Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Paris vs London

I have been to Paris 5 times now and its surprising that with each visit my fascination for the city has gone down. My first trip there had been my first trip to mainland Europe itself. I spent a week in the city and proclaimed it the most amazing city EVER. My second weekend visit dimmed its enchantment for me but was still fun. A third one day trip ended up being boring as I had had enough of the tourist sights and didn't know what else to do. By the fourth day trip (for work), I didn't even bother to stay there, and just came back to London right after the meetings.

My fifth trip now was for a weekend to meet a cousin who has just shifted there and it turned out to be even more different as I was looking at the city more as a place to stay than visit. Maybe that's why I noticed a lot more of the positives and negatives of Paris as a place to stay. Its very interesting to see how different the same place feels to a person in the 20s versus the 30s:).

Rather than write about what I felt, I thought I would just highlight some of the differences which I noticed this time versus London (the other similar global city I know and where I stay).

Twinkling lights and twinkling Eiffel Tower
- Paris is definitely grander, more open and has more historical buildings than London. The central area goes on forever and you can walk for kilometres and still see all the stone buildings from the city Napolean built. It's definitely better organised in terms of wide roads, and the palaces are bigger and richer than Buckingham Palace:). All the older buildings appear brighter too because of the colour of the stone - light brown versus pale white in London. My theory is that this is because of the war - London was pounded a lot more than Paris which fell more easily and therefore has a lot more left of the grander imperial times.

- Overall, Paris feels less safe than London. I haven't understood the reason for it as there are loads of people on the road always in Paris. Still, its just a feeling you get plus based on how much people tell you to be careful. Apparently phone and purse stealing is very common especially on the Metro. It might be because of lot of poor and homeless people on the streets but I don't know for sure. Also Paris streets are definitely less clean than London! I am sure that doesn't help in the feeling either

- The roads are wider in Paris. And because there is no congestion charge in central Paris there are  lots of cars everywhere. Plus everyone drives recklessly with disregard for all rules. So its free for all for pedestrians and cars alike, and breaking red lights is quite the norm.

Street style!
- People in Paris are very very stylishly dressed, more than London for sure. It looks like everyone takes the time to accessorise themselves well, the women and the men. And they are all so slim! Its very easy to get a fashion complex in Paris!! The reason might be that in London you have a lot more bankers, consultants and other professionals while Paris seems to be a hub of artists and the like, a more bohemian mix of people who know how to enjoy life!

- Overall, people in Paris are less helpful than in London (but then I guess Parisian (un)friendliness is already world famous:) ). Its tough to get by without French and most people have such a serious look on their face that you think twice before asking a question! This is quite in contrast to the British who are definitely one of the most polite and helpful people I have encountered (at least on the outside;-) )

- Paris feels a lot more multi cultural as you see loads of Africans, Arabic and other people who are clearly not ethnically French. They all take up the local culture and language and you feel they are a part of Paris. This mixing is not seen in London or other European cities as much.

- It also appears that there are a lot more cultural events happening in Paris. Apparently there are festivals happening every weekend. Even on the roads, you can see musicians practicing their bands and dancers practicing their dance. Maybe its just a feeling or maybe its true...

Nuit Blanche outside Hotel de Ville
- When I was there, Paris Fashion week was going on and we spotted weirdly dressed people standing outside the fashion show locations. Another event that was happening was the Nuit Blache - the all night art and culture event. We did not see much as the event was happening all night. But we just took a walk to one of the locations and experienced some of the sights; a group of people carrying their speakers playing loud music and dancing on a street; ice sculptures in front of Hotel de Ville; thousands of people walking around those areas, with some very fashionably dressed;-); food stalls up all around; a random concert happening in a store with people looking in from the glass outside; Notre Dame had a couple of entertainers and so on. It was like the entire city was out in the open at 1 am! We loved the experience so much; its again something I haven't experienced in London yet. Guess people in Paris are a lot more openly fun loving than the British...

Over the years, the glamourous sheen of Paris has come off for me and its a multi step learning experience to uncover what lies beneath. A place to stay and a place to visit are never really the same:), isn't it? And who knows, what I discover about the city may be more exciting than what I knew about the city before...?

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