paris up close

From someone who grew up in a third world country, Paris is the quintessential embodiment of of haut monde travel. But the glitz, cliches and Edith Piaf music in our heads happen to be just superficial portrayal. I am sorry to burst your bubble but in my opinion, the postcard Paris as we know it will only go as far as how Hollywood wants us to see it.

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I arrived in Charles de Gaulle Airport with a troop of loud teenagers giggling and yakking non-stop from the aircraft to the immigration line. That officially made my first moments in Europe an agony stuck in a contained STD mosh pit.

In the middle of the 18th Arrondissement, a renaissance building stands fronting a small square—that was where I stayed for days. I threw my luggage in my pink shabby room with white washed fixtures and lined with toile de jouy wallpapers that will make Martha Stewart regurgitate potpourris. It was the moment I really felt and said “I am finally in Paris”

As much as I want to savor the moment and the magnificent view of Sacre Coeur from my window, the itching excitement of a first timer drew me out to the streets.

Then the horror kicked me back to reality.

The landmarks of the city are immaculately beautiful–Or are they? Is it because of the cultural conditioning that were told that the old french architecture, blonde haired people and the melodic French language is synonymous to beauty? But let us put aside the art nouveau, rococo buildings, grand museums and the biggest phallic symbol on earth. I will write about it later.

THE STREETS 

Plastic containers, hardened bubble gums, grimes, cigarette butts and spats of all sorts of bodily fluids strewn all over the pavements, alley corners, main road, parks and even in front of historic monuments. But it’s okay, the Beaux Arts details, randomly sprouting art deco sculptures and baroque cobble-stones will still make it look pretty and glorious on pictures. Why? Because it is Paris and your instagram and facebook posts will still and always garner jealous “likes” from your friends back home.

THE METRO STATIONS 

Le Métropolitain is the century old labyrinth and the second busiest in Europe. When I said labyrinth I wasn’t exaggerating, I got lost in one of its 303 stations and 62 intersection. I walked around for nearly an hour and ended up taking the taxi because I was too drunk and couldn’t find a toilet. Definitely not for people with no sense of direction, alcohol management issues and bad toilet training.

The sticky tiled floors, old train cars and confusing station names shook the crap out of me. Poissoniers, Blanche, Picpus, Riquet, Abbesses, Boulets, Crimée, Invalides—these are all Metro stations, not causes of deaths.

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THE PEOPLE

Ironic that those in the service industry are the ones with the stinky bitchy attitude (Not all, but mostly). Surprisingly on the other hand, the random Parisians I met on the streets are those who were more helpful and gracious. So it became my entertainment to intentionally irritate the crap out of the staff who were rolling their eyes whenever I take my orders.

Parisians are generally… well (how should I say this)… very passionate and expressive. Seriously, I saw a couple groping each other lasciviously that I honestly thought the dude almost unstrapped her bra. People drink Jack Daniels in buses and trains, they sing and dance wherever and whenever they want, they fight and punch each other on the sidewalks and they kiss and make love in broad daylight in public places making me want to dry hump the next person at my arm reach.

Just like any other cities around the globe, the flaws and imperfections are hidden outside the magazine frames and travel show reels. So why am I disappointed? Because it is fuckin’ Paris for Christian Dior’s sake!

But no matter how dirty it is or how rude the people are or how imperfect the city may be, people will still dream about it and will still do all it takes to be there. Because Paris will always be how Hollywood wants us to see it, and we will still love it.

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Ron