I have a big problem of not listening to people when I already have my heart set on doing something. People warned me that Paris would be completely dead in August. I always thought that was sort of an exaggeration, like saying “All the French are snooty”.

No, really, everything is closed in August. I’m not sure how you can run a country when everyone departs the capital in August – a capital that is not just a political one but a financial and cultural one as well – AND takes a national holiday on top of that (Aug. 15, Fete de l’Assomption).

But first – arriving at Charles de Gaulle airport and getting to Paris from there is a completely separate hassle. The airport, interestingly, looks like something out of “Blade Runner” – like a futuristic layout that is so dirtied and aged that it just winds up being decrepit. I only speak “enough French to get by” but I managed to get my bags and find the shuttle to the RER train that takes you into Paris. Helpful hint, if you get into Paris this way you have to buy a separate train ticket (that costs more than just a plain old subway ticket). Thanks for being a bitch about it, subway window lady. Don’t you have a strike to go on?

I took the Metro into Paris and had hoped to transfer onto another RER line to reach the stop closest to my hotel (stop Musee d’Orsay). Unfortunately, the station where I wanted to make the transfer – Saint-Michel – was closed to that particular line. Which means when I exited the station, I had to walk several blocks while dragging my suitcases in order to reach my hotel. And of course it was raining. I was so completely stressed out by the time I reached my hotel that I had to take a very long nap after I checked in.

My hotel, the Hotel d’Orsay, is marked on the map. Normally the St Germain des Pres, the main boulevard just to the south of it, is bustling. When I was there, I was often the only person on the street for a few blocks – everything was closed.

I have only one picture from Paris, mainly because I was so incredibly annoyed by the entire city shutting down that I decided to not take pics out of spite. And also because the last time I was there (6 years ago, in June, which was really fun), I took a million pictures. But I digress.

Since I’d already done the touristy stuff and so many things were closed, Paris was boring and a rittle ronery. I spent most of my time walking around and looking at neighborhoods. I considered going to see “Marie Antoinette” one day, but the movies were dubbed, not in subtitles. The best day was when I met up with the president of my school’s alumni group in Montmartre for a tour and lunch (including escargots, which are like oysters but a little tougher).

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My one Paris pic – the view from the Sacre Coeur looking out over Paris. Because of building height restrictions, there are few skyscrapers.

Thursday morning I woke up and caught a train from the Gare de Lyon to St-Raphael on the coast, and from there I took a boat to my next destination.

I was terribly unimpressed with the French women I saw. You always hear about how put-together they are, and feminine, and stylish, and “don’t get fat“. These are mainly lies. French women have just as big of guts as I’ve ever seen, and plenty more wrinkles because they smoke like chimneys and tan themselves to the point of looking like a rich cognac-colored handbag that I’d like to own. Also, many women I saw – FRENCH women – had hair colors that simply have no origins in nature. Skunk-stripe highlights and lots of brunettes-turned-redheads. For all the fuss about French women not wearing makeup, they are certainly willing to experiment on other parts of their heads.

One more gripe about the French. They’re not snobby, just terribly unhelpful. I wonder if French people come to the U.S. and ask why everyone is so accommodating. I actually saw one woman at the Air France counter in Nice flat-out refuse to talk to a girl who was obviously running late for a flight. This was pretty typical.

24 thoughts on “PARIS IS NOT THAT FUN

  1. Sammygeerock

    I was in Milan for the Assumption, though it wasn’t completely shut down, for all intents and purposes it was. Although we did get to see a kick ass fireworks show for the celebration. But, I feel your Euro-Travel pain.

  2. Anonymous

    i think the french are the only people that pretend they dont know your language when they reall do

  3. Sweatpants

    That sucks. I went to Paris for only a couple days, about four years ago. At one point, this really old guy helped me and my friend find our hostel. We kept forgetting where it was because it was on this tiny little hidden street. He was so nice and helpful that I decided I would remember that moment in the face of the stereotypical comments about French people being arrogant and rude.

    Although I do remember the tellers at the train station (as opposed to Metro stations) being sort of bitchy. Maybe that sort of job just really sucks in France so they don’t really try to help anyone.

    Lastly, I loved the Metro in Paris. It went everywhere and it seemed like I never had to wait more than a minute for a train to show up.

  4. Velvet

    I’m glad you are back. And I couldn’t agree with you more about Paris. I just don’t get it. Now, Rome, there’s a great city. But Paris? Lord. You are lucky it was mostly shut down, seriously. You didn’t miss much.

    I loved, “Don’t you have a strike to go on?” Awesome.

  5. Chris

    let’s see, you were told repeatedly that Paris shuts down in August, then you rant and b!tch and moan about it being shut down once you get there. How refreshingly insipid. How American that you expect another country to conform to your needs and expectations. News flash, the French go on vacation in August!

    Most French women will always be a peg or ten above the American trash, who all seem to resemble each other in some awful, trixie twilight zone way. Rarely do you come across an American woman with even a paltry sense of individuality or sensibility. Let me guess, you were wearing your Paris Hilton sunglasses and expecting everyone to speak English to you.

    Saying you know “bonjour” and “voulez-vous coucher avec moi” is not knowing French.

    I’m embarrassed for you.


  6. Lurker

    It’s not just because it’s August. Paris used to be way better than it is now. For one, it used to be cheap. Now the euro has made everything expensive and the people nastier.

    It used to be my favorite place in the world. After my last visit, I’ve sworn to never return.

  7. brown cow

    Yes, the French are nicer when they are humbled by a weak currency of their own. I love Paris, but I can’t stand the French (except for the rare exceptions who are truly gracious and nice). Just be glad you were on vacation. If you were actually trying to get something normal done (like buying wall paint), it would be even more frustrating.

  8. Q

    I’ve always thought that the French have personalities similar to cats. Both seem to say, “Yes, yes, we are fabulous. You may now have the honor of admiring us.” I happen to have a combined sense of humor and appreciation about this sort of attitude, and so am a cat-loving francophile. It’s not something everyone finds attractive, but we certainly can’t expect whole species and nations to go changing their personalities just to suit our American “customer-is-king” tastes. That said, I have found that French people in the countryside, and particularly Provence, are much warmer and more welcoming than Parisians.

    And really, anyone who has been forewarned has no right to complain about French tourist areas being dead in August. Ever since elementary school French classes I was taught about how everyone in France takes off lots of time, closes up shop, and goes on vacation in August. That’s just the way it happens. Not being an economist, I won’t comment on how or whether it works, but that’s the way it is.

  9. Jamie

    Everyone here takes their holiday in August as well. Hell, Congress takes the entire month of August off.

    Welcome to town.

  10. Q

    I mean, really, who would come to the US for the Fourth of July and then complain about all the noisy explosions?

  11. Discombulated Diva

    Wow… your experience was totally different than mines… i went to Paris this past June and it was great… people were sorta helpful as they watched me struggle to get a full sentence out in french…. but for the most part, the people weren’t rude…

  12. Kathryn

    Sally! Did you learn nothing from Ava’s episode of My Super Sweet Sixteen?

    “Mommy, we have an EMERGENCY. Dior is closed!”

    That’s what she gets for shopping for her gown in Paris in August…

  13. DCRookie

    All the beautiful French people (i.e. middle and upper class) were on vacation. What you saw were the lower class people who, like lower class Americans, tend to be uglier, fatter, and ruder.

    I’ve been to Paris twice and had none of the negative experiences of which you write. Are you the kind of person who runs into assholes wherever you go?

  14. Anonymous

    Kathryn, you just ruined what would have been an awesome Super Sweet Sixteen reference, by actually remembering the spoiled chick’s name. That shows a little too much investment in the show.

  15. Anonymous

    The French are insufferable, and brilliantly rude, because, first, they’ve lost every major war to every possible neighbor, and second, everybody in Europe — the Swiss, Norweigens, Swedes, Danish, Dutch, Italians, Belgians, Germans, Poles, Austrians, etc. — speaks ENGLISH, and not their ostentatious “romantic tongue”. Think about it, how would Americans feel if practically every neighboring country spoke, say, Spanish, America were flooded by mostly Spanish-speaking immigrants, and Americans were forced to learn it? Waaaaaaait a second…

  16. Irina

    I have to agree about the French ladies, they are highly overrated. Something happened in the last century, and now they look like “skinny fat” trash.
    It’s the Italian women that know what’s up.

  17. aNON

    Americans are not too popular oversease. Washington’s foreign policy and cowboy shoot ’em up shenanigans have directly affected the way others perceive the American public (as opposed to just the government). The sad part is they’re mostly justified, as the average American leaves a lot to be desired. (just go to Ohio or some lame place like that and you’ll see what I mean).

    Though I genuinely believe you, Sally, are an exception to “The Average American” I don’t think europeans are interested in giving the benefit of the doubt.

    The trick of course is to wear an ‘I LOVE CANADA’ t-shirt.

    Also, George Bush doesn’t like Black people.

  18. yoli

    well…at least you got to see the neighborhoods. as for the myth of the french mystique, i agree – wrinkles and chub thrive in paris as in chicago or moscow. it is the northern italian women, especially thos who livein the villages in the alps i envy. the men of northern italy are beautiful creations as well.

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