I am hardly a cynic when it comes to the romance of Paris and I have spent the last ten years chasing this beautiful city from behind my rose-coloured lenses. But I know Paris can be difficult to love and that couples can struggle to find its charm and romance.
Being alone these last several weeks I have observed many miserable couples in Paris. They sit hunched over in cafés refusing to make eye contact with each other and making attempts to sound enthusiastic about standing in line at the Eiffel Tower. They make inane comments about the food - "These eggs are so fresh!" - and they wear their disappointment as heavily as their fanny packs. It's obvious they were expecting a different kind of Paris experience.
Over the years Chris and I have had our fair share of arguments in the streets of Paris. There has been sulking, stomping, crying, sighing and even threats of an immediate return to Canada. On our first trip, our honeymoon, I dragged Chris to all of the sights, trying to sell him on the beauty of Paris as though I was a desperate used car salesperson trying to get rid of a 1970's Pinto station wagon. I wanted him to love Paris immediately and I destroyed his first impressions. We had a huge row and I remember feeling panicked at the thought that I had just married a man who didn't love Paris. Clearly everything worked out, romance and a love affair with Paris followed, but we have gone through enough unromantic moments that I feel qualified to offer my top five tips for thriving in the City of Love...
Don't be too hard on yourselves. Not everyone is having the best time and skipping around Paris only stopping to steal kisses on Pont Alexandre III. You will have bad moments and possibly bad days. It's not the end of the world and not every single second in Paris has to be perfect, enlightened or romantic. Find a quiet place to sit and grab a drink. Do something ridiculous. Chris and I once ended up at Disneyland Paris because we had a bad day at the Louvre. It reset the trip for us and gave us something that we still laugh about to this day.
Compromise. You aren't going to suddenly love all of the same things just because you are in Paris. Maybe you want to spend a few hours shopping at Galeries Lafayette or a day at Versailles. Maybe your partner wants to drink beer and take a nap. We spend at least a few hours apart each trip doing something we love. It doesn't mean we aren't having a great time together but just that there are certain things in Paris that are best experienced on our own.
Understand that people don't change just because they are somewhere else. It's a lovely thought that travel turns us into these uninhibited, all loving, Eat, Pray, Love types but the reality is most of us, if lucky, get a week or two a year to go somewhere. It's just enough time to relax but not enough time to transform. Chris and I are morning people and no matter how hard we try in Paris, a city not made for morning people, we struggle to stay awake past 10 when most chic Parisians are just finishing their dinners. You just work around it; we almost have the city to ourselves in the mornings. We also know that like at home, we enjoy quiet and privacy - sounds impossible in Paris! - but we achieve our Paris by avoiding a lot of things that attract tourists to the city. We relax and wander and we rent apartments instead of staying in hotels.
Eat something. Personally I am at worst, i.e. bitchiest, when I am hungry and cannot appreciate anything or anyone once my blood sugar dips below a certain level. Chris on the other hand can happily walk 12 hours on two café crèmes and a beer. I have learned to carry Haribo in Longchamp or Dirty Louis and not pretend I am not hungry when Chris asks me for the twelfth time.
Lower your expectations. Paris comes with impossibly high expectations to see and do everything. Like everyone, I initially came to Paris because I wanted to see the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, the Louvre, etc. and my first trip was much of a blur. You become exhausted and miss what is so truly beautiful about Paris. Chris and I keep coming back not because of those things but because of how Paris makes us feel. Give yourselves time to feel the city and be surprised by what isn't in a guidebook.