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I hate Paris

“I hate Paris.”

Those were words that Brandon had spoken just a few hours after stepping off the train from Germany.  I admit that walking around the Gare de l’Est station left me feeling a little disappointed in my perfect vision of Paris but I told Brandon to just wait until we get to the city centre tomorrow to make his judgement.  Just wait until you try the food and see Notre Dame and have your first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower!

By the third day I too was hating Paris.

Well, hate is a pretty strong word to describe a city that so many others love.  Now that I’m home and have had time to ponder my travel experience I think it’s more accurate to downgrade my emotions to “dislike”.  I dislike Paris.  Sure, there were some things I enjoyed about the City of Lights such as the unique bouquinistes (booksellers along the Seine River) but there were more things I didn’t enjoy.  Here are 5 things I discovered about Paris that I hate dislike.

1.  No Toilets

There are very few public toilets in Paris.  The ones we managed to find only had a few stalls in them, many reeking from overuse.  The public toilet I used around the Notre Dame was tiny, with the men’s urinal was so close to the outside door that you can see their backsides as they’re using the toilet.  That was just a little uncomfortable for me.  Brandon found a decent toilet at Luxembourg Gardens that wasn’t smelly but they charged €.50 to use it.  All the others ones we found were free.

Don’t get me wrong, some of the public toilets known as sanisettes are pretty nice.  The downside is that there’s only one toilet that shuts when one person leaves and spends the next 1-2 minutes self-sanitizing before letting the next person in.  I stood in line for about 10 minutes for one before giving up and going back to our hotel room.

I hate Paris
A sanisette in Paris, image courtesy of Luis Tamayo via Flickr Creative Commons

From a parent’s point of view I’m curious to know how Parisian parents handle toilet trained preschoolers.   Standing in line for roughly 20 minutes to use a public restroom is hard enough for some adults, for a 3 year old it would be next to impossible!  There were also no baby changing stations, we just changed Stink in her umbrella stroller whenever we needed to.  When in Rome…

2. Dust and Dirt Everywhere

Parisian parks have little paving or gravel and lots of dirt.  Gusts of wind can create tiny tornadoes that blast you with dust.  Playgrounds are the same and at the end of the day we would have to dump out the accumulation of dirt from Stink’s shoes and hose her off in the shower.  Luckily there are plenty of laundromats in Paris (unlike Reykjavik) so doing laundry wasn’t a problem at all.  But if you’re traveling to Paris with kids be sure to bring plenty of clothes, close-toed shoes and find a laundromat close to your hotel.  Trust me, you’ll be doing lots of laundry!

I Hate Paris
Dusty area of Champ de Mars

3. The Food

I had been looking forward to eating Parisian food for months before our trip.  Croissants, macarons, escargot, my list of foods to try in Paris was endless and my expectations were high.  I wasn’t disappointed in anything I tried, the problem is that we visited Germany first where I was surprised to find that Germans bake just as many excellent pastries as the French.  By the time we got to Paris every dessert was compared to Germany’s version and some didn’t quite measure up.  There were plenty of French dishes we tried, though, that were totally unique and unlike any German food we had eaten.

I hate Paris
This is a Parisian hot dog resting in a crispy baguette with melted cheese on top. It was delicious!!

4. Not Family Friendly

I had heard rumors that Paris was not a great family-friendly destination but I was determined to seek out hotels, restaurants and attractions that could accommodate parents with young children.  That wasn’t the biggest problem, the city itself was.  Upon arriving at the train station and walking to the metro we were surprised to find that none of the metro stations have elevators for those with strollers or wheelchairs.  Every time we needed to hop on the subway we’d have to pack up our stroller and carry Stink down the stairs.

I hate Paris

Parks and gardens have multiple tiers to them with an overabundance of stairs but it’s difficult to find ramps.  Is that a woman with a stroller over there?  Let’s follow her, maybe she knows where there’s a ramp!  When Stink was awake we’d simply fold up the stroller and go down the stairs but with a sleeping tot it’s a little trickier.  We spent a lot of wasted time looking for ramps to avoid the stairs.

5. Too crowded

Paris was extremely crowded when we visited.  To be fair it was a holiday weekend with excellent weather and a tennis match at the Eiffel Tower so the crowds were probably much higher than normal.  Still, Paris is a popular tourist destination and that many people in one small city made me feel a little too claustrophobic.  The line to get into Notre Dame was about 1/4 mile long, zig-zagging along the plaza in front of the cathedral.  The crowds under the Eiffel Tower were so thick with people that we didn’t even want to attempt to cross through them to reach the beautiful carousel on the other side.  There were simply too many people in Paris for my comfort level.

I hate Paris
SO MANY PEOPLE. Even at the building across the Seine you can see crowds of tourists

In hindsight I wish I had visited Paris 5 years ago before Stink was born.  I think I would have enjoyed spending a few hours sitting outside a Parisian cafe sipping cappuccino.  But this wasn’t a honeymooner’s vacation, this was a family vacation and it just wasn’t something that worked for us.  Will we visit Paris again?  Probably not, though I would love to visit the smaller villages in France.  From now on I think I will just fall in love with Ernest Hemingway’s or Julia Child’s Paris and enjoy the City of Lights between the pages of a book.

Have you ever traveled somewhere that didn’t live up to your expectations?

24 Comments

  1. Great post! I visited Paris in my younger days, and it wasn’t my favorite city as well. I think I had built it up in my mind so much that it was impossible for it to meet my expectations. I would like to visit it again, now that I am older, and see my impression changes. You made some great points here!

  2. i found the same thing about the toilets and the difficulty with strollers. we waited to try and go through the wheelchair entrance to the metro and it wouldn’t work. we couldn’t find anyone to help so we literally carried it over the turnstiles. what a pain! but i did love the city itself and do plan on returning with my children!

    • I didn’t know there was a wheelchair entrance! It’s good they have something to accommodate disabled individuals at least. And I agree about the turnstiles, really narrow and difficult to get through when carrying a toddler and a stroller!

  3. Ha, interesting post. Paris is always making it to list for the most over-rated cities. I liked it overall, but can for sure relate to the bathroom issues as someone who has a bladder the size of a pea lol.

  4. what an interesting and honest post! I didn’t know about this in Paris! All I heard how fasctinating it was, but I haven’t really heard the downsides until I read this. Now, I’ll keep that in mind. Especially about the toliets since I have small bladder, yikes!

  5. I went to Paris last November and didn’t find it that terrible. Then again, I wasn’t there with kids. Plus, I had the city pass which got me through a lot of the lines quicker.

    • I think I would have had a much different experience if we didn’t go with our daughter, or if she had been a little older. Everyone I know that went to Paris and loved it went there without kids 🙂

  6. Well, you’re definitely the first person I have heard say they hate Paris. :O I have never been but I can definitely understand your points. 🙂

  7. Honest post. Guess to each his own. That’s why we travel to places to cross it off our lists. Awesome!

  8. So interesting how your Parisian foods didn’t quite measure up to Germany 😛 What a neat surprise!

  9. Not everyone is going to love the same places I guess! I did love Paris both times I was there but I’m a sucker for the art and wandering the city. Not so easy when you have a stroller I suppose. For the bathroom issues, I would always go in museums or restaurants. That’s actually my MO in any city. Museum bathrooms are usually the best!

    • I used the restrooms at L’Orangerie and they were really nice! I was a little too intimidated to use the ones in the crowded little cafes though. My French isn’t good enough to ask where the restroom is 🙂

  10. I agree with you. I saw rats everywhere at night and I hated the food. Unless you’re living a life of luxury, Paris is a crappy place.

  11. My personal opinion after living and traveling in Europe for 3 years. Big European cities are always better in the off-season. They’re largely all too crowded in the warm weather. I’ll take the cold and the short lines. The same thing happened to us in Venice. I loved it – in February, but then took my husband in June and it was awful. Don’t give up on Paris…

    • I agree. I think I would have enjoyed Paris more if we had gone just a few months earlier. And the day we visited the Eiffel Tower was the first day of the French Open. I didn’t plan that one too well 🙂

  12. I really appreciate the honesty of this post, but it makes me sad!! We love Paris, both with and without kids, but that’s maybe because we fell in love with the city when visiting pre-kids. We were there with an 18mo and 3yo and they loved the people watching, croissants and running in the parks. It certainly is dusty, there is a lack of toilets and it’s not easy to wheel a stroller around, but we managed with a double-umbrella stroller. One person at the top and one at the bottom just carrying the stroller up and down the metro stairs. Many of these things would likely be better at a less-busy time of year. The end of September in Paris is lovely!! My heart is pleading…don’t give up on it!!

    • I think I’ll give it another shot when Stink is a little older, especially because I really want to still visit the Orsay Museum and Versailles and Opera House. I do think a lot of our bad experience linked to the crowds: the long lines at the bathrooms, the crowds around the Eiffel Tower, etc. When we live in Germany we’ll be over there from August-June so we’ll have plenty of opportunities to take a weekend trip back to Paris

  13. Love this post. Was starting to feel guilty that I was not totally loving Paris and thought it was just me. Everyone tells you how good it is but I just could not see it. It was nice but there are nicer.

    • I felt really guilty writing this post because I know so many people who LOVED Paris. I’d be willing to visit again but my husband disagrees. Maybe one day in the off-season we’ll go back and see if it’s any different

    • i fee the same! just got back from Paris… what a big disappointment.. over rated… I have really nothing good to talk about …. food was bad expensive… boring boring cold rainy no bathroom .. if theres one i had to pay or its smelly…..

  14. Paris can be too touristy. Visiting Versailles was hell as a single woman, so you may want to reconsider that. Tour groups literally push everyone through and the displays are historically-inaccurate.

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