located in Northern/Central France and is the capital. The river Seine (pronunciation) divides the city up into the “Left Bank” (southern) and the “Right Bank” (northern) each with their own distinct qualities. There are 20 different neighbourhoods known as “Arrondissements” (pronunciation). Looking at a map, each Arrondissement spirals outwards by number. JetSet Times provides an Ultimate Breakdown of Arrondissements that is extremely helpful. Also, Paris.net provides a useful guide to each area as well to give an idea of where the top sites are.
As a complete novice, I personally didn’t research the arrondissements before deciding where to stay. Fortunately it worked out as it allowed the opportunity to commute via public transport, walk to popular destinations and to feel like a local. Because of this, it’s a different experience seeing and hearing the sights and sounds of the city – the unique sirens, the French conversations and cobblestone roads beneath your feet.
Generally speaking, like all major cities, accommodations next to city tourist areas and points of interest will be more expensive. Depending on the purpose of visit, Paris offers many hotel options from Luxury to Budget. It also happens to be one of AirBnb biggest markets providing cost effective options. I stayed in Montmartre (18 ème) at Hotel Libertel Montmartre Opera and a Le Village Hostel Montmartre via Hostelworld. Not the fanciest of options but both offered stays within close proximity to local restaurants, nightlife and various sightseeing areas without breaking the bank.
Part 2 – The Why?/ The What?
Part 2 will cover the “Why” and the “What”. This will provide my reasons for wanting to go to Paris and things I did whilst there.
What are your thoughts?
Any plans to go to Paris anytime soon?