What I Dislike About Paris

by Weekend In Paris

Really? How could I spend so much time passionately writing about the virtues of Paris and then “diss” it the next minute?  Well, in the interest of “keeping it real” I must admit there are things that annoy me about the City of Light.

Things that bug me slightly:

The small hotel rooms – Size isn’t everything, but is it too much to ask to have a reasonably priced room to place your small luggage on the floor without blocking the path to the bathroom? (I’m not including my beloved Left Bank, Au Manoir or Belloy in this category since they are all small but very efficient.)

Lack of bars in hotels – We Americans are used to eating out on vacation and going out for a drink afterwards, but sometimes we are just too darn tired to walk anymore at the end of a long touristy day and want a good stiff drink with a late night snack at the hotel bar.  Just one problem, the small boutique hotels usually don’t have one!

Charles de Gaulle – Otherwise known as “Charles has a gall.”  They just spent a boat-load of money to build a space-age looking International Terminal which makes you feel like you have landed on Mars instead of in France.  It is incredibly inefficient and lacks proper facilities to seat everyone waiting for their flights where you only have one small kiosk for food and drink at the gate.  You have a long trek back to the main part of the terminal to get some proper nourishment and to shop duty free.  Whoever designed the terminal needs to find another day job!

Things that bug the ever-living you know what out of me:

The VAT tax “refund program” – a plan where if you spend 151+ Euros in one shop they can fill out a form which you will have stamped upon your departure at the airport and then you put it in the specifically marked mailbox designed to deliver the papers to the proper authorities.  The lines can be long to go through the process and I have nearly missed flights because of it. Many high end stores have the option to give you use a service that you can process the claims ahead of time. Use that option if it’s given to you!

Public toilets– You actually have to pay to use them.  Seriously, it’s about the most uncivilized thing a municipality can do!  The taxes are huge in Paris and they can’t provide places for people who are out and about spending money to pee without exact change?  This helps explain why on our last trip we saw an elderly woman drop her trousers in the street, sidle up to a parked car and let it loose in broad daylight!  It was like the Twilight Zone I tell you.  I hate having to plan my day around a potty schedule.  Seriously, I advise the gal pals to pee every time we stop in a café whether they feel like or not.

Nothing like a good rant to get it out of my system.  Now I’m off to plan my next trip!

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Gray August 3, 2011 - 12:30 pm

OMG, I cannot believe you saw a woman do that! Oh my. I couldn’t agree more about the hotel bar thing. I would love to see more of those.

Weekend In Paris August 6, 2011 - 6:27 am

Hi Gray!

I was in utter disbelief, but a twitter buddy told me that it’s more common in the older generation and she’s seen it happen a ton. I’m just glad it was a one-off experience for me.

Since you chimed in to agree with hotel bar-missing thing, I can say that it makes solo travel harder because there is no place to sit alone outside your room and be “social” or relax and unwind unless you go out to a cafe or bar and many times it’s just too late to go out solo.

Thank so much for reading and taking the time to comment. Where’s your next solo trip?


Suzy August 3, 2011 - 11:00 am

That is really interesting about the VAT refund. I was going to send in for a purchase in Ireland, but it seems like a lot of work, and in your experience, unsuccessful. I have only been to Charles de Gaulle once when I was 8. I remember they lost a whole flight of bags so we had to wait hours and hours. Finally they came out with everyone’s bag, but they proceeded to hold up each piece of luggage until it was claimed. Certainly inefficient!

Megan Abigail Chandler July 29, 2011 - 8:53 am

But at the end of the day you’re in Paris … agree with Charles has a gall though

Paris Karin (an alien parisienne) July 28, 2011 - 8:29 am

Don’t forget about the supposedly “public” toilets that are in the Carrousel du Louvre and cost a euro to get into now! And the ones in the Luxembourg Gardens — I think they cost, too. Other than that, the space-shippy looking ones are always free, if they are operational.

Weekend In Paris July 28, 2011 - 8:38 am

Oh, back so soon?! Hooray! And with helpful information for us potty-seekers!
Thanks again!

Paris Karin (an alien parisienne) July 28, 2011 - 8:24 am

Thanks for linking this in on Google+! (That’s how I arrived here today. :) )

You hit on several things that are not very likable about Paris, for sure, and yes, I have to chime in on the whole needing-a-potty issue as well. Since living here, I have not only developed a bladder of steel, but I also monitor very closely how much I drink when I know I have to be out. In a very unhealthy way, I might add! I think I have risked serious dehydration more than once over this issue.

I finally did use one of the spaceship-looking free toilets on the Canal St Martin. It was working, but it did take me a while to figure out you wait for the door to close on its own. It was clean enough… and it did not cost me anything. There was this one time, too (I’d been boozing a little, okay a lot, one evening when I first arrived here). We were with some friends in the top part of the Bois de Vincennes near Port Dorée. I dropped trou behind a tree because I had to go so bad. It was not a pretty moment, and was never repeated! (Better forgotten… so what do I do but post it here, haha.)

I read this article once that referred to CDG Airport as “dystopic.” I have another favorite word for it which can be found here at Urban Dictionary. Heh. (I hope that link I coded in HTML works. If not, maybe you can fix it for me?)

Would you believe as a resident of Paris I have never stayed in a hotel here? But now that you mention it, the hotels where I have visited friends who are stopping into town etc., don’t have any bars and so on in them — you are right! That, and a lot of the hotels where people I know have stayed are in these spots that are not really even near a supermarket/grocery store nor a little neighborhood shop either! I think it is one good reason either to rent an apartment, or if one can’t afford that, to stay in a hotel in one of the arrondissements like the 19th (where I am) or the 20th. Seems like all the smaller (non-chain) hotels in my neighborhood are on the street where there is a Monoprix, a little marché, and several kebab-frites places that are open until the wee hours, and they are just a few steps away from the hotels. At least someone could get a fast food sandwich and something to drink at the end of the evening, if they wanted to in a neighborhood like mine.

For me, thinking as a traveler in Paris (as when family and friends visit), the thing that I really dislike is how tiring it is. There is just a lot, lot, lot, lot of walking going on: walking to Métros, walking in museums, walking up and down stairs, walking until your feet want to fall off. Now, I am not a lazy girl, nor am I out of shape or anything, but sightseeing in this city is just plain tiring. It’s something to bear in mind when a person travels to Paris: the amount of walking is insane, and if you are not used to doing it, then it takes a toll quickly. I’m pretty used to it now, but when I have guided people around, I have underestimated their abilities to walk for long periods (because I have adjusted to the amount of walking), and have had people get whiny on me just because they are not used to it. It’s hard to know people’s limits, and also hard to explain that walking in Paris is just a part of things, and has to be done if you want to go from one place to another! It’s one of those things to think about when traveling here from somewhere like the States, where everyone is used to hopping in their cars to go from Point A to Point B.

Thanks for posting about this, Priscilla!

Weekend In Paris July 28, 2011 - 8:36 am

Wow Karin!

I love your response and yes, the Urban Dictionary is working. Love the candid story about lack of public potty’s and for confirming that public toilets are confusing and few and far between!

The hotel and apartment advice is good and I agree that visitors need to scope out the nearest Monoprix which can be helpful for a sandwich or if you forgot socks (happened to me on more than one occasion!) You brought up a really good point about all the walking involved. Luckily for our group, everyone is in relatively good shape and prefer to walk. We don’t get to walk as much here so it’s a welcome treat. I should mention though, that at night we tend to jump in taxis as our shoes are less practical and we are usually quite tired by then.

All your comments were helpful! Please, please, please chime in again!


Paris Karin (an alien parisienne) July 28, 2011 - 10:26 am

Thanks, Priscilla! Keep plugging these on Google+ and I shall return, for sure! :) There are just so many blogs, and so little time, yanno? Thankfully, I am on a bit of a vacation right now and have been able to indulge in geekery such as inordinate amounts of time reading and writing, tweeting and posting, online. I’ll be back… glad you found the info helpful. :)

trishgillis July 28, 2011 - 7:40 am

I started reading this – and before I scrolled down – I was thinking, “she HAS to mention the public rest rooms!” My issue was not the paying – it was the lack of accommodations. I learned FAST that I needed to stop EVERY time I saw one, not every time I needed one. I could never find one when I needed one – so I had to eliminate the “need” part by stopping on rare occasions I saw one!

Weekend In Paris July 28, 2011 - 7:52 am

Too funny Trish! You probably didn’t intend the pun, “so I had to eliminate the ‘need’ part…” but it made your comment really hilarious! We also face a challenge with typically 3 gals to a room to find “alone time” in our hotel potty, making us more vulnerable to have to use public restrooms when we are out touring around. Many times we stopped for a coffee just so we could re-group and use the facilities. There definitely needs to be more public restrooms and as we gals all know, there can never be enough stalls for us – we’re destined to wait in line forever!

Weekend In Paris July 28, 2011 - 7:39 am

Thanks for this information. Since the store reimburses the customer, why do we have to get all the paperwork approved, stamped and mailed at the airport? I am not sure why all this needs to be done or how the French keep track? What happens if you don’t get it stamped and approved, but simply get on the plane to come back to the US without completing? I’ve done that before too without any sort of follow up? It’s a strange system. In the UK they handle it completely in the store with no need to do anything at the airport.

I appreciate you taking the time to read and to comment! Please keep me informed!

forest July 28, 2011 - 7:19 am

Yes, we all have our little irks about the city that we love….
Now, I’ve only used public toilets…well, maybe only once that I can think of. But, I thought they were free?? Here’s one of Melissa’s posts that mentions them being free: http://pretemoiparis.com/2011/03/28/the-necessary/
but, with my lack of experience with them, i could be wrong….

Weekend In Paris July 28, 2011 - 7:43 am

Hi Forest!

I will definitely check out the link to Melissa’s site on public toilets. I know on our last trip this past January we had to pay to use some toilets so I will confirm with the gals where exactly we had to do so. My recollection was it was near Notre Dame, but my memory may be failing me. We definitely had to pay in Belgium I know that.

Thanks as always for reading and taking the time to comment. I love hearing from you!

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