Paris is like a whore. From a distance she seems ravishing, you can't wait until you have her in your arms. And five minutes later you feel empty, disgusted with yourself. You feel tricked.
Wow, okay--small apologies for the dark quote up there, but it applies perfectly to what I'm going through right now.
I watched the animated film Anastasia when I was two. Paris Holds the Key to Your Heart was a song that, pardon the pun, I embroidered onto my heart. It made me dream of walks on the boulevard. Paris was beyond a dream. It was scarves, Vespas, pain au chocolat, baguettes and croissants. It was coffee at bitty cafes and I cannot tell you how many times I ached thinking about the Louvre, or the Eiffel. I vowed to teach myself French and filled a sketchbook page with To-Do items. (Truthfully, the phrase "Parlez-vous anglais" saved my life a million times over.")
Five nights ago, I hopped a bus from Nottingham, England, set for Paris, France. My stomach squirmed with excitement. My brain wouldn't function correctly, viewing everything like a hallucination.
Last night I slammed into my university dorm, exhausted and thanking the powers that be that I had finally (finally) escaped the City of Light. I highly doubt I will ever visit again; that's where the story begins.
I actually had nightmares both nights while I was in Paris, about Paris. I was so vehemently disappointed. Disillusioned. Which sounds melodramatic, but really? I FaceTimed my mom back in the States and replied with "It was okay," when she asked how visiting the Louvre was, how seeing Notre-Dame was.
I said OKAY. Not "mind blowing," "phenomenal," or just a primal squeal because eloquence was lost in my excitement. I was at the horrible point where you realize places are just places. The Eiffel is just a construction that was never meant to last this long.
Dark, right? Past-me would've slapped present-me across the face for saying something so sacrilegious. But...where was the music in the streets? The art? NOTTINGHAM had more public art than Paris! Graffiti was immensely popular, but rarely was it beautiful. The most disturbing thing was that I felt so angry that I considered ripping Paris entirely from the story I'm editing. The city was not nearly as quirky and enthralling as I'd thought. It was quiet, every building looked the same, you got lost easily, it was really cold, there really wasn't anything to do once you visited the big monuments...I spent two full days there with a friend, and on the second afternoon we stayed inside and watched Arrow. I told this to my mom and something like insult crossed her face.
In my novel, Monet Evanesce, Paris is a beacon for art forgers, a place of art nouveau, of fashion, and culture, and just...magical. The Paris I saw was lackluster, expensive and...boring. Maybe because it's November? Maybe we were in the wrong section? Sure, it was nice, but it was a dull counterpart to the Paris in my head. Yeah, I know the saying about building stuff to unattainable status in your head, but everyone said Paris was a dream. By the second day, I was burning to flee back to England. We switched coaches in London, and I watched the Thames sparkle in the dazzling light of the skyscrapers, glittering off hotels like the Dorchester, early holiday lights and buildings so various in their architecture that they looked like something from a fairy story. London was more like the Paris in my head.
I'm thinking the blame lies with the fact that I'm American. I expect cities to be imposing, demanding, artistic, burning and busy. Paris was sleepy. I was startled to see maybe a hundred people at the Eiffel, no more. The Champs de Mars was borderline empty.
HOWEVER. Yes, there is a "however." Now I have all sorts of information to fact-check in my book. I know that Parisian taxis are a godsend compared to US city ones. I now know how many Parisians speak very little English. I know how their museums work.
I also know it's an author's tendency to varnish over places and make them too good to be true.
Sorry for the dark outlook on this post. I just thought it was really interesting and necessary to discuss for writers. Has this ever happened to you? Has a place defied expectations or made you totally spin a one-eighty on your opinion?