My lasting memories of Paris will not be of visits to iconic museums and landmarks, but of the queues to visit said museums and landmarks.
I went through the five stages of grief in each queue – denial (“Surely the queue can’t be this long?”), anger (“Why can’t the French manage their bloody queues properly?”), bargaining (“If this queue starts to move faster, I promise to really appreciate the art once I get inside. I’ll take time to study it, not just take a photo of myself in front of the most iconic pieces to put on Facebook.”), depression (“I’m not going to get into the museum at this rate. My holiday is ruined.”), and finally, acceptance (“I’ve been standing in this queue for an hour, so I can’t give up now. I’ll get there…eventually.”)
It’s hard to say which queue was the worst. Was it the queue for the Eiffel Tower, which was twice as long as it should have been due to one of the lifts being broken? We waited for over an hour before giving up and heading to a nearby café to drown our disappointment in overpriced wine. Was it the queue for the Musée d’Orsay, where we had to wait outside for an hour in heavy rain? Three of us huddled under a single small umbrella, which kept turning inside out due to strong winds. Was it the queue for the cafe once we got inside the Musée d’Orsay, which took just as long and left me dizzy with hunger? Or the queue for the Catacombs, which took over two hours and wrapped around a park so you could never really tell how far you were from the entrance? At one point I briefly got out of the queue to go use the public toilet across the street, where I had to stand in another – you guessed it – queue.
I’ve lived in Britain for seven years and am therefore no stranger to queuing. It’s something of a national sport – you see a queue, and you stand in it. You may not know what it’s for, but you assume if a lot of people are standing it it, it must be for something good. I normally like the orderliness and fairness of queues, but Paris took them to a whole other level. I've never waited so much in my life.
I had a lot of time to think while I was standing in these queues. And what I thought about the most was this: is Paris worth waiting for? It’s a world-class city full of priceless art, stunning architecture and things I’ve seen in films. Maybe several hours in a queue is a small price to pay to see the Mona Lisa or a Monet painting.
Maybe for some. But I am impatient, and often hungry, and I missed more than one lunch while queuing on this trip. Sort yourself out, Paris. A girl’s got to eat.