Paris: Continuation of the French Narrative

Leaving the confines of our small town in Normandy, the group boarded the bus to Paris. To be quite honest, my expectations for Paris were not fantastic. Rumors of snobby people, crowded tourist traps, and over expensive food swirled in my head. Frankly I was the least excited about Paris out of all of our destinations. I would probably be ruined by Anthony Bourdain if he heard me say that. BUT, to save face (kinda), I was glad I proved myself wrong.

It is a stunningly beautiful city, possibly the most visually pleasing one I’ve ever been in. Where New York smacks you in the face with skyscrapers, Paris has mostly just 4-6 level buildings fashioned in mainly baroque or classical styling. This architecture is charming and welcoming in a way. Coupled with the Eiffel Tower and cathedrals, there certainly is a romantic flair to the city. The food was good, nothing too expensive, especially compared to London. The people were not too snobby either most of the time. The tourist destinations were packed though, but that wasn’t going to change with the outstanding weather and it being the month of May.


The Eiffel Tower dominating the Parisian skyline


After being peeved at the narrative presented on the liberation in Normandy, the one presented in Paris was definitely more favorable towards the Americans. Regardless, the group went into Les Invalides – the French War Museum – with a little bit of trepidation. It’s World War II section was very straightforward, detailed, and only really unique in a few regards. The narrative presented was one familiar to American World War II museums. They focused heavily on the occupation of France and Free France under Charles de Gaulle, which makes sense. However, the exhibit made a point that nearly every major battle in the Western theater from North Africa all the way to the fall of Paris included some kind of crucial involvement from the French Resistance. In addition, the emphasis on Free France and the liberation of Paris played heavily into that idea. To poorly summarize, Free France, led by Charles De Gaulle, were crucial in the Western front and liberated the actual city of Paris themselves. Am I skeptical of this viewpoint? Both yes and no.

On one hand it makes sense that this museum would present that, it would be demeaning and humiliating to create this exhibit in the same building that houses Napoleons tomb only to present the American “France got walloped and did nothing after except collaborate with Nazi’s” perspective. On the other, I feel that underplaying the role of Allied militaries in the liberation of France is a disservice to both historical accuracy (which is what happened in the Caen War Museum) and those who fought in Normandy. This question of how vital was the French resistance and Free France in the liberation of country was one that I never really considered until this trip. It is certainly a confliction in perspective, but to me it makes sense that this national military museum would present an answer to that question that would paint the French in a strong and courageous light.

Overall, Paris was truly not as bad as I expected. Wow, how terrible does that sound? “Paris, the city of lights, the city of love, was better than my very low and inexperienced expectations.” Just ridiculous. Anyways, finding smaller places to eat and being removed from the huge crowds in the major tourist areas certainly helped in that regard. It really is a romantic city (sometimes publicly too much so to be honest) and I would certainly not mind returning later on.


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