The Tourists

Article published on Oct. 26, 2008
Article published on Oct. 26, 2008
The population of Paris includes one important and massive group that despite its incoherence and changeability has plagued this city since the prehistoric times: the tourists. The mobility and the mutability of this group give you an illusionary impression of its temporary existence.
Not quite so: tourists arrive here like from a magic wall, you can scoop masses of them but you never run out – they prevail. And they are abundant: per year Paris receives more than 30 million examples with eyes wide of staring and with smiles just as wide of all the picture posing.

The essence of the tourists

How would you describe this multinational group that contains all the social classes and political opinions? I would say it is like a cattle. It is a mass that covers the whole city; sometimes the layer is thinner, sometimes thicker like around Notre Dame where the ultimate concentration of the globetrotters is. Its behaviour is very predictable; it is being steered by the latest version of the Lonely Planet. Remember to keep yourself updated to avoid encountering the herd!

In my opinion, despising tourists is a hobby fully justified. Firstly, they make the prices rise. Secondly, their presence transform such authentic places of Parisian bohemian lifestyle, as Montmartre, and of intellectual dwelling, as Quartier Latin, into the mass culture markets filled with Eiffel tower trinkets and Art Nouveau copy posters. Thirdly, they deprive Parisians (such as me) of the larger than life art experiences by packing into every interesting museum in this city. These voyageurs will spoil your fragile arty moment by dragging their flip-flops round the corridors of the Louvres and by creating congestions in front of every decent painting. I am starting to believe the privilege of appreciating museum collections should be reserved only to people whose postal code starts with 75.

Homo homini lupus est

Nevertheless, I am convinced no one hates a tourist more than another tourist. The trip of every single tourist would be a lot more pleasant without the every single tourist blocking passageways and creating queues.

Without all the other tourists the traveller could enjoy the authenticity of the city and of the French culture. The prices would be reasonable and while sipping his café noir in a brasserie in St-Germain-des-Prés this lonesome voyageur might even hear two Parisian intellectuals praising Sartre’s existentialism. I wonder if the two intellectuals could be there anyway?

Soili Semkina