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Step Foot Into The Void – Paris

August 01, 2014 / by / 0 Comment

Before you make up your mind over your next vacation destination, it is logical for you to set an expectation and select your destination in accordance. Do you want the beaches and the sea? The excitement and the thrill, or rather some thing artsy, something cultural?

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Yet, from what I heard, people select Paris for no valid reason. And this is absurd, for Paris is an infamously hateful city.

Bemoaned since the beginning of the universe, the service of Parisian can still be disappointing. On the websites of Tripadvisor or Lonelyplanet there is no shy of let-down faces. Expect the followings:

“That monsieur in the brasserie refused to speak English.”
“This shopkeeper has no manners, despite its over-elaborated decor.” “

“How on earth can they charge me 7 euros for a bottle of coca-cola, let alone it being a small one?”

To be downright honest, the city is not welcoming at all. A friend of mine had no cash with him and ended up trapped in the Orly airport when no ATM machine would accept his card. Then there was another time when I bought a train ticket, galloped down the hallway and onto the platform, only to be told by the information screen that train service was terminated 15 minutes ago.

Why on earth was that ticket machine and ticket gate still operating then? Is this some kind of a trap?

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But then, what constituted such kind of ridiculousness – why are people flocking to this place and yet unable to say why? There must be reasons behind this.

There are things to be seen in every arrondisment in Paris, and I doubt any other city in the world can provide such variety and abundance. Get onto a velib (city bike for rent) and you will comprehend the richness of the culture behind the cityscape: start from the Rue de Rivoli and you will first find the Jardin de Tulleries, the Lourve, then the Centre Pompidou and the Marais area with all the hipsters, and then not far away you will see the historically-significant Bastille area as well as the Notre Dame. Cross the river you shall set foot on Saint-Germain de pres where ideas of Godard and Satre freely flowed and came into form; here, cafes and bookstores are omnipresent. Every attraction has a unique piece of history, every landmark a story to tell. There’s no need to study anything beforehand – the fascination will seep through you anyhow.

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Then there is the food. I remember an intriguing conversation with a couple from United Kingdom one night at my beloved bar Prescription*:

“So how do you like Paris?’ I asked, in the gesture of being friendly.

To my surprise, and perhaps as well as her fiancee’s, the lady exclaimed joyfully, “well I just love everything, the places, the food… Oh yes the food! We haven’t eaten a lot this time, but I swear to god, everything is delicious! Even the bread… I can have it plain or with jam, and eat it all day!”

After I walked out of the bar I pondered upon the joy of the women. Her statement was precise – you need not go for Michelin stars, just go for any family-style boulangerie (bakery) or brasserie and you get a taste of the real France. There is a reason why some restaurants are named Chez: the chef regards you the guest of his, and provides the best of his hospitality. Every dish, no matter complex or simple, is prepared with exceptional caution to detail and adherence to tradition. This is the pride of the French, and for this you will never be disappointed, especially being in the Ile-de-France.

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But the quintessential reason is the ambience, and it’s why this place is never short of foreign admirers. Some say visitors of Paris should try sitting at the roadside cafes, observing the movement of people and time. Others may suggest wander around the city and appreciate the history and the culture. Here I need to bring up another point: don’t hold any agenda while visiting Paris, don’t force yourself to visit every site – take your time and look around the streets. The pivotal thing is that the sensations of Paris are everywhere. Be it the antique store which offers coins from bronze age, or the patisserie with sinful mille-feuille, or even the fresh market which offers the cheese with the weirdest flavor, these are all elements that makes Paris so special, so one-of-a-kind. These sensations are not stated in guidebooks, online travel packs or whatnot: these are the gems are waiting to be found, and such the ubiquitous collision of these gems is what make Paris hard to forget, shall one be willing to explore – for Paris is so rich, in texture and in taste.

Because once succumbed to, Paris can make feel like an aristocrat, an artist, a noble. To me, this is the insidious power of lure only existent in nowhere but Paris.

* Prescription Cocktail Club: 23 Rue Mazarine, 75006 Paris.

 Submitted by Vincent Choy, Year Three Social Sciences Student



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