Posted on October 20, 2011
The only Paris Syndrome I have is that I am in a chronic state of wanting to be there. Yet, today I learned that there is a sinister version of my malaise that afflicts about 20 people a year, many of them Japanese tourists. The tourists in question seem to want to flee the city as soon as they arrive.
The problem: Perception. Some first-time visitors believe that they will always have Paris and that it will be a sepia-toned place where everyone wears couture, eats beautifully-presented meals and lives, sleeps and eats romance. Although the city is sort of like that, it’s also sort of not. And this “not” aspect is what has newbies feeling so blue.
Just how blue? Paris Syndrome symptoms include: hallucinations, feelings of persecution, dizziness, anxiety and sweating. According to the French psychiatric journal Nervure, the crise is sparked by language barriers, cultural differences, exhaustion and an idealized image of the city.
Granted, the Seine does not flow with Chanel No 5 and Humphrey Bogart isn’t going to meet you in a cafe with his piano player as the Germans come storming into town. But there are plenty of wonderful things about the City of Light for those who rest up and stay realistic.
One of my favorite mornings in Paris involved ponies. My daughter and I were having breakfast (cliche alert) at a cafe, when all of a sudden she looked up and saw a man hustling ponies down the street. Her eyes grew big as she shouted “Ponies! I’m done with breakfast now, Mom. Let’s follow the ponies!” I took one last sip of coffee, grabbed her hand and we followed those ponies into the Jardin du Luxembourg.
Children were already in the park, waiting under the chestnut trees for pony rides. Did my daughter want to go for a spin? No. She wanted to watch. And then she wanted a hot chocolate (none of that instant stuff) to ward off some of the chill that crept in on that golden September day. We sat in green chairs, just like the ones up above. Then, we chased pigeons.
It was perfect.
Then again, it was Paris. Thinking about it makes me sweaty and dizzy.
But in a good way.