My first time in Paris I stayed at a cheap tourist hotel in the outskirts of the „most romantic city on earth“. Small and simple rooms – yes, we at least had a TV and were totally thrilled about the two German channels in the sea of French ones-, no restaurant but a dozen vending machines offering everything from ice-cream to sandwiches to meals-to-go … and a 15-minute-walk to the metro. Which can be very long if you’re suffering from blisters.

The daylong trip itself – from rural Styria to metropolitan Paris – was an adventure. (And that’s the nicest expression I could find …) Imagine a bus full of middle aged people (very nicely said as well) in the middle of the summer and no air condition. Which broke down in the middle of the highway somewhere around Strasbourg. We suffered and swore to never ever take part in one of those cheap sales bus tours again. The only reason my pal and I booked this tour was the price – pure and simple. Who wouldn’t take the opportunity to spend three days in Paris for 200 €? Especially since students are always short on cash and I knew, of course, that some shopping would be on the schedule!

Usually these bus tours are pre-organized for every single minute but I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have other plans. My friend and I only met our fellow travellers at breakfast. And while they were hurrying from one sight to another, squeezing in the one or other sales event where you couldn’t resist buying mattresses, pots and electrical blankets because it was such a great deal – and if you didn’t order you wouldn’t be allowed back onto the bus – we had the best time ever doing whatever we wanted. Strolling on the Champs Elysées? Shopping on Rue du Faubourg? Driving up to the top of Eiffel Tower, mounting the stairs to Sacre Coeur? Walking along the Seine, visiting Notre Dame and sitting in cafés? We did all that! And it was great! BUT … and here it comes, the big BUT! I still was disappointed! Paris is the incarnation of romance! THE dream honeymoon destination! Well, maybe if it’s dark and you don’t see how rundown and dirty the city really is. And I’m not talking about the suburbs or tiny side streets. I’m talking about the inner city! Let me give you an example which is still fresh in my mind after all these years, because it kind of made me sad.

By visiting the Eiffel Tower you best get out at Trocadero. Which in itself is magnificent, especially the view to the Tour Eiffel. But we were a little surprised (and that’s a nice expression as well) seeing it smeared with graffiti and the fact that its fountains were switched on at 10 am. It made me wonder, why!? Do they just not care? Confident in the fact that tourists will be too enchanted to oversee the dilapidated houses, dirt, broken sidewalk tiles …?

And still … I want to get back to Paris. I want to experience it with the love of my life, staying at a nice hotel close to the 1e arrondisement, walking through the streets, enjoying the real Paris with buttery croissants and café au lait, just watching the world pass by, feeling the romance, being enchanted like millions before me … one day I will return! And it will be an incredible experience!


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