What's the tourist traps to avoid? Neighborhoods to stay away from? What were you most surprised that disappointed you? What were you most surprised that delighted you?
There is no let down in Paris;
such a thing does not exist!
My favorite thing in Paris was Sacre Coure especially for the view, St. Chapelle, and the cemetery in Mont Marte. We didn't get to go up in the Eiffel Tower as they were setting up the fireworks, but standing beneath it was cool too. I thought Bastille Day was just about the best party ever and would go back in a heartbeat for that.
Found the boat ride to be nice, and it was wonderful to just sit for a while. The subway was easy to use, everyone was very friendly and helpful. I found the stench of urine in so many places to be quite disturbing. That was probably my biggest disappointment about Paris. Wasn't very romantic if you know what I mean. Notre Dame was lovely, but I find other cathedrals to be more beautiful. I was all excited to see the open produce markets as had heard so much about them, how fabulous they were supposed to be, but they just were not that special. The ones in Germany and Italy are so much nicer, fresher, and cheaper.
The next time we go, we plan to do a few themed walking tours, to get a better grasp of the history, the architecture, and so on. Wish we would have done one the last time.
No tourist traps, no pick-pockets.
You can spend years in Paris and not step foot on Rue Cler -- and actually enjoy yourself.
The price of restaurants on Rue Cler.
The price of restaurants near tourist areas in general.
Something that was NOT a let down -- restaurants where the locals eat... s u p e r b !!
I was surprised at how much better I liked the view of Paris from the Centre Pompidou instead of the Eifel Tower.
I was also surprised at how good the chocolate crepe from the stand at the base of the tower was, and it made the entire rigamaroll of going up the Eifel Tower worthwhile.
When we stayed in the 7th arr., I was surprised by the amount of dog poo on the sidewalks. Our guide kept having to turn around and call, "Watch out for the dog poo-poo!" (Which when shouted with a French accent is actually sort of charming.) Not exactly a big letdown or disappointment, just surprising.
I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed the Pompidou. I'm not that crazy about modern art, but I really wanted to see the building. However, we spent at least 3.5 hours wandering around inside, and I could have spent probably another hour or more.
I was also surprised by macarons. Like a lot of macaron virgins, I was confusing them with macaroons ... and I absolutely LOATHE coconut. So it was definitely a pleasant surprise to find that the difference between "macarons" and "macaroons" is more than a single "o." Macarons are delicious!
I'm with Bill. There are no let-downs about Paris. The urine smell is much worse in the New York subways - these are big cities, what do you want? Riding them reduces your carbon footprint and you get to hear wonderful musicians down below.
Biggest disappointment for me was the Pompidou monstrosity, oops, I mean museum. I like modern art but it was a bit too abstract. Paint a large canvas blue and now it's in a major museum. That is just stupid. Or paint a canvas yellow and slash it with a razor and now it is priceless. but I know that the art of modern art is in the interpretation of it, but come on, a child could produce better art than that. I wished I had gone to the Picasso Museum instead where at least objects are represented on canvas instead of a solid color being rationalized with an abstract meaning. I felt that Tate Modern in London was a better modern art museum, in my opinion.
Oh, and I was quite surprised/disappointed that I was experiencing a gold ring scam and did not realize it until the guy asked for money. I am not saying I fell for it, because that means we would give them money, but stood around long enough for the guy to point out that it did not fit his fat fingers and that 14k was inscribed on the inside. He insisted that we keep it (due to not fitting on his fingers) and then asked for money for a sandwich. We gave the ring back and walked away. I was like "OMG, that is the scam that RS refers to in his book". It was pretty funny b/c it was dead-on to what RS describes.
I've never noticed the smell of urine in Paris. Guess I've just been lucky all these years. I know it's very common in Germany for men to pee anywhere and everywhere, but never saw signs of it in Paris.
I do agree about the dog poop on the sidewalks. I love Paris, and everything about it, except that.
The biggest letdown about Paris, to me, is leaving it to return home.
I was not sure I would like Paris, but I loved it. I was pretty sure my husband would not like it, but he loved it too. Almost everything aboubt it was a pleasant surprise, not a let down.
The biggest let down for me was the Pompidou. I love modern art, but absolutely hated the Pompidou. There were a maybe 20 or so great works of art, but the rest was just trash IMHO. I mean really really bad stupid stuff. I was disappointed in the hop on hop off bus too. It got really annoying with horrendous music and worthless naration. We did see a lot of Paris though.
That was it. Everything else was great!
The only thing that disappointed me was the Bateaux Mouche boat ride. The weather had turned so it was chilly and drizzly, but that wasn't the problem. The Seine was high, so we didn't go up past Ile de la Cite and Notre Dame. Most importantly, we couldn't sit on top! I'll try it again on a pretty day when the river is low.
Delights: Eiffel tower was pretty darn cool, even though I'm afraid of heights, Sacre Coeur had an equivalently great view, and the street vendor crepes were the best I ever had.
Disappointments: the often mentioned dog poop (they're so picky about everything else, I still don't get it), dodging traffic/vespas/scooters, and the general city grime (yes everyone I know it's a big city, I was just bummed there was so much evidence, and I am spoiled living in Oregon).
The only let downs for me:
The view from the Eifel tower on a humid night (I agree that the view from the top floor of the Pompidou Center is better... speaking of which...)
Lest I sound like a philistine, I was disappointed by the art in the Pompidou Center. Not only for the reason pointed out by the previous poster, but much of the works seemed... well, they seemed to be the product of angry, disturbed minds.
And yes, the biggest let down is leaving.
First I will say - I LOVE PARIS, I LOVE PARIS, I LOVE PARIS!!!!! I would go back there any time for as long as possible.
I hate to argue with Jo, but there are pickpockets there, just as there are in any city. Unfortunately I learned that from personal experience. I can only blame myself.
As for the dog poop, yes, it can be a problem. We just made a game of it and whoever saw it first had to call out "merde."
Let down,, what is a let down,, I am on vacation, there is never any let down.. no work, no dishes, no cooking, fun and interesting stuff to do and see everyday,, I love holidays. LOL
Seriously,, I actually read this thread through, thinking it might tweak a bad memory, or a "let down" on one of my visits to Paris,, but it hasn't.
Not that every experience was always perfect,, had a so so meal here or there, ( usually my own fault for just eating wherever I am and not being too picky about choosing a place in advance),, or have encountered some less then ideal weather ( hey, ideal is 7- 75 and sunny,, so impossible that everyday is going to be ideal) .. but overall, I can't complain about much.
I love Paris,, and I have no problem with the dog poop, LOL
I find delight in many things,, often the simplest things stick most in memory,, the perfect afternoon where I sat with a great book at a cafe, and had the best rabbit pate ever,, or the ice cream I would enjoy every night at 10pm,, from Pont Neuf,, while watching the ET turn on its twinkle..even the afternoon I wandered in un unfamiliar neighborhood looking for an office, and found it,, by memory,, I was so excited.. ,, it doesn't take much to make me smile in Paris.
Andrea, I was not saying pick-pockets and tourist traps don't exist in Paris, I know that they do and that lots of people have a terrible time with them. Just that we ourselves did not have any problems with them.
As to the urine smell, it wasn't just in the Metro stations, it seemed like it was everywhere we went. I was most shocked walking up in the Sacre Couer and smelling it all along the way up the spiral stairs and along the overlook at the top of the church. Who pees in a church? So, this was pretty shocking to me. Peeing outside is a problem in Germany too, and I am thankful that they finally started fining it a few years ago. Hasn't seemed to help very much though. Seems uncivilized to me and I do wish the German men would stop it. Have not encountered this aroma in a church or monument area though, like I did in Paris.
Having all my money stolen. This was a few years back. I've taken the proper steps to avoid this on trips since then and it hasn't happened to me a second time. Still there's no worse feeling then having every cent lifted from you far from home.
I'm surprised that people were disappointed by the Centre Pompidou. But maybe not so if what you expected was an exceptional "Modern Art Museum". Because that's not what the Centre wants to be. I loved it for the space it provided to learn for my French classes in an inspiring environment. I loved it for the entertaining meeting space in front of the building. I loved it for the changing exhibits. I never went there thinking I would find a Modern Arts museum.
I'd have to agree with Rue Cler -- I felt like I was in a theme park. There were many other neighborhoods that felt more genuine to me.
I couldn't even begin to list all the things I love about Paris, and oddly, they're probably the smallest things -- enjoying just about anything at a sidewalk cafe.
Paris is horrid... All of you should stay away
(OK... this was just an attempt to get a cheaper hotel rate. I really love Paris! :) )
On previous trips, the smoking in restaurants really disappointed me. In a nation that does "food" so wonderfully, what a shame it was to completely stink up every eatery so badly! Fortunately, the smoking ban in restaurants has addressed that problem pretty effectively. It was a delight to go back after the smoking ban went into effect - it made dining a completely different experience.
The dog poo in the streets was a surprise, too. But if you watch your step, it's not really a problem to avoid.
The biggest disappointment these days: the number of scam artists you have to wave off in the major tourist destinations.
No, I didn't lose a fake ring, I DON'T want your stupid little string bracelet, call me a racist all you want, I wasn't born yesterday.
None of that keeps me away - fer cryin' out loud - it's frigging Paris!!!
LOL Carol! :)
How does that song go: "I love Paris in the spring time...I love Paris in the fall" Regardless of what "they" say of Paris, true or false, good/bad, accurate/inaccurate, I am still going back to Paris, as you all have pointed out. There is no let down, period.
But, the pick pockets are definitely there operating on the Metro platforms...They tried to get me, even unzipped my fanny pack, but didn't get anything because the valuables, ie, currency aren't stached in there. It's the mother-daughter combination using the the girl to block you from exiting the Metro on to the platform, you move to left in order to get off the girl blocks you ; you go the right she goes there; meanwhile, the mother has had the moments to unzip your pack. I've been told by locals that certain stations are much worse than the normal ones.
I believe the dog poop issue is accurate about Paris as are the pick pockets, but it is just an unpleasantness to be put up with when we're there, along with the scam artists and the ones who stick that Do you speak English sign in front of your face, the heat (sometimes the heat does get to me, 80F in Paris in July/August isn't 80F in Sacramento). Still, do these things diminish my desire to get back to Paris on every trip to Europe, the answer is simply a resounding NO. A let down in Paris n'est pas possible.
Outside the White House, you can usually find a photographer with a life size cardboard cutout of the President. For a fee, you can have your photo taken with the President.
I hear someone is going to do the same thing on Rue Cler with a life size cutout of Rick Steves.
That's hilarious Frank!
It's been years since I've been to Paris, but do they not have smelly panhandlers on the Metro anymore? Nobody's mentioned them. That was the only thing that bothered me about Paris. I loved it. Spent a whole week there and could have stayed longer.
I loved our Bateau Mouche ride. We went at night, there were some Polish soccer fans who kept running from bridge to bridge to yell and wave at our boat. Kinda made a game out of it -- "do you see them yet? Did they make it? Oh, there they are!"
I've been to Paris twice and have never been ga-ga over it like most people. I do like the historical sites and some museums but I find overall, it's a dirty city (the dog poo, the trash, the smell). I also can't stand the young foreigners everywhere trying to sell you trinkets (although it was fun to sit on a bench hear the Eiffel Tower and watch them scatter like roaches when the police came around).
I also think one's perception of a city depends on if they're part of a 'typical' tour of Paris or if they're getting to see things that are not so touristy. The first time I went to Paris I was visiting family. We didn't even see the ET, Versailles, or the Louvre but instead visited some lesser known museums and historical sites (like Jeu de Pomme museum and Malmaisson, Josephine's estate). The best Chinese food I've ever had was in Paris.
On another trip, this time a tour with high school students, we stayed in mediocre hotels and ate less than mediocre food. However, the day trip to a little town called Beaune was in my opinion, better than the entire stay in Paris.
Even the smell of urine did not tarnish my impression of Paris. It's not like our cities in the US are spotless and urine free.
We have been to Paris four times and I would go back in a heartbeat. Sure the "foreigners" as someone called them can be a nuisance, but we ignore them.
Our focus is to enjoy and explore the city, ignoring everything else that might take away from the experience. Oh, Rue Cler never turned me on. One visit was enough to make wonder what the big deal was. There are lots of lovely places to spend your time, and many are not mentioned in Rick's book.
The dog poo and urine smell did not bother us too much (not sure if that is good or bad) and we chalked it up to being typical of an urban area. We loved Paris: morning coffee and pastries at the cafe around the corner, concert at St. Chapelle, navigating the metro with dogs onboard the trains (so well-behaved!), macarons (as previously mentioned), lunch at the sidewalk cafes (we especially enjoyed the salads and croque monsieurs), the ET light show (I was more mesmerized by it than I thought I would be), the gardens and boating at Versailles, and having locals kindly laugh at our attempts at speaking French. We enjoyed all the big museums, but I was surprised at how much I was affected by seeing Marie Antoinette's prison cell La Conciergerie and I most enjoyed seeing The Thinker at the Rodin Museum. And my husband really enjoyed learning about the history of Paris at the Carnavalet Museum.
My least favorite thing was avoiding all the scam artists. Never annoyed, but tended to think, "There, but for the grace of ...".
Paris is my favorite city, hands-down.
Great city to wander and get lost in. Recent surprise: wandering around Latin Quarter, wandered down a little alley way which opened to a park which was formerly a Roman colesium.
A new motto for Paris-It may smell like pee, but at least urine Paris.
What do you expect from the Euro-pee-ans?
Our biggest letdown in Paris was - August. Our favorite little restaurants were mostly en vacance, and the trains and buses ran really infrequently, and it seemed there were more Americans there than Parisiens.
Other than that, the biggest letdown is leaving.
Jim, the trains and buses must run infrequently all year then,, as they do not reduce the schedule in August,, you just though they did.
Thank you so much for all your insight! I'm really looking forward to our trip to Paris in Sept. And I'll make sure to watch out where I step! :)
Actually, the transit schedules can be reduced or non-existent on any day of the year in Paris. Just listen to the current announcements: "Au cause de movement social.....!" The main line trains can be affected as well; there is little or no advance notice.
The only letdown I had in Paris was New Year's Eve. No big fireworks display, just firecrackers being tossed at passersby around the Eiffel Tower. I wasn't thrilled with being hit by a lit firecracker. However, that didn't keep me from going BACK to Paris. No place is absolutely perfect and I honestly cannot think of one place that I have been that isn't worth re-visiting.
This has turned into a most amusing "answer" to the question and i tried to stop myself from responding. I go into Paris several times a month...Metro, train, etc and sure haven't felt my nose offended by urine everywhere. What makes it hard for me to breath are the men and women with their gallons of chic cologne and after shave. My biggest "letdown" about Paris..still haven't had the ring skam...
The first time I visited Paris was as a college student in 1978. I spent 6 weeks studying French but even better, studying French Art. I put so many miles on my shoes that I left them in the trash can when my time there was over.
About the urine odor--it was the same in 1978, too, so that's nothing new. I especially thought the public urinals, er, walls, were pretty nasty, especially when you walked by and there were "clients". But I also have great memories of the many places I visited and the lovely offerings in the patisseries.
My husband and went to Paris 3 years ago to mark our 20th wedding anniversary--and we stayed at Grand Hotel Leveque on the Rue Cler. It didn't seem like a Disney theme park to me, though I did not like the out of control American woman arguing with the desk clerk (no wonder some of the French look down on us). Sure, the cafes were expensive, so we learned to eat a big lunch out wherever we were at that time, and that was a savings. For dinner, we had a pique-nique of lovely items we gathered at the Rue Cler markets and further out.
Rue Cler is close to the metro and we went all over the city from there. Our favorite place was St. Denis! It has the early history of France there with all those tombs and carvings. We ate a wonderful lunch at a pretty blue and yellow painted cafe a few blocks from the church that specialized in food from Bretagne, and probably the side effects of the cabbage rolls there were our worst memory! Ah, but it'a all part of the adventure.
I'm leaving in 13 days and it sounds like I won't be disappointed! Actually, I woke up today thinking about when I went to Venice for the first time and thought "it's not hype, it's really as magical as they say". Can't wait for that "I get what everyone's talking about" feeling in Paris!
Let the numbers speak for themselves. France is the most visited country in the world and Paris the most visited city. In addition to visiting Paris several times, have also wandered around a fair share of the country. In a couple of months off to an area we have not visited; the French Alps. No anxiety, no concern, know that BECAUSE it is France we will have a great time.
I love everything about Paris. Strolling on the Ille St. Louis, getting a salt caramel ice cream from berthillion, listening to the Rene Miller Jazz Bank on the bridge over. I can't wait to go back!! Renting a little apartment in the Marais and living among the French. The best!
Rick's video and descriptions of Rue Cler are spot on. We stayed there four years ago following one of his hotel suggestions and were happy we did. We'd been to Paris before, staying in hotels based on brochures and listings which unfortunately never resembled their glowing descriptions. One room in a garret with a ceiling so low my husband could not stand upright; another with mold around the tub and other bathroom fixtures and still another with a room so small one could barely turn around. So, Rue Cler and its hotels in Rick's books were a revelation to us. Don't remember eating in the restaurants there, but like another respondent here, did buy food at the market to eat for lunch.
My trip to Paris this past October was nearly perfect.
But, even in October the Eiffel Tower is very crowded and very hard to get to the top without all the pushing.I'm still glad I went up there. The view was amazing and I had postcard perfect weather the whole time. I agree with Julia Child that the French are very friendly!! No urine and dog poop when I was there!
I hope to go back very soon.
Last summer was my third in a row going to Paris. So, like a previous poster, I have to say the only letdown was going home. If I won the lottery, I'd be leaving tomorrow to find a nice apartement.
The biggest surprise was that most stereotypes about Paris were wrong: the Parisians and the French in general are NOT rude. In fact, I met many many wonderful people there (I do think the people who work at the airport were rude but most airline employees are lol). I do know some French but I tend to forget it or get too shy when I'm there. But I always speak a little French and they will immediately reply in English (while apologizing for their "bad" English, even though it's usually impeccable). By saying a nice "bonjour" when you enter a shop (even if it seems like nobody's listening) really sets the tone in my experience. Just by being polite and making an effort, I've had a few people tell me that I was "trés gentile". Anywho, I'm rambling now--I need to get to sleep LOL.
I tend to stay near Jardins Luxembourg/Latin Quarter/Montparnasse areas (I spend most of my time on the left bank and the Marais on the right) so I don't have experience in the more outer areas but I've heard that the Pigale/Montmartre areas should be avoided at night. Maybe that's not true, though?
EDIT: Oh, forgot to add...I also found it to be very very safe. I have wandered around a few times late at night (1-2am'ish), even by myself and have felt quite safe, even walking along the Seine from Montparnasse all the way to the Eiffel Tower.
I agree with the part about the Parisiana and the French being rude that it was NOT the case for me the numerous times I was in Paris over the years, even 20 years ago when my French was just limited to a few sentences and greetings. Even then I did not find them linguistically rude or arrogant. Now I have what I would say is a fair command of the language and it's easier to communicate, provided they speak slowly. I always found Parisians and the French in other parts of the country where I've mainly visited, Alsace-Lorraine, Nord Pas-de-Calais, Picardie, to be helpful and friendly...basically no problems. It also depends on your disposition and personality too.
WHAT? There's such think as salt caramel ice cream? I've died and gone to heaven. Is it commonly available? Whatever Berthillion is, I will find it! Counting the days!!
Wait, how do you say salt caramel ice cream in French?
salt caramel, -beurre sale?
Berthillions is quite good,, but Amorinos made ice cream cones look like roses( yes,, they were tasty too!)
Paris? "Let down?" Seriously?
I am scratching my head, and I cannot think of a single thing. Okay, the Metro isn't wonderful - but that's not a let down. I didn't expect it to be anythng but cheap transportation.