Words + Photography by Luke Alland, shot on a Pentax ME SUPER with expired Superdrug film and Fujifilm's XT-2.
Paris is a strange one, isn't it? It has its own syndrome, but unlike Stockholm, it's caused by the city itself. For many Brits the journey to Paris has become a doddle, with the introduction of the Eurostar in 1994 providing a relatively cheap and civilised form of travel between London and the French capital.
I grew up in South East London, and before the Eurostar's move from Waterloo to St. Pancras International in November 2007, I saw it pass by my Primary School dozens of times a day, so I've always had somewhat of a soft spot for it. I've also never been to Charles de Gaulle Airport, because why the hell would I? The bone I quickly have to pick (and there's always a bone to pick. I'm British), is why London has done so much work making King's Cross lovely, yet the French aren't returning the favour. This could also extend to almost every main station in Europe. Whilst I was living in Germany, it was quite a shock to see how no one really gave a shit about the surrounding area of a Hauptbahnhof, and Gare du Nord seems no exception either.
Once you've navigated away from Gare du Nord, however, Paris is without doubt one of, if not the, chicest cities in Europe. The cigarette-laden style that flings around or is sat at every corner is like walking into Willy Wonka's chocolate factory designed for designers. There is something for everyone, from classically-dressed Parisienne to new school drip. It's like an American high school movie where you can tell the clan they belong to solely based on the clobber.
Since the pandemic, Paris has radically evolved. Prior to 2020, on any of my visits I don't think I'd ever seen a jogger but now it seems to be a new found accoutrement of the locals. Gone are the days of reckless abandon with the cigarettes-and-champagne diet (although, don't get me wrong, it can still be found), there seems to be a more health conscious side to the city which still feels a bit strange, if somewhat surreal.
The Parisians don't really give a merde what you do, whether it be a backie on an e-scooter or smoking Gauloises at a café (cafes, to many of our readers' dismay I'm sure, aren't available) the only prerequisite is that you've just got to look cool. That's it. That's how you fit in. Aside from the selfie stick-clad tourists, it's extremely easy to pick out the visitors. And maybe that's why the hospitality staff seem to revel in looking down their nose at the more-than-likely-baffling attempt at French, by anyone who dares speak what is quite possibly one of the most beautiful languages in Europe.
You can't talk about Paris without touching on the fact it seems to be the God-tier level of landmarks and tourist traps. The city is pretty much teeming with them: Notre-Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the list goes on, and on, and on. It's almost as if it's one giant European theme-park built for tourists to sink their teeth into some 'culture', whereas only real ones know that the fun and life of Paris lies in the off-shooting streets lined with wicker chairs, or the random flat you've ended up at 4 in the morning. Where conversations fuelled by wine and a certain je ne sais quoi fill the air. It has to be experienced to be understood. I've had the fortune of being in Paris a number of times and I've never felt the urge to go up the Eiffel Tower or down to see the Mona Lisa. The idea of being in a throng of people clambering to see the same thing, is just so un-chic, and I just want to fit in...
The one thing I'd love to see, and especially after Emily in Paris perpetuated the bullshit myth that Paris is all croissants and catch-ups, is someone to look into the darker, deeper side of Paris. The spiralling snail-like layout of the arrondissements (sections of Paris, basically) lead you further and further down the rabbit-hole of what life is like here. There is a huge discrepancy—much like London—between real life and what is seen on the screen. The difference between London and Paris, however, is that you have to go a lot further in London before you move your wallet to the front pocket.
Paris is a gem, whether you love it or you hate it. You can't deny it's a must visit. It is mainstream—yes, but there's a reason it has an everlasting pull on people. The mad mashup of it all just works. The haute-couture city, served by a dilapidated and dingy metro has an enduring quality that I'm still not quite over.
But still, fuck Emily in Paris.