Bonjour from Paris, everybody!
On Monday, Karen and I flew in to Charles de Gaulle Airport outside of Paris and stumbled our way around a new airport until we finally figured out how to get our bags, find the free shuttle bus to the hotel, etc. Fortunately we are staying very close to the airport, but unfortunately we hopped on the wrong bus. However, it stopped at another hotel just up the road from ours so no worries!
Then we checked into the hotel (Park Inn Roissy-en-France) and proceeded to not successfully get in our room! Turns out there was some kind of problem with the handle. Two maintenance guys and an hour or more later, we finally had a functional door handle. Then we figured out the plans for the evening, and headed in to Paris. Our hotel is close to the airport, so it takes about half an hour to an hour to get from hotel to whatever the destination is in Paris. In short, we got off the metro, after much confusion about how it works, near Notre Dame, ate supper (I had Nutella Crepes!), and walked around Ile de la Cite and the Louvre area. We stayed out a long time because it stays light out until around 10 p.m., and finally got back to the hotel around 11:30.
So here are my initial observations about Paris. Let me start by saying that these are very likely skewed because of, and also in comparison to, my favorite European city, Berlin.
Paris is unbelievably:
- Larger. Both in size and in population, Paris outduels Berlin. Paris, for example has a metro population of around 10.2 million while Berlin has 4.4 million. With a larger population base, one can imagine how much worse the typical European stereotypes of smell, crowding, etc. are in Paris compared to Berlin. Trust me, they are justified.
- More Confusing. Paris, and perhaps the French in general, could be really nice and learn from the Germans when it comes to efficiency and adequate signage. Seriously, the French metro is much more difficult to navigate than Berlin’s, and if you don’t believe me just compare their maps. (Berlin vs. Paris) We’re getting the hang of it, but sheesh.
- More Diverse. Because of France’s, ahem, colonial history and Germany’s shadowed 20th century past, Paris is much more diverse. There are a lot of Africa migrants and first generation French-Africans here, and from what I can tell, a lot of them are completely integrated into the Parisian lifestyle. Compare this with Germany, and Berlin in particular, where only one ethnic group tends to be noticed as “different” – the Turks. It seems to me that France has done a lot more to help with integration.
- More Expensive! Berlin always seems expensive to me, but then again, I’m from the good ole state of Tennessee, which almost always ranks at the bottom in the U.S. for cost of living. This is good, while living in Tennessee, but “movin’ on up” to a city like Berlin (whose motto is “Poor, but Sexy”) or Paris (easily a world-class city) is hard on the pocket book. I’m sure if you are from London, New York, or D.C., Paris seems right on par, but as for me? Give me a break!