How To Avoid Paris Syndrome (vol. one)
January 1, 1970
Paris syndrome (French: Syndrome de Paris, Japanese: パリ症候群, Pari shōkōgun) is a transient psychological disorder exhibited by some individuals when visiting or vacationing to Paris, as a result of extreme shock resulting from their finding out that Paris is not what they had expected it to be.
The odds of creating a unique and interesting traveling blog in this era are directly proportional to the odds of one accidentally stumbling upon John Stewart siting alone in a cafe, looking for a random stranger to chat and share his latest jokes with – they are simply never in your favor.
Here I am, a person who stills secretly hopes to meet John Stewart, attempting to provide the blogging universe with a less conventional blog, one that combines crumbs of history, a pinch of hints, and a nice layer of personal experience I had on my visits to some spots of the world.
Quite contrary to my urge to write unconventionally, I travel quite traditionally. I don’t backpack (simply never considered it interesting enough), I stick to the plan (wouldn’t like to miss out on the good spots simply because I wanted to impress others and myself with my spontaneity), and I tend to visit the places from the must-visit lists (don’t want to die seeing Louisiana and not seeing New York). So in honor of the typicality, in my first piece I will talk about – *drum roll* – Páris!
The city in France that takes away breathes of people all around the globe except for the twisted few. I am among them. My breath stayed as regular as it had been before I saw the inviolable being of The City of Light (it does have plenty of light, though).
The reason my breathing system stayed in order is probably the fact that I came to Paris with expectations higher than the reddish-brown Tower. What else can one do when heading to the city in which zillions of tiny tourists crawl over its streets every single day, the city which is an inexhaustible source of inspiration for romance and love, the city which causes a syndrome if it fails your expectations (they call you a patient!). And that’s exactly why I want to lend you a hand by writing down my impressions plus some tips and suggestions in order to set your expectations on just the right temperature.
Don’t get me wrong, Paris is a mesmerizing city, but if you really want to immerse in its beauty, you should prepare for its less charming sides and embrace them once you find yourself there. That’s why I’m willing to tell you what would I do if I could restart my journey.
Let’s start off from the top. Literally. Rencontrent Montmartre (i.e. meet Montmartre, if Google Translate is right)!
How To Fully Enjoy #1: Montmartre
Steep Streets of Montmartre
This northern part of Paris is a neighborhood established by the lower-class Parisians, somewhen in the nineteenth century, when Napoleon the third decided to keep the central part of the city for his well-off friends to have fun drinking fancy champagne. But the less lucky ones didn’t let them have a bigger blast so they decided to let go of rules (followed by rich mortals only) such as paying taxes, and start pouring in the neighborhood and down their throats quite a decent amount of very cheap alcohol.
In such a combo of alcohol and poverty one has to expect to find a handful of artists as well. Montmartre is quite a deal, being a birthplace of Picasso’s works which he used to trade for lunch in one of the local inns (considering the prices in restaurants, anyone with a fine hand should try the same). Back then, though, he was just one of the many artists on the slant district, but nowadays, walking on the streets through which Picasso’s ingenuity once swirled is something else (and you may want to store that someplace in your subconsciousness).
With that in your mind, let your feet get you lost in the streets Picasso once walked, seeking a breath of brilliance he sensed in there. Wandering around these streets you’ll find yourself enjoying the charm of French architecture and feel the alluring spirit of Paris I found nowhere else in that city. In other words, once you move away from the crowds of tourists who usually search for the mainstream and often overrated places, you may get a chance to see a different Paris, the one that makes you feel like a Parisian. At least for a while.
And in case you’re looking for unique gifts to bring back home, the streets are overladen with uncommon shops that offer beyond the regular spectrum of miniature towers and key chains.
Once you’re done with the unusual part, it’s time to go somewhere more conventional – just to keep the balance. So let’s go down a bit and pay attention to another well-known landmark of Montmartre.
The Mistery of Moulin Rouge
Moulin Rouge – the cradle of Can-Can and graveyard of morals – is another spot in the area of Montmartre tourists get nuts about. A giant red windmill and a myriad of light bulbs is all you get to see, and trust my experience, it lacks all the mystique you might’ve found searching its photos on Google. It’s simply not that spectacular.
I know, I know, there is little chance you will miss it (I didn’t), so here’s something I would keep in mind if I were reliving the experience – visit it by night only or it will simply look and feel wrong. One day I found myself there during the daytime and I was disappointed with how strangely melancholic and cheap looked the street under contours of afternoon sunlight. Trust me, it’s a place for night walks and birds.
While still around, if you’d like to pay respect to another cliché, look for the metro ventilation shaft in front of the windmill and remake the famous scene from the Seven Year Itch where Marilyn Monroe’s legs flashed when the air lifted her white dress up in the air. Stand still, bend your knees, lean a bit forward so that your right shoulder comes before the left one, scream spontaneously and *flash* you’ve got a postcard! Keep in mind that the effect won’t be the same if you are wearing a pair of jeans.
Before carrying on, look around and you’ll find a very unique sample of Starbucks store. Over there you can enjoy a drink sitting in the street outside, immersed in the Parisian chaos of bicycles, calm drivers (seriously, no one honks there!), and beautifully diverse mass of people buzzing around.
Once you’re done with your drink, it’s time to climb up to the viewpoint where most of the photos one finds when googling “Paris desktop wallpaper” are taken.
View From the Sacré-Coeur Basilica
Once you look towards the highest hill of Montmartre your glance will set on a monumental white edifice known as the Sacré-Coeur Basilica. The basilica might surprise you a bit since it looks like it’s been mistakenly placed in Paris instead of Rome. But, nonetheless, it’s stunning.
From the top, countless stairs stretch down the hill and end right in front of your feet, leaving you excuseless and forced to join the herd of tourists crawling towards the aim, at times being stopped by persistent sellers persuading you to buy handmade bracelets, babbling around in order to steal your attention while their colleagues explore the inside of your backpacks. To speak the truth, I didn’t see that happen, but I’d rather be skeptical than penniless, so better keep an eye on your belongings.
Once you reach the top and force out all the air supplies from your lungs, you’ll realize why so many desktop wallpapers are made there – the Paris you see from over there is charming. At that moment I realized I couldn’t possibly comprehend its grandeur and sophistication until I stepped back and found it lying all graceful and serene wrapped in a layer of elegance that exists only in something French. But there was something missing and I believe I realized what it was, so let me give you a hint: go there either very early in the morning or quite late at night. My assumption is that in those hours the place is not so crowded so there’s more space to enjoy the moment. Also the sky is likely to be clearer early in the morning, so the view will be impeccable, while at night…let me just tell you you’ll understand why it’s called the City of Light. Only then, I believe, you will find yourself at peace and in love with Parrri’.
This was just a small part of our rehearsal trip to Paris, and I’d love if you’d join me in the next part where I’ll tell a bit about the treasury of art in the city that respires artistry – Musée du Louvre!
Until next time, Au Revoir!