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Paris lost?

I just returned from a week in Paris. I have been more times than I can remember. Even now that I travel alone, I try to get back twice a year. I picked March because it coincided with my birthday. Paris has always been the place I go to be "that other person", to fill myself up with the magic that is Paris.

This time was different. Even in March, the crowds were unbelievable. I met a friend at Versailles (her request). We had our tickets. The security lines snaked through the courtyard. We stood for an in the cold for an hour, only to be shoved and crowded through the palace. It got scary at one point as the crowd started to push through the narrower doorways.

I thought I might have better luck with the d'Orsay, but it was also packed. The courtyard filled with those waiting to clear security.

The Beaux Arts bridge had "love locks" attached to any available spot. (harder to find since the old railings are gone). Those that could not find a spot for a lock, had simply scribbled their initials on the plexiglass.

I don't know what was wrong. My hotel was great. I wandered for hours. Had lunch at some of my usual haunts, and some new ones. Paris just didn't fill me with it's beauty and wonder like it usually does....maybe it's me.

Anyone else?

Posted by
7050 posts

I think your feelings are legitimate and you don't need to validate them based on someone else. Some people will love Paris no matter what. It may never get old to them in spite of the crowds. Maybe the crowds are reflective of pent up demand from some folks who now feel comfortable traveling there (there was a substantive drop off from terrorist fears years ago). Or maybe it's just the spring break crowds..who knows. It sounds like either you've changed or Paris has changed in your mind...whatever the case, if you've "lost that loving feeling" about a place, it's time to go somewhere else and not feel an ounce of guilt over it. I've never been able to replicate the magical feeling of a first trip anywhere, but fortunately there are countless of new trips awaiting. There are many places in the world much, much less crowded than Paris (and maybe even more satisfying).

Posted by
27414 posts

I suspect the city was slammed because Eastern was April 1. And have you typically traveled at this time of year, or is this earlier than usual? I'm very affected by the amount of daylight and wouldn't feel particularly energetic if I went to Europe at the end of March.

Posted by
2017 posts

I think the experiences in the city could have colored your view.
I've been to Paris several times and always loved taking the Metro and going up the Eiffel Tower. The last time, I was harassed incessently by a vendor nearby who wouldn't take no for an answer and got in my personal space. I finally had to shove him out of the way and walk quickly on. That experienced soured my whole visit to the Eiffel Tower and perhaps my day.

As for Versailles, the crowds are enormous whatever season and is why I've never gone or missed not having seen it. It seems to me that these attractions need to rethink their ticketing systems-especially now that more parts of the world are traveling.

Posted by
1229 posts

Maybe it was just the timing. Maybe you went during Spring break, or near it. I think its definitely possible that Paris is getting more crowded as more and more people travel too. I also wonder if it has to do with how many times you've been there? I remember my first time to Amsterdam was pure magic, and every time I go back, I am more aware of the other tourists, like the familiarity has allowed me to feel more like a local, and so the tourists stand out in sharper relief (because now I am not a tourist, ha ha ;p)

But I also think everywhere is getting more crowded, unfortunately. I spent the first 30+ years of my life in Bay Area, and when I go back to visit family, I am always excited to get there and always disappointed by how over-run and changed it is. Le sigh.

Posted by
985 posts

The time of year might have been responsible for such crowds. I've only traveled to Paris twice, in the fall both times. Last mid-late October Versailles was a mess of people but we didn't have complaints about any of the museums in the city. I hate the love locks and also despise the graffiti that defaces so many beautiful buildings.

Maybe it is time to give Paris a little break.

Posted by
2713 posts

Paris for us has also been one of those magical places that is often overrun and, at times, trying (our other is Venice). Our last trip a few years ago coincided with the train strike and the World Cup. The beautiful Parc du Champ de Mars at the Eiffel Tower was completely cordoned off and only open to ticket holders to observe games on a huge screen. Strikers of all sorts randomly held marches blocking streets. Drunken fans urinating in public. Three gigantic drunken Germans broke in front of us after we stood in line forever to summit the Tower (a Parisian whispered to me in French, ignore them, they are drunk and still angry about the war). And, it rained incessantly-I don’t mean a drizzle here and there; deluge after deluge. So, little magic this time. Will we return? Of course we will, it’s Paris.

Posted by
1311 posts

I've been to Paris about 10 times, the last being a month ago (February-March) for 3 weeks.
My friend and I stayed in the 11th arr, so not a locale full of tourists.
It was also VERY winter, with some snow and some days that were at best in the high 20 degrees F.
Paris was not very crowded, even on the free Sunday which I inadvertently picked for my d'Orsay visit.
I think the fact that you were there at Easter made it more crowded. And I'm sorry you didn't find the usual expected magic.
It might be just you (and that's okay if it is) but it might also be the time of your holiday.
Enjoy your next trip, wherever it may be!

Posted by
6670 posts

We still love Paris but haven't been in over four years, so maybe we'd have a reaction like yours if we went now. The point another poster made about reduced terrorism fear and pent-up demand makes sense. Also we have to recognize that revisiting any place will lack the "magic" of the first time.

Some people call Paris the Budapest of the west. Maybe you should try that amazing city next time.

Posted by
2916 posts

Some people call Paris the Budapest of the west

Or is Budapest the Paris of the East?

We've been to Paris a number of times, going back to the mid-1980's. The last time we were there, about 4-5 years ago, it had been almost 15 years since the prior visit, and I felt a lot like the OP. Paris is beautiful, but I've become generally tired of large cities, so we pretty much stick to rural France, staying in places that even the French hardly visit.

Posted by
124 posts

Is Paris 'lost' to you? I hope not. I hope I never feel that the unique Parisian atmosphere is lost to me.
But I will not always do the same things nor always go to all the same places every time I visit. I will return to favorites, but not every visit. I will try different hotels on different streets, different restaurants, shops, and maybe a new museum or sight or two. And I won't go to Paris every time I go to Europe.
But I will return. Paris has my heart in a way no other city does. I don't quite understand it, but she won't let go.

Posted by
14580 posts

Hi,

I am sure this is temporary and that the next time will be "Paris regained" for you.

Posted by
3941 posts

I wonder if it did have something to do with Easter (the crowds)? We went last April (mid-Apr) for our 4th time. We went to the d'Orsay on the evening it was open (actually our first time) and I didn't think it was crowded at all. The Louvre had the usual crowds in the usual galleries, but we visited other sections we didn't see before (Decorative Arts was gorgeous) and there was hardly a soul around. We popped in 'smaller' churches we haven't on other visits and of course they were practically empty.

I find when we return to a place, we do like to visit some of the same spots, but finding new, less touristed spots is key. We will be in London for the 7th time in July, and we have some shops we like to revisit, and I'm hoping maybe we can just hang around relaxing in one of the parks, or find a quirky museum to visit. One day we are going to daytrip out of the city.

I do understand crowds getting you down. A lot of travelers these days have no respect for the cities they visit - hence those damn 'love locks' everywhere. And a lot of younger ones seem to be more interested in taking selfies instead of enjoying the beauty around them (yes, we watched a woman spend at least 5 min trying to get he perfect selfie with the Eiffel in the background - it makes you want to shake them and say - look at it with your own eyes!!!).

How to fix it? Now that I wish I had an answer for.

Just wanted to add - was trying to remember which place we revisited that lost it's allure and it came to me - Cinque Terre. We visited in 08 and again in 12 - practically the same days of the year (3rd week of Sept) and wow - the second time was so disheartening because of the crowds - if it had been like that our 1st visit, we'd never have gone back. I'd think about going back maybe in April (a friend went in April and it looked warm and blissfully not crowded), but it def fell to the bottom of my return to list.

Posted by
2233 posts

We went last August. As we've been several times before, we started with places we hadn't been before. They were lesser-known spots on the Paris Museum Pass and blissfully uncrowded. Then we decided to make our usual visit to L'Orangerie and the Louvre - whoosh, there were the crowds. I couldn't see over the crowds to see The Mona Lisa, but I could almost touch The Lady and the Unicorn at the Cluny. I feel very lucky that we've been to the Top 10 and will now settle for reliving things through museum guidebooks my husband always wants to buy.

A little off-topic, but I'm currently reading a murder mystery series by Cara Black. Each book is centered
In a different Paris locale (not sure if technically they are arrondisments). The first one is in the Marais, second one in Belleville. I love them because it reminds me of streets and locales that I've seen - rekindles the love for Paris.

Posted by
9436 posts

I spent 15 days in Paris last Feb and walked right into the Orsay, Louvre, Versailles, etc. Saw virtually no tourists anywhere. Unfortunately, I think you just had bad luck. I grew up in Paris, lived there as an adult, go back as often as I can, stay 2 wks to 2 mos and it’s still magical for me, everytime. I hope you have better luck next time... : )

Posted by
10349 posts

Kateja— I Know what you mean, having seen the burst of tourism that begins with spring breaks and doesn’t let up until late fall. It can be a zoo. But I experienced none of it this time, nor most visits, because I don’t go to the big sites—with the exception of an art exhibit at the Louvre or Orsay. Instead I’m in the neighborhoods or going to the places in one of the numerous « secret Paris » books on the market. Since you’ve been here more times than you can remember, it’s time to come over to the other side, away from the madness. There are delightful corners hidden away everywhere. I’m just off the plane and went to the Bibliotheque National, exhibits on Black Dolls, Gypsy/Nomad populations in Europe, the painter Kupka, the Neanderthals, and had a long list of other exhibits I couldn’t get to. Time for you to spend more time with the locals and forget
Versailles. Paris will regain its magic. 75020 commented to me that the city is doing a great job keeping the touristy area fixed up in Disney style. I agree. Time to avoid those areas.

Posted by
6670 posts

Well, of course Susan has her own reserved chair in the Luxembourg Gardens.... ;-)

We liked the first few Cara Black novels but after awhile Aimee Leduc, the intrepid spiked-hair Vespa-driving high-tech detective, started to get a little old. (Actually, the problem may be that she doesn't age in the books.) But each is set in a different part of Paris and they're very atmospheric. Cara Black came here on a book tour several years ago and she was quite friendly and charming, very dedicated to her craft.

Maybe next time we'll try Paris in winter. We've only been in early spring and fall.

Posted by
9436 posts

You’re right Dick, it’s got my name on it... ; )

Posted by
14580 posts

I'll be arriving in Paris the beginning of May to start the trip on the continent and again on the first three days in June towards the end of the trip. The crowds will be around then to be sure.

Posted by
564 posts

Thank you all for letting me vent. Such nice positive and varied responses. I feel better. I'm trying very hard not to be one of those grumpy senior citizens!
I always say, I don't go to therapy, I go to Paris. 40+ trips and counting. I usually go in May and/or September. Though I was there in December 2015, and even though it was 2 weeks after the terror attack, it was inspiring. Maybe it was the spirit of the Parisians not to give in. They were out in force, in the cafes, in the parks, families, couple, gaggles of teenagers.
I would never have gone to Versailles,except that my friend had never been. I say for glitz, go to the Opera Garnier. (which I love). We did go to some nice smaller places. The Museum Camondo for one. It was practically empty. And the exhibit at the Petit Palais was lovely and not crowded.

I applaud all that were able to deal with strikes, crowds, rude drunks, and the universally hated selfies. (how often I wanted to bat away a selfie stick!) and see the vrai Paris that is still there.

Posted by
7050 posts

40+ trips and counting.

That is commitment. If that's the case, I'm surprised this is your first instance of a less-than-perfect trip or why that would concern you...there is bound to be at least some/moderate variation in that many trips. I have to ask...how do you manage to see other places (In Europe and elsewhere) besides Paris? Hopefully, there is time for them too.

Posted by
564 posts

That's the rub...why was I so bothered? This was an easy trip.
Maybe it's turning 70.
My husband and I traveled around Europe quite a bit in our years together. As I am widowed now, and "older", I find myself wanting to return to what is known and comfortable.

Posted by
7050 posts

I think because Paris is the common denominator, you can see any changes in yourself more clearly over time. As to "what those changes are", maybe some more introspection at a Paris cafe is warranted. I journal a lot when I travel and it's been really helpful to pass the time (on solo travels), record what happened, and hopefully be in touch with my emotions. At age 45, I have a different sentiment...I like to seek out the new and much less comfortable, and I tend to hit "diminishing returns" when I revisit a place several times. It's nice to be in a predictable setting that feels like a well-worn slipper, but I don't get as much a thrill of it as seeing a place for the first time. I'm sure this may change over time as I age.

Posted by
3521 posts

I have a couple spots like this too. Places I loved visiting and would plan entire vacations around just to be there which now, eh, I could never go to again and still be happy.

I understand the feeling of returning to a favored locale and immediately being able to buy a transit pass and not have to ask for directions because you know exactly where everything you need is located. This doesn't mean you don't explore more and find things that are exciting and you add them to the places you need to se on your next visit, it just means that you are comfortable and know what to expect overall.

I think part of this losing a favored spot is you simply change your preferences as you age and some things are just not as fun anymore. Another part is the crowds that used to not be so crowdy, which are brought in by the (relatively) dirt cheep cost of transportation. Along with the low cost and ease of reaching all points on the planet has allowed certain people, lets just say pushy, loud, and annoying people, to make jerks of themselves in places that used to at least seem to be fairly civilized. A trip to Europe used to be a once in a lifetime event for most people and now seem to be a recurring weekend getaway for many.

Lets just hope we can continue to find places that can take the place those we lose. The world is still a huge place to explore.

Posted by
2064 posts

I wonder if the Easter holiday was a factor. I was in Rome right before Easter and I couldn’t believe the crowds. A 45 minute wait for our favorite gelato place (it used to be a 5 minute wait at most). Mobs of American and German teenagers moving in packs. But atleast they were happy and having a blast.

Posted by
14580 posts

There was one trip I had in Paris that sticks out in the memory since many things went wrong, eg, had constant trouble reading the Metro map, couldn't figure it out, the hotel reservation fell through, ie, arrived at the hotel at Gare du Nord , was told no reservation for me was there, (now what?). Those two examples stick out in the memory besides getting lost on foot more than once or twice. . This was the trip in August '89 and I was 39.

The noise of the city, the crowds affected me to the point where I wanted to seek out a more tranquil place, so I went to Fontainebleau for a day trip and then to Amiens on another day trip. There was also coincidentally one of those Paris heat waves going on, which seemed more acute than what I experienced on past four trips, all of which had been in July and August in the 1970s and '80s I couldn't figure out in 1989 why the noise, the crowds bothered me to this extent if I had been immune to their effects on past trips.

What about the heat factor? You could not escape that dehydrating heat either in Fontainebleau but the crowds were less to contend with at the chateau and in the town.

Not until three years later would I have the opportunity to return to Europe again, and to be sure Paris again was on the itinerary. I did not know the song then but it goes...."C'est ça Paris."

Posted by
73 posts

I went to Paris last Easter and didn’t find it that crowded. That said, I hate Versailles because of the crowds. I have been there twice and never again.

Posted by
2499 posts

I was in Paris for 4 days last week and it was not that crowded except at Giverny. The heat wave almost did in my friend, temps of 83 and 85 and lots of sunshine are wonderful but we were expecting spring weather. We still had a great time.
I still felt the magic of Paris and am dreaming of when I will go again!!

Posted by
703 posts

My husband and I went in January for my birthday and it was still magical for us. It was only my 4th time though and the crowds were not bad at all. I hope the next time you return, the magic returns for you.

Posted by
5697 posts

Leaving tomorrow morning after a quiet five nights -- went to ONE museum (Picasso -- no line!), rode the 69 bus, took the funicular up to Sacre Coeur, walked along the Seine, wandered around near our apartment in the Marais, enjoyed beautiful spring weather and fully-green trees. Maybe your reaction was indeed a combination of Easter crowds and March weather.

"The last time I saw Paris
Her heart was young and gay.
No matter how they change her
I'll remember her that way."

Posted by
4012 posts

Kateja, your feelings about Paris seem to mirror mine about London. I try to return 1X per year but have traveled 2X recently. I adore London! Some trips are as magical as can be; some can be blah but I find the blah trips are sometimes because other things outside of travel are happening to me that perhaps are unpleasant like maybe I caught a bad cold or I have a work-related project in the back of my mind that is bothersome. But such blah-feelings when I travel are rare.