4 Things that Surprised Me About Paris

Note: As we’ve just recently booked our next trip to Paris, we thought it’d be fun to share this post I wrote last April following our previous visit. Enjoy!

It’s now been a full week since I’ve returned from my first ever trip to Paris, France. To say that our week long stay went by quickly would be an understatement, leaving my wife and I already mentally planning for our return. But, before I get too far removed from this inaugural visit, I wanted to discuss a few things that surprised me about Paris — mostly for the best:

The trains
When boarding my train from Val d’Europe (near Disneyland Paris) to the heart of Paris for the first time, I was expecting a car similar to that of a subway. You know, a few seats, a few handles to grab onto if need be, and that’s about it. Instead, I was shocked to find that each train had a ton of seating split between two levels — three if you count the in-between platform where you enter.

We ended up taking two 40 or so minute trips along that route, so we made a point to alternate between the sublevel and upper level with each trip. I have to say, when riding in the bottom section, it was certainly strange to see a lower portion of the platform when pulling into stations. As for the top, it offered its own benefits in terms of view. In both cases, I truly appreciated the monitors that some cars sported, allowing me to easily keep track of how many stops were left until my destination.

Once in the Paris area and as we switched lines, the train cars did take on the more traditional Metro feel I was expecting. Still, I will now always associate the city with those double decker trains I first experienced.

The credit card acceptance
Before heading off on my trip, I wrote an article about how I’ve managed to save money on overseas journeys. Among my tips, I mentioned how I always like to arrive at my destination with some local cash in hand for things like trains or cabs that might not take cards. Imagine my surprise to find that the ticketing kiosks at Charles de Gaulle and other train stations not only accepted credit cards but that some took them exclusively.

This trend continued throughout the rest of our visit, making it easy to get whatever we needed. In fact, we had to remind ourselves to buy some things in cash just so we could use up the Euros we had brought with us. Overall, this was a completely new experience for us compared to destinations like Japan and may have me rethink my cash purchasing policy in the future (although I doubt I’ve ever go completely empty-handed).

The architecture and beauty
This sounds dumb to say, but I honestly was not expecting so much of Paris to look exactly like what I imagined it would based on photos and movies. That distinct architecture — complete with the window shutters and adorable balconies — was not only all over the city center but was also evident closer to Disneyland. Of course the perfect weather we were treated to on this trip only elevated the charm, making me realize that Paris really is as gorgeous a city as promised.

The people
There’s no way for an American to talk about France and not bring up the stereotype we’ve heard time and time again. As the story goes, the French are not fans of us “dumb Americans” and will make little effort to hide their disgust. However, like so many other stereotypes that exist in our world, I found this one to be completely unfounded. In fact, we had nothing but positive interactions all around, with some people really going out of their way to help us out. Perhaps my initiative to learn the tiniest bit of French before my visit (I can read and understand a certain amount in context, but my speaking and listening abilities are a disaster) helped, but I’m thinking that the people of Paris have just been unfairly painted with this “rude” brush.

Clearly, I was quite taken with Paris on my visit. While we mostly kept to the touristy sights on this trip — e.g. the Louvre, Champs-Elysees, the Eiffel Tower, and (of course) Disneyland Paris — I very much look forward to returning and diving deeper into this beautiful city. Paris, je t’aime.

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