Long before I established “Francophiles Anonymous” I had the pleasure of travelling to Paris with friends a few times. Naturally, I enjoyed these trips very much, but at the same time, I ran into some unexpected challenges that, in turn, led me to some insights that I would like to share with you.
Rule 1: Don’t run
I don’t know about you, but the moment I arrive in Paris I become some sort of a Superman. From an ordinary person in regular shape, who passes most of his time sitting down (whether in restaurants or in front of the computer), the city of lights gives me supernatural powers, and from the moment I set foot on Parisian soil I can walk 20 kilometers (about 12.5 miles) a day without even feeling it (I’ve got a feeling that had governments known about the “Paris effect”, as I call it, they would put the city of lights in the dangerous drugs lists and make the travel to Paris illegal).
The problem is that apparently, not everyone who reaches the French capital are granted these powers. For example, I remember a trip to Paris with a good friend of mine, who used to go to the gym 3 times a week and run regularly, and after 4 days of walking in Paris simply told me he couldn’t do it any longer, and had to go back to the hotel before losing sensation in his feet (while I could have gone another 15 kilometers without even sweating).
Rule 2: Don’t overload information
As you may know, every corner in Paris, every portrait in the museums, hide behind them a spicy story or two. Truth be told, this is one of the best parts of travelling to Paris with me, because I know these stories and love to share them with the people around me, while a mere trip in the city of lights (which is also a wonderful activity in itself) is something you can do by yourselves, without present company. And indeed, in the beginning of the trip everything goes perfectly great, and my friends listen with eyes open wide to my stories about food, violence and sex that can be found in almost every corner of Paris (at least in the places where I hang out). But at some point they reach their saturation point, and all the barons and countesses start fusing together in their minds, and instead of thinking about Louis the… (enter a number between 1 and 18 here), the only thought my companions are left with is “Louis, Louis, my brain feels so gooey”.
Rule 3: Shopping is a legitimate activity
Rule 3: Shopping is a legitimate activity
Paris is filled with many dozens of museums, palaces and churches (and we haven’t even gotten to its beautiful streets and squares). Even if you spend while months travelling in Paris and exploring it, you won’t be able to reach every drop of beauty this city offers. And then, after a museum and 2-3 churches, the breaking point arrives, and all of a sudden comes the question: “where can I buy a nice pair of pants / chocolate for work / perfume for a good price?”. And I, all ecstatic about this beautiful garden we saw or a church organ we happened to have heard by chance, ask, with utmost serenity and calm composure: “What, really? Shopping??? NOW!?!?!?!”.
What did I learn from this? I learned that the answer to this question is, of course, “yes, shopping. Right here, right now”. The boutiques and shops are an integral part of the French culture (especially the patisseries, the chocolateries, and the rest of the shops in which you can taste or purchase the delicacies of the French cuisine). Therefore, it is highly recommended to combine them in every trip to Paris, in order to avoid getting “art poisoning” from all this beauty we’re exposed to. And no, a few hours’ visit to our favorite stores is not a waste of time, but rather a crucial and inseparable part of your “love-making” with France.
Rule 4: Keep an open mind for new things
Ever since I remember, every time I would see any kind of modern art, I could never understand why everyone around me nodded and were mesmerized by this particular piece of art. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I admit – I belong to the kind of people who really, really don’t like contemporary art. That is why I avoided going to places that exhibit such art on my trips to Paris. In July 2014, while I was guiding a tour along with the artist Nouli Omer, I was forced to visit (or should I say, I got dragged on the floor, kicking, screaming and crying) one of the building I most despise in Paris – Pompidou Center. To my great surprise, the experience wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The art inside was not as terrible as I feared it would be (actually, some of it was even quite good), the view from the top floor of the building was utterly amazing, and the first floors of the building made me feel as if I was in some sort of a huge video arcade, which made me feel somewhat nostalgic. So yes, I still despise this building, and I would love nothing more than to see it vanish from the Parisian view (or get turned into a museum of video games and such). On the other hand, I had a wonderful time during my visit, and I thank Nouli very much for taking me there.
What did I learn from this? I learned that as the cliché goes, saying “there is no such thing as ‘no such thing'”, it is highly recommended to leave your comfort zone, keep an open mind and try new things from time to time, even if they don’t exactly go together with your fields of interest. And remember, many times you can fall in love with things you previously didn’t like, only thanks to someone else’s enthusiasm of them.
Rule 5: Don’t lose your cool
You thought you knew your friends well – after all, you grew up with them, went to school and/or university with them, work with them. However, you’ll be surprised how many things you don’t really know about your friends, close as they may be. There are new things you discover only when travelling together, not all of them are positive. And so, all of a sudden, your happy and optimistic friend becomes a misanthrope who complains all the time and about everything. From here, the road is short to a huge explosion and the (temporary or total) end of your relationship.
These were the five main points of my credo. If you connect to what i wrote you are invited to enter the following link and invite a boutique trip to the city of lights (if i’m there, of course).