Paris. Many people say you either love it or hate it. I probably fall into the ‘love it’ column, simply because it’s a city I would always go back to. There are obviously many highs of Paris (e.g. Tour Eiffel) and yes there are unavoidable lows (Paris is comparatively dirty to London). Yet this generally isn’t a problem for places that you haven’t built up such high expectations for (e.g many of the amazing cities a little further East).
So rather than make a less than satisfactory discussion about the city as a whole, it would be more interesting to discuss things a few things that are underrated. After all, having too many overrated things is another first world problem that causes our expectations to fall short of the fantasy that we all love to create.
1. Palais Garnier
Studies seem to indicate that poorer, less-educated people tend to like country, heavy metal and rap music, while wealthier, better-educated people prefer jazz, opera and pop music. 90’s west coast hip-hop is my choice any day of the week; so make of this statement what you will.
However, I think almost everyone would agree that being wealthier gives you the option of experiencing the entire music spectrum. I don’t care too much for opera (yes holding a note for 30 seconds at the edge of your octave range is spectacular, but if you’re like me I get bored after someone’s done it two or three times; let alone for a 90 minute opera). I do however enjoy looking at grandeur. Sure, Chateau Versailles and the Apollo Room in the Louvre are nothing short of breathtaking. Yet who wants to queue for hours on end, when there’s arguably a grander gem waiting for you in the Palais Garnier. Even in the event that you can skip the line (feel free to ask if you’re interested to know), you are still stuck fighting with the hordes of selfie sticks as you all clamour to get a glimpse of the items housed within.
2. Sainte Chapelle
There are few buildings in Paris whose insides are more spectacular than their outsides. For me the Sainte Chapelle is one such place. Fresh from being renovated in 2014, this church is arguably the one you should willingly pay and queue to visit (sorry, I don’t know how to skip the line on this one).
Sure the Notre Dame and Scare Coeur are the iconic churches of Paris but they are without a doubt much more attractive on the outside. Don’t forget the fact that a lot of central Europe has very similar architecture, so once again if you’re like me, too much repetition will cause memories to blur and enthusiasm to wane. As such, to ensure you keep riding the highs, keep the Sainte Chapelle as ‘the’ church you go into.
3. The Gentleman’s Umbrella
I thought I’d throw this one in to mix it up. In essence there really is no substitute for a good quality umbrella when travelling in Europe. This argument is probably also valid for a man satchel. Yet despite the benefits of the man satchel, it’s almost surely a photo ruin-er among other things. So back to umbrellas and the joy they bring as Europe can decide to pour at any moment. Not many things are such a big mood killer than getting rained on whilst on holiday. Now benefits of quality umbrellas are quite obvious; yet the benefits of using a ‘gentlemen’s’ umbrella is something that is very much underrated. Here’s why:
A funny coincidence occurred to me a few years back. It was a rainy day and I needed an umbrella. It wasn’t my first choice but as it so happened, this time I grabbed a ‘gentlemen’s’ umbrella. I then proceeded to visit a number of high end stores, where I noticed a dramatic change in attitude. To be fair, my ‘look’ and fashion choices don’t command ass kissing from designer stores so it’s never a surprise when I am largely ignored upon entry. However, on this particular day (with my ‘gentleman’s‘ umbrella in tow), I was greeted, smiled at and assisted every step of the way as I worked my way around each and every store. I say coincidence, because I have not experienced such a day since (interest levels in me have since returned to include disinterest and a ‘you can’t afford it’ attitude). This is where it gets interesting though. Maybe that day was indeed a once in a lifetime experience; yet on days that I enter with a ‘gentleman’s’ umbrella, there is still an increase in the levels of service (Paris included). If you’re studying sociology, this could be the makings of an interesting case study.
4. Laduree Macarons
Put simply, Laduree is to macarons what Apple is to smart phones. Sure there are worthy competitors but I implore you to find one that has the consistent staying power of these two market leaders. Sure it’s mainstream, but maybe what makes it underrated is just how consistently good it is. I’ve been fortunate to sample a number of competitors (I thought brands such as Pierre Herme and Angelina were decent), yet for one reason or another they just didn’t stack up against Laduree. You can read all about the macaron culture via any number of blogs if you’re so inclined (here’s one for you), but if you only take one thing away from it; it’s that the salted caramel macaron from Laduree is the equivalent of the iPhone (i.e. it’s what you should be judging every other macaron against).
With all this in mind, holidays are definitely what you make of them. Expect too much and you’ll ultimately disappoint yourself. Yet at the same time, I don’t really buy into the whole living in the moment thing because that doesn’t help you with the problem of ‘what’s next?’ So what does this mean for Paris? Well it’s f*cking Paris! It’s the city almost every other city is compared against. Being unhappy in Paris, is just like being stuck at the top of a ferris wheel. It’s really only a first world problem.
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