Normally, when I travel for work, I end up going to somewhere in North America. Occasionally, some people in my company had the opportunity to travel to Europe or Asia and I really wanted a chance to do that as well. So last month, when a project came in that required on-site support in Paris, I was pretty excited when they asked me to go support it.
France is one of those countries that I’ve always wanted to go to but since it’s France and is so easily accessible, I figured that I didn’t really need to make any plans to actually go and that I’d just end up there sometime somehow.
I was right and that’s how I ended up on a plane to the City of Love on Valentine’s Day.
While I was in Paris, I had a lot of random flashbacks to my time in London. And not because they’re similar; in fact I think the two cities are fairly different. I think I kept making random comparisons in my head because just as London was the capital of the British Empire, Paris was the capital of the French Empire.
And as we know, the French Empire extended quite far as well, taking over significant swathes of both Africa and Asia. It’s interesting because just as you’d see a lot of Indian and Chinese people in London, you see a ton of African people in Paris. It makes a lot of sense if you think about it, but it’s one of those things that is kinda interesting when you’re just walking around the streets taking in the sights.
But for me, France is a unique country because its one of the progenitors of Canada. Canada is essentially like a weird love child between Britain and France but then they got divorced and Britain got full custody of the child. Considering how I’m from the English speaking part of Canada, I definitely see more influence from Britain than France, but it’s cool to be able to say that I’ve been to the capitals of both countries that formed mine.
Since I was there for work I didn’t have a whole lot of time to do some in-depth sightseeing but I really appreciated just walking around the city. The city was incredibly walkable with many famous sights within walking distance of each other.
In general, I thought that Paris was a pretty nice city. Despite it being winter and all the greenery was missing, I thought the city was quite beautiful. There’s a lot of nice streets with a lot of cool buildings on them. I think it’s really nice how each building’s architecture is so intricate. Each building’s facade is covered with these nice terraces and fancy decorations.
And that’s just the normal buildings. Once you go to the notable buildings, it gets even more spectacular. When people think of France or Paris, one of the buildings that comes to mind immediately is the Eiffel Tower. Since Paris is in that part of Europe where they set height restrictions on new buildings, the Eiffel Tower still reigns supreme as the city’s iconic landmark.
I have to say though that my first impression of the Eiffel Tower was somewhat disappointing. It’s not as tall as I thought it would be and in fact it’s a bit.. chunkier than expected, so it didn’t really look the same way as I pictured it in my mind.
That said, the Eiffel Tower is a quite nice at night when it’s lit up. I’ll admit that it isn’t as impressive or grand when you compare it to a lot of the modern towers, but it has a certain level of magnificence to it. Especially when it sparkles at night. That’s a really nice touch and I felt like that made it special.
Speaking of special, the most unique thing I’ve seen in Paris was actually Sainte-Chapelle, a small chapel near the Notre Dame (RIP). This was completely off my radar but my cousin recommended me to go check it out so I did. I had to wait about thirty minutes to get in and when I finally did.. I was underwhelmed.
The interior of the chapel was kinda small and dark and didn’t really strike me as being that impressive. I was planning on just leaving when I saw these stairs going to the second floor. I figured, what the hell, might as well check it out, and went up.
And wow, the second floor was entirely the reason why people wanted to go to that place. It was amazing.
I think that stained glass windows are really nice. It’s a really beautiful artistic medium and it requires so much skill to put together. I’ve seen a lot of stained glass in a lot of churches in my time, but Sainte-Chapelle was something completely out of this world.
You’re talking about an entire room covered in giant floor to ceiling stained glass windows. It was honestly breathtaking and no pictures could do it justice. I went on a day that was somewhat cloudy and so as time passed the lighting in the room changed and every time that happened it made the room feel different. That was so cool.
Outside of the sights, I also have to admit that the food and drink culture in Paris was quite nice too. In general, I thought that the restaurant food quality was quite good; every meal I had was pretty solid. That said, I spent like a week in France and I’m still not really sure what French food really is.
I really enjoyed having a basket of baguette delivered to my table at every meal though.
What stood out was the wine. French wine is known worldwide and man, the French really do love their wine. It’s available everywhere and it’s so cheap and good. I went to the supermarket and bought a bottle of red wine for 3.50 EUR, which was cheaper than a pack of Magic cards, and it was still a really good wine.
My cousin said that the French love their wine so much that the quality of the wines you get in France are always gonna be good. From what I tried in my time there I have to admit that the wine was actually quite nice.
The only complaints I have about the dining experience in Paris was that first of all, it was more expensive than I thought it would be. Berlin was the only other major capital in the Eurozone that I’ve been to so that was my frame of reference but Paris is definitely more expensive than that. Secondly, I really did not like how all of the restaurant staff just take their time with everything.
As someone from North America, I’m so used to having waiters constantly come by like every ten minutes asking if everything is ok. It feels like it’s a bit much sometimes but I much rather have that than what I experienced in Paris. It honestly felt like they just seat you and just abandon you. It takes like twenty minutes to flag down a waiter and then another twenty minutes for them to do anything about your request.
I honestly felt like I was physically aging while eating at restaurants there. Food and drink quality was nice but the service was just abysmally slow. But I guess that’s just how it is there.
Overall, I had a really good time in Paris. It seems like an incredibly lovely city with a lot to see, do, and eat. Since I was there for work I didn’t have a chance to check out any museums or do anything super time consuming, but the city’s made a good first impression on me and I would love to go back and check it out some more.
That said, I’m in no rush. I feel like Paris is one of those cities that never really changes and so it doesn’t really matter if I go back next year or next decade, everything will still be there.