Sunday, July 22, 2007

London vs. Paris

Okay so how was the trip? Which city did I like better? Well, I figured I'd do a itemized list of things to compare the two cities on, almost like a competition:

Overall look: London has an interesting mix of buildings both old and new but Paris retains much of its architectural charm. Neighbourhood after neighbourhood looks like it is from the late 19th-early 20th century, with four or five storey apartment buildings side by side with the shuttered windows etc. By keeping the architecture consistent the streets of Paris retain a lot of charm.

Winner: Paris

Cleanliness: Both cities were not immaculate of course but the parks were well-maintained even though busy streets were a little grungy. Overall things were relatively good considering they are both major cities. I had heard that in Paris there are dog droppings everywhere but I didn’t find that to be the case at all.

Winner: I’ll give this one a tie, both cities were fine.

Air quality: Both cities had some air quality problems due to all of the cars but there was something else with the air in London – blowing my nose would result in a tinge of grey, something that didn’t occur in Paris. I also saw a number of bicycle riders in London wearing masks/filters, something I never saw in Paris.

Winner: Paris

Least expensive: Don’t get me wrong – both cities are prrrriiicey. Hotel costs are brutal, and food is not cheap either. Overall though I found beer, coffee and most food items cheaper in London, and wine and bread/pastries cheaper in Paris. (in this case “cheaper” still means at least 2X what you’d pay back home). However London doesn’t charge for most museums and attractions, while in Paris most museums charge 7-10 euro for entry. Considering all of the museums these cities have that adds up for someone doing the tourist thing.

Winner: London, thanks to subsidized museums.

Metro: Both the Paris Metro and the London Underground provide great service to anywhere a tourist wants to go. Always make sure wherever it is that you are staying that it is close to a metro/underground station and then you can just use a multi-day pass to get around. Overall I found the Underground a bit easier to navigate, and trains ran a bit more frequently (usually every 2-4 minutes as opposed to 3-7 minutes in Paris). The Underground was a bit cleaner as well, though that isn’t saying much, but the scent of stale urine was definitely to be found in some Metro stations.

Winner: London

Restaurants: Well I certainly didn’t eat everywhere, and wasn’t eating in top-end jacket & tie types of places, but the food in restaurants was generally good in both cities. I recall some service issues in the occasional place in Paris that didn’t occur in London though. One memorable one was in a sidewalk café on the Champs de Elysses where the waiter placed down a paper tablecloth, napkins and cutlery on our table but when we just ordered coffees he grabbed the tablecloth, napkins & cutlery and moved them to another table where another couple was sitting! He then had us move to the table next to them – all because we weren’t ordering food. Weird. We and the other couple had a good laugh when we told them where their cutlery had come from (though we did point out that we hadn’t touched it).

Winner: London, edging out the win due to better service.

Museums: The British Museum is iconic, and it’s collection of Egyptian antiquities can’t be beat outside of Egypt, but as a museum the Louvre is in a class on its own. You would have to combine the British Museum, the Tate Gallery, and the Victoria & Albert Museum to even come close to the sheer size of the Louvre collection, and the walls and ceilings of many of the Louvre’s galleries are artworks in-and-of themselves, retaining their centuries-old décor. The park and gardens around the Louvre are also spectacular. And I didn’t even see most of the other museums in Paris.

Winner: Paris, unless you are a massive fan for all things Egyptian

Other attractions: Cruising the Seine beats the Thames. Eiffel Tower is better than the London Eye and Big Ben. Westminster Abbey beats Notre Dame. St. Paul’s edges out Sacre-Coeur (St. Paul’s is more historical and has more to see, though Sacre-Coeur has a must-see view of Paris). Arc de Triumph leaves Trafalgar Square in the dust. Finally there is the walk from the Arc de Triumph, down the Champs de Elysees, through numerous parks, past the Obelisk, past some large fountains, until you reach the parks in front of the Louvre. That walk cannot be matched by anything in London.

Winner: Paris

Nightlife: I don’t know much about the quality of nightlife in the two cities but London is a pub culture so it seemed that anywhere you looked there was a pub or club that you could pop into. In Paris that was a lot harder to find, cafes were much more plentiful.

Winner: London, just due to the ease of finding places.

Safety: Both cities have their dodgy neighbourhoods but overall I didn’t have any issues. There were a few beggars here and there in either city, and the odd homeless guy in the parks or metro stations – nothing to the level you see in cities like Vancouver or LA. There were signs warning people about pickpockets in Paris but I never saw anything or heard any commotion. Janel may have had a pair of earrings stolen from her hotel room in Paris though, probably by a maid but it is possible someone came through the window of her 1st floor room.

Winner: I’ll say London based on the earrings but if Janel does find them I’ll move this one to a “tie”.

Queues: Way longer in Paris than in London for all major tourist attractions. London’s only major queue problem was at Madame Tuseud’s, so we didn’t bother going in. Waited over an hour to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, and skipped Notre Dame because of the long line. Crowding was pretty bad at the Louvre as well.

Winner: London

The Overall Winner: Though London beat Paris 6-4 in the categories Paris won the major ones: overall look, museums, & other attractions. If I had to choose for only one of them to go to for a vacation I’d choose Paris over London. Paris Wins!

[People on tight budgets, people who greatly prefer pubs over cafes, families with kids (sodas in Paris cafes cost at least 3.50 euro!), and Egyptologists might be better off in London though.]


Magnus said...

Next time: Birmingham vs Bonn!

Glen McKay said...

Next time: Montreal vs New Westminster!