What I Wish Knew Before Paris

Does everyone really love Paris? Did you?  I sure thought I would.

There was something lost in my visit to Paris. Maybe it was a sense of wonder at such an over-exposed destination. Maybe it was the elevated sense of awe that came from the media and my friends. Maybe I just got sold a dream without knowing it, and I fell for the hype.

The thing is that nothing is wrong with Paris. What’s wrong is when the upsell set my expectations in another direction than reality will.

Only on this trip did I learn things to be wary of when travelling somewhere new that a lot of people are raving about. Watch out for moments like below to keep yourself from a similar disappointment on your next trip to somewhere amazing.

Listen to the hype, but stay grounded.

As soon as we decided on Paris, everyone’s eyes lit up. Never had any vacation brought other people so much joy. No other city mentioned brought up so many “You’re gonna love it” designations, with such a knowing look.

The way everyone spoke about Paris (not France, just Paris) made it seem like I was going to land in a magical place of jazz, orgasmic food, and Clueless shopping sprees.

But… it turns out… it wasn’t any of those things at all.

This isn’t to say that you should run from any destination that people speak highly of. Just make sure to contain your expectations and remember that your experience won’t always be like theirs, but it could still be a great time.

Remember that it’s still a big city and may feel closer to home than you think.

Especially if you’re from a place like LA. Paris felt like any other big city but in French. In that sense, It kinda felt like Montreal with cooler stone paved roads and older buildings with romantic balconies. The hustle and bustle also felt similar to me as my first time in New York. No, I’m not saying Paris is exactly like any of the places I just compared it to, but I’m throwing out the similar feels. 

The architecture IS amazing, however. As long as you can find yourself a perfect place to perch and soak it all in, this could really be a defining moment.  I feel like it was not as easy to absorb all Paris had to offer on ground level. I plan on going back and finding that place, but it’s definitely not something you stumble on, as most people have made it seem to me.

Research and plan food experiences ahead.

When I go on vacation, I wanna pretend like I live there. I wanted to go to places that I would realistically eat at if I was living at that location. So, we went into some highly yelp rated cafes with a decent price point or a cute atmosphere. Then, the corner cafe, grocery, or (YES YES I FUCKING DID) sushi restaurant.

But it wasn’t as easy here as it was in Cancún to find something that felt different from home.  Being that Ladurée is in LA, I don’t like escargot, and I’d like to experience something beyond bread, cheese, and wine, I felt like I was at a loss. Next time I’m in Paris, I’ll have a list to go-to’s and not wing it, as is my usual style.

The food was good, but not unique. Sadly, we didn’t make it to the places my one trusted traveller friend recommended. We didn’t find anything we were excited over. Well, not yet anyway, but we’ll get to that.

Realise that Paris comes with a lot of pressure.

I didn’t realise this about a popular destination like Paris, because I didn’t experience it in Cancún. The biggest part of the pressure is that your friends not only HOPE that you feel the same way, but they look at you like they already KNOW you’ll feel the same way.

They have a list of places to see, food to eat, and things to buy. I tried to hit up all these places. I tried to do all the things they told me to do. The Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, Notre Dame, get bread from a boulangerie, get cheese, get wine, picnic…

Doing these things felt… rushed. I was just taking pictures at locations, but experiencing nothing except the chase to the next landmark. When it came time to picnic near the Eiffel Tower, we found the area littered with scam artists and peddlers that followed you around. It wasn’t what we thought it would be and it wasn’t what people told us it would be.

Knowing that I was going to have to come back to people asking me “How was it???!!!” and expecting me to reply with a gush and sparkly-eyed hope to return for more cheese and shopping, I knew I was going to disappoint a lot of people. The positive here is that this is where the trip perked up because I knew I had to stop caring about that.

Never forget a valuable resource: Travel Bloggers.

So, we stopped bullshitting. Desperation hit and I reached out to Female Travel Bloggers in the middle of the night. Publications of Paris musts just didn’t have a personal connection to me.

I felt that if I wanted a real set of opinions and recommendations, I had to reach out the people who blogged for the love of it. And while their recommendations may have been on a list somewhere, it felt more personal and reliable. I needed something to redeem this trip because it was just too hyped up to go down like that.

Find out how to enjoy Paris nightlife on a budget with these tips and recommendations.

The girls came through! Out of all the recommendations, we chose to go to a small restaurant, located near Notre Dame. Our spirits definitely perked up after that. We decided to throw out all of the checklist of places to be and just experience Paris the way we wanted to. When we finally sat down, slowly ate our meals, and listened to a violinist play Time To Say Goodbye, it was enough to inspire me to give it another chance and come back again.

Was Paris everything you thought it would be? I’m already planning my next trip to Europe, and definitely back to France, one day. What did I miss? What should I have done differently?

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