“Paris is always a good idea.”
Oh Paris, you big, beautiful, dog poo-filled, angry, luxurious beast, you sure know how to steal a girl’s heart! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I never really wanted to move here. I didn’t have that ‘Paris thing’ that so many women around the world seem to have. If Pinterest was available years ago before I moved here, I would not have had a board dedicated to a future trip to Paris or memes with the above quote by the amazing Audrey Hepburn. It was pretty, it was French but it wasn’t me and it definitely didn’t seem like a good idea.
Then I moved here and I’ll admit it, there is this certain tower here that still makes me smile even after 10 years. Especially when it twinkles at night and I drive past on my scooter. Amazing!
However, this wouldn’t be a blog about ACTUAL life in Paris if it didn’t include a controversial conversation around the Eiffel Tower. You see, there is this idea out there (and thank you, Sex and the City for perpetuating this) that Parisians merely roll their eyes at the ‘intolerable’ structure. That they barely cope with that monstrosity imposing itself on the city and despite it being the most photographed landmark in the world, they would tear it down in a heartbeat. To this, I say, yeah right…and derive much pleasure from. It is understood that to be French somehow also means to control your emotions, never discuss things in the positive and to basically act blasé about life. It’s apparently tough to be French and even harder to be Parisian, and boy oh boy do they show that in their daily life! In 2013 even the commerce minister urged Parisians to be nicer to tourists, much to the smug chagrin of many expats I know. Obviously there are lovely exceptions to this rule, but it is indeed ‘a thing’ I’ve been learning to navigate for the last decade and nothing, absolutely NOTHING, demonstrates the negative, blasé attitude to me better than the Eiffel Tower. In fact, this attitude has even trickled down into the behaviours of a particular group of people that drive me nuts in Paris: the Parisian-wannabe tour guides. To be clear, I am not a tourist-hating resident of Paris but I do have a particular disdain for pretentious and contrived tour guides. Notably ones not Paris (or even France)-born.
Case and point: the other day I was out for a run with a wonderful friend at the Champ-de-Mars, the big park that encircles the Eiffel Tower, and I came face to face with a perfect example of such a tour guide. As we passed an English-speaking tour guide discussing the tower he said, to a group who looked drunk on happiness staring up in awe, “It really is quite ugly and to be Parisian means you must hate it!” Everyone laughed, albeit awkwardly, but I cringed. What? Who was he to tell tourists that have probably dreamed of this moment for years and saved their money that they can either remain ‘not Parisian’ and continue taking selfies or become Parisian and hate it. These people paid to be told to wipe that “omigosh I can’t believe I’m here by the EIFFEL TOWER” smile off their faces otherwise someone might think they are a tourist! Apparently the world now has two types of travellers: Type 1) tourists and Type 2) people who are not from a place, do not speak the language, do not know the culture and yet by adopting a crappy attitude are clearly not tourists and somehow miraculously better.
To that type of tour guide, perpetuating the snobbery and negativity, I say “stop!”. The tower is beautiful and it in and of itself is NOT the problem. What is represents (love, Paris, magic, romance, etc) isn’t even the problem. The problem is HOW it is represented. To be fair, it is just a structure made of nuts, bolts, electricity and iron like many other structures in the world. Yet this particular structure has been relentlessly promoted via media, television, film, music videos and has been used to sell paraphernalia around the world for years. Yet, just as foreigners that have yet to see it in person continue to fall in love with it, Parisians are simultaneously taught to hate, loathe and resent it. How are these two ideas ever supposed to live in harmony as tourists flock to it and Parisians allegedly run from it? I think we need a start-over.
To tourists, types one and two, I say travel is built from a dream so continue to hold onto the Eiffel Tower. It’s worth it. To the locals, try to embrace it a bit more. That tower is a cash-cow for France and who are we to crush someone’s dreams? Without dreams, what do we have? Also, as a point of practicality, it is quite difficult to avoid the Eiffel Tower if you live in the île-de-France region so save your stress and at the very least, adopt a neutral outlook. To the tour guides who fake snobbery to be cool, get over it and yourself. I bet you have selfies stashed on your phone of the tower somewhere before you decided to emulate Parisian blasé.
Have I met Parisians who proclaim to hate the Tower? Oh heck to the yes!! (But did I believe them?? Not for a second!)
I leave you with a collection of photos from my life here in Paris and that big, old structure:
Photos: Jennifer Hart, Fotolia