Paris, I hate you.

Day 20 of Nanowrimo. I skipped Day 19, work kept me from writing…don’t you just hate it when real life intrudes on your fantasy life of being a famous writer?

Warning – This post is not serious…

It requires you put your tongue in your cheek, and laugh along. Of course, I love Paris, but at times I wonder if she loves me back…

1. You are too far from me. If only you were a minute away or even an hour. Paris, you are a whole day away from me. Twenty-four hours of flying to get to you. Have I made a mistake that I have never tried to live in Paris? After reading so many books about people who have moved to Paris, bought an apartment, the trials and tribulations… I know I am not made of strong enough stuff to do it. I tried writing a pithy line here about moving to England to be closer, along the lines of…but then I had to live in England. {That was mean; England, don’t be mad, I love you, I truly do. One day I will spend a month in Wiltshire, a month in Devon, just finishing my book The Circle of Ash and eating scones with the cream on first…}

The question remains; Why didn’t I move to Paris? I believe it had something to do with money and work visas, boring stuff like that. I am so spoiled here in Paradise at the other end of the world that the effort of renting an apartment and schlepping out to Ikea to buy a flat-pack kitchen fills me with dread.

2. You are a world city. How lovely for me and all your other admirers if you were a simple tourist playground. You could be the Venice of France without all the water. Few residents, just those there to sell masks, coffees and Bellini’s to the tourists. If only so many actual people didn’t live and work in Paris. Why is it that you don’t only exist for Instagram opportunities? All those disruptive strikes; can’t the people campaigning for better conditions for refugees see that I am trying to take a vacation here? Those people over in rue Cremieux live in such a cute street, surely they should have expected admirers to come calling. (All jokes aside, if you visit this or any adorable place in Paris or the world, be respectful of the locals. Imagine how awful it would be to open your front door to this.

this would put me off my morning croissant!

3. Time doesn’t stand still in Paris. Standing on the Ile St Louis at dusk, the sun has dropped over the horizon, l’heure bleue is in full swing, bells are chiming, and there is a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, lights sparkling on the hour for the first time tonight…we can be forgiven for thinking that time doesn’t exist here in the City of Light. Surely this city, not Roma, is la Ville éternelle? Why does the year have to be 2019 in such a beautiful city? The world (those who live outside Paris) can keep on spinning but surely all of us with our Golden Age thinking could make time stand still in Paris so nothing changes. Jazz will still echo from the dance-halls, artists will forever make their studios in the squats of Montmartre, or Montparnasse for those with some old family money. Steam trains will create ambience at Gare St Lazare, but not emphysema. That Paris isn’t the Paris of our fantasies comes back to bite us in the eponymous Paris Syndrome, a term first used by Japanese writers (Pari shōkōgun) to describe the feeling of experiencing extreme shock at discovering that the real Paris is different from first-time visitors’ expectations.

“When the reality of the modern city of Paris sets in, with its notoriously rude service and confusing public transport, some tourists simply cannot cope with their expectations being dashed.”

SBS News

4. There are so many dogs. Okay yes, poop is a problem, but it’s not the problem when it comes to dogs in Paris. The problem is that most Parisians are not inclined to let strangers pat their dogs. (Dear US readers, in Australia, we say ‘pat’ where you would say ‘pet’. In Australia, pet is a noun, not a verb. Isn’t the English language fun?) Luckily there are many, many kitties that are all very interested in a pat. Thank you, kitties of Paris.

5. Smoking is cool. Seriously, Paris? You are smart, you are sexy, you are so effortlessly stylish it makes the rest of the world Want to be You, but you still think smoking is a good idea. Just stop it.

6. You speak too many languages, (and it makes me feel inadequate.) The lovely young girl who sold us churros at Disneyland could converse fluently in 6 languages. The gent who was stacking the bananas at the supermarket who struck up a conversation with us when he heard our ‘unusual’ accent (what? Australians don’t have an accent….do they? 😉 well he could speak 11 languages, but 5 of them, he explained were local dialects from his area in Senegal. These gorgeous people were patient and caring and suffered my terrible French patiently. Sadly for me many waiters, salespeople, ticket-booth attendants simply don’t have time for my shit.

I should clarify, my accent is pretty good; I have a good ‘ear’ so repetition is easy for me, but my conjugations are appalling. After 20 years of French lessons on and off, my French is lacklustre at best. I try, I really do, but it’s hard when you won’t play along. Dear, dear Monsieur Waiter, Mademoiselle Vendeuse, I really want to practice my French. Won’t you be my unpaid and long-suffering French language partner? It won’t take more than a few extra minutes and I am sure the queue behind me will understand because then they can enjoy the fun of my impromptu lesson pronunciation. Perhaps not.

7. Do you really need a car, Paris. See points 2 and 3. For the good of all, Parisians, I implore you, sell your car. You don’t really need it, do you? Surely someone could have thought of a better way to get people around. You have that lovely train system and just a couple of (dozen) strikes a year shouldn’t put you off…

I concede it could be far worse. I have read some alarming articles describing the horrific plans architects and city planners have mooted over the years. They wanted to bulldoze much of the Marais and build elevated freeways. Unbelievable. Sacrilegious. Thank the architecture goods that they didn’t. The current government is now doing all they can to free Paris from cats. Imagine the car-free future; if there are no cars there will be no traffic and no roadworks. Paris might be able to breathe again… and perhaps the Pompiers would have been able to get to Notre Dame faster.

8. Crime. Paris, I hate feeling like I am going to get mugged all the time. I’d like to just ostentatiously display my relative wealth and enjoy all the city has to offer without fearing that my bag will be stolen. If you could just sort that out, that’d be great.

9. We have to have a conversation about the Gare du Nord. Surely you knew this was coming. That place is a shit show. I had the misfortune of arriving back in Paris from Amsterdam on a Wednesday afternoon. Major Mistake and his boss General Fuck Up. To get to my Metro, I discovered I had to negotiate my way, with a heavy suitcase, across A river of humanity with level 5 rapids, 8 people deep. A tip for the uninitiated; avoid GdN at all costs unless you’re there on a Sunday. Any other time is not for the faint of heart. I decided to sit on my suitcase and bide my time. After about 15 minutes I realised that was where they would find my body. I would never leave Gare du Nord.

I did eventually make it to my train. I was lucky I wasn’t trying to catch a connection. If you must go to GdN on a weekday, give yourself loads of time, find a perch, keep an eye (and a hand) on your bags, enjoy the show. You see the most incredible things in the GdN. I saw the most beautiful people, in multicoloured head-scarves, with flowing robes, a man with a bright red mohawk at least a foot high. I thought ‘where the fuck are you going dressed like that? It’s Wednesday! Surely those are weekend attire?’ It was fascinating. Then when everyone had gone wherever they needed to go, I took my chance to made my way to my train.

Maybe I was taking it all a little too personally. I was still wearing my heavy coat from Amsterdam and by the time I’d lugged my bag up and down a few times I was sweaty and crabby. I’ll admit that I have grown soft in my old age; the huge train stations used to fill me with excitement, I would relish it. Is there anything more exciting than a European trains station? You can catch a train to anywhere. You can catch a train to Siberia if you wanted to. To Istanbul. To China!

I was feeling a little down by the time I arrived at Iena Metro station and wrestled my bag up to the street. After the Arctic conditions in Amersterdam, Paris was positively tropical. I almost left coat on a bench but I was worried I may need it again before the end of my trip. For the first time I wondered what the hell I was doing in Paris on my own, while my family was at home missing me. What’s the point of travel, I thought, if you can’t share it with your loved ones? I tied my coat to my suitcase and turned towards the river and all was forgiven. The spectacular city stretched out before me, the Eiffel Tower just there… I’m sorry for what I said, Paris… I do love you, even if you don’t love me back.

10. Paris, you are simply too beautiful. It’s not fair. Did you know there are other cities who would like me to visit, to spend my tourist dollars? You keep tempting me back to you, over and over when I could be visiting new places. Perhaps I could care a little more about all of the above, but let’s face it, I don’t. I am more than happy to overlook all your shortcomings, and I don’t care that you don’t reciprocate. I will keep coming back. See you soon.

Jumping for Joy in Paris

If I’ve missed something you ‘hate’ about Paris, let me know.


  1. Fiona

    How much of this is ‘tounge in cheek’ and how much is real? I am travelling alone to Paris for the first time later this year. I’m expecting it to be busy and beautiful but is it really dangerous?

    1. Christine Betts

      Hi Fiona. Look to be honest I’m always very aware and even vigilant, read up as much as you can about the current situation there, avoid the manifestations (strikes and protests) and take all the usual travel precautions. A couple of times I’ve felt threatened and I managed to make a new friend to walk with or ducked into a shop. Forewarned is forarmed and that’s important. I always have a bag that I wear across my body so I have my hands free. I wish you a wonderful trip. If you are on Facebook there is a great group called Join Us in France and there are also some great podcasts. The Earful Tower is excellent. Bon voyage 💕

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