• Leslie

Liked to Death: The Ruination of Paris' Rue Cremieux

Updated: Mar 18, 2019

the picturesque Rue Cremieux in Paris
the picturesque Rue Cremieux in Paris

Liked to Death

Instagrammers are at it again. Ruining another perfectly good piece of traveler eye candy. This time it’s Rue Cremieux, a pedestrianized pastel colored street in Paris.

Rue Cremieux is regularly labelled one of Paris’ most beautiful streets. It’s a small cobblestone street located in the 12th arrondissement, near the Bastille. Perhaps I shouldn’t even mention the location ...

The painted facades of the private homes are pretty French macarons, reminiscent of Portobello Street in London or Burano in Venice.

a pretty pastel row house on Rue Cremieux
a pretty pastel row house on Rue Cremieux

But today, Rue Cremieux is a victim of its own success.

It used to be a “secret place” few travelers knew about. Now it’s been discovered by color-loving, vacuous, photo-op hungry Instagrammers. And they don't admire it quietly either. They have invaded the residential street en masse, treating it like their own living room or concert hall or yoga studio.

“Doing it for the ‘Gram”

This blog post is my own personal “outrage of the day.”

I’m not a big fan of the current iteration of Instagram. Or the concept of travelers “doing it for the gram.” Or the notion of traveling to a tourist hotspot only to take endless photos, while ignoring its historical or cultural significance.

image source: thisbirdsday.com

I especially dislike the spammy follow-unfollow Instagram tactic. This occurs when an Instagrammer blindly follows other accounts with the sole objective of getting a "follow back." Then the person abruptly unfollows you. It's a desperate, pathetic tactic that makes me wonder whether the person was even parented. It's some really lame shit.

Honestly, can’t people just follow accounts they're interested in? I like to follow incredible photographers, travel writers, and friends. My approach is apparently an atypical and outmoded approach to social media.

These days, the public Instagram accounts seems largely about self-branding, cutesy hashtags, or claims of living or traveling "authentically" -- usually accompanied by sappy inspirational quotes or artfully arranged wildflowers. I'm just not that interested in eating dandelions for breakfast when I'm in Bali. Nor do I want to be #blessed.

Sharing quality travel photos for their intrinsic value is largely besides the point. They're just a prop for likability, selfies, or self promotion.

And the typical travel photos, while perhaps superficially appealing, are in fact deadly dull. So dull.

The Banality and Narcissism of Instagram Photos

“Doing it for the gram” results in utter phoniness. Not only are many Instagram photos psychotically contrived and staged, they seem virtually identical. Is copying people now deemed to be a good thing? Is originality an outmoded contrivance?

I don't really expect Instagram photos to reflect real life. We all know they don't. And complaining about Instagram's lack of reality is just another meme.

But do the photos have to be so damn boring?

typical boring Instagram travel photo
typical boring Instagram travel photo

The most ubiquitous and banal travel photo I see on Instagram is this: a filtered shot of a pixie girl, usually in a long flowy dress and floppy designer hat looking flawless, either with her back to the viewer or doing a "look back" over her shoulder. Even a travel blogger that I generally like recently posted an Instagram story showing off her newly purchased “Instagram dress.”

Rinse and repeat.

Needless to say, I don't have an "Instagram dress." (My favorite color, black, is not remotely Instagram friendly.)

Another recurring Instaphonie travel trend is posting photos of yourself in the bathtub or in bed, usually in a luxury hotel. All I can say is WTF? I won't even re-post one of these ridiculous images.

Is this Las Vegas or Venice?

There is even a pretentious travel blogger account on Instagram titled "My Life's a Travel Movie." She describes herself as an expert "selfietographer."

Seriously? People now willingly identify as a "selfietographer?" What a shallow, horrifying niche ...

My 18 year old daughter informs me it has become passé to talk about selfies and seemed appalled when I showed her the account. Perhaps this is a tiny sign that world may slowly be recognizing the blindingly obvious fact that travel (and life) should be about looking out, not in.

And, while speaking about banal photos, I have to wonder if the world really needs one more overzealous couple shot with the Eiffel Tower in the background? Or another photo of hot air balloons in Cappadocia? Or a shot of someone hanging out of a moving train while heading to Ella Sri Lanka? Or a handstand on the edge of the Grand Canyon? No, no, no!

Today, this hackneyed couple shot in Norway came up in my Insta feed. I had to unfollow. People are so desperate for a captivating "look at me" shot, they're bizarrely willing to risk life and limb.

the Kjeragbolten boulder on the Lysefjord in Norway
the Kjeragbolten boulder on the Lysefjord in Norway

Fortunately, there are satirists left in the world. One has an amusing Instagram account called Insta Repeat, mocking the repetitive unoriginal nature of Instagram travel photos. It has over 276, 000 followers. I'm not the only one hot and bothered.

Another target of my ire are preening Instagrammers who post jarring, incongruous photos. You know, the ones having a Starbucks on a remote mountaintop. Posting a perfectly poached egg or exquisite fruity breakfast while “budget traveling.” Wearing a prom dress and high heels on a hiking trail. (I saw this with my own eyes while hiking the “huff and puff” trail in Kotor Montenegro.)

I sometimes wonder if people even realize that it’s perfectly acceptable to post a photo of a breathtaking landscape without including themselves in it? Or a photo of a stunning medieval cathedral without a face plastered on the facade?

I posted this the other day on Instagram, for example. A simple landscape photo of a tiny Spanish village in Andalusia, which I found sublime and is (not yet) Insta-famous.

the whitewashed mountain village of Frigiliana Spain in Andalusia
the whitewashed mountain village of Frigiliana Spain in Andalusia

Clearly, I am just a grumpy geezer who prefers culture over fashion. Not that I have a problem with wanting to be fashionable. Better than wearing pajamas and sweat pants all day. Although pajamas aren't all that bad, I guess. Right now, thanks to bruised ribs, I'm wearing them as I sit here typing away.

I won't be posting a selfie.

I just have a problem with fashion eclipsing everything else in life. If you spend a half day procuring the perfect photo with the perfect outfit, are you really “traveling?” Or have you completely missed the moment you’re trying to preserve?

The Trickle Down Effect of Instagram Influencers

Instagrammers flock to destinations whose chief appeal is an Instragrammable photo backdrop.

And it’s always the same places, the same wonders of the world — Pulpit Rock in Norway, a “mirror shot” beach in Japan, an infinity pool in Singapore, Roy’s Peak in New Zealand, the leaning tower of Pisa, the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, the Pink Lake in Australia, and of course anywhere with rainbow umbrellas. And it's ruining the view for the rest of us.

What the Blue Lagoon actually looks like with crowds and a backdrop of industrial buildings
What the Blue Lagoon actually looks like with crowds and a backdrop of industrial buildings

For the record, I just want to say that I’ve been to Iceland and skipped the Blue Lagoon. I had read that it was a dirty, lukewarm, crowded disappointment. And I have no regrets.

This new Instagram trend is infantilizing, a collective dumbing down in an already dumbed down world. A dumbing down of photography. A dumbing down of travel itself. People are already dumb, and apparently getting dumber.

As a result, Instagram isn’t "magical" anymore, as some claim. It's mostly mediocre performance art. All or nothing faux spontaneity for the "like" button. Instagram addiction will undoubtedly be a field rife for psychologists in the future. Or now.

But the trickle down effect of wannabe Instagram influencers isn't just a clutter of cameras, tripods, and selfie sticks bothering us regular folk. It's far worse.

Instagram influencers are causing over-tourism. And it's taking a heavy toll on local communities.

an anti-tourist sign in Oviedo, one of my favorite towns in Asturias Spain
an anti-tourist sign in Oviedo, one of my favorite towns in the Asturias region of Spain

Grumpy residents have protested against rabid over-tourism in Barcelona and Venice. The same thing is happening in Dubrovnik, which is awash in the human surcharge from cruise ships, and may lose its UNESCO status. Reykjavik is reigning in the indecent behavior of tourists who pour in on cheap flights. A few months ago, Austrian tourist authorities launched an anti-Instagram campaign called "Unhashtag Vienna" to encourage tourists to actually, you know, look at the glories of Vienna rather than curate them on social media.

I was recently in Granada Spain, at the Alhambra. The Alhambra, like other places, has been forced to ban selfie sticks.

Rue Cremieux in Paris
Rue Cremieux in Paris

The Besieged Rue Cremieux

Which brings us back to Rue Cremieux. The tiny street has become an Instagram sensation. Not only are Rue Cremieux Instagrammers ruining the experience of fellow travelers, they are ruining the life of the street's residents.

Would be social media stars don’t just quietly admire and snap photos of the ultra- photogenic street and then move on. On no, that’s not good enough.

They do yoga poses and take selfies in residents’ doorways or windows. They take music videos on the street. There are flash mobs. They knock on residents’ doors to get a “locals selfie.” They bring fancy props for their photos and videos. They party on the street. They wear prom dresses and host weddings.

Talk about downright rotten, disrespectful intrusive behavior.

As one local said:

“We sit down to eat and just outside we have people taking photos, rappers who take two hours to film a video right beneath our windows, or bachelorette parties who scream for an hour. Frankly, it’s exhausting.”

Club Cremieux

Exasperated Rue Cremieux residents have had enough of the unwanted photobombing and interloping. And who could blame them? I can sometimes barely stand the barking of my neighbors' dogs.

One resident created an Instagram account called Club Cremieux, which mocks Instagrammers. Take a gander. As you can see from snippets below, their conduct is ridiculous. For even worse behavior, check out the videos.

The residents are exhausted and their lives have become "hell:"

"On weekdays, it can go because they are tourists, they are not too disturbing. But at the weekend, there are 200 people under our windows. We have the table here, and people are just next to take their pictures. You have rap clips that come for two hours under our windows, you also have hen parties that scream for an hour, it's frankly used."

In an all out feud with the hashtag zombies, the residents’ association has asked the city of Paris to close down their street to visitors in the evenings and on weekends, the busiest times for Instagrammers. They want actual gates to keep the villains away. It seems like a reasonable request.

The Joke’s on Instagrammers

The most ironic thing is that the easter bunny Rue Cremieux is as phony as Instagrammers.

Its supposed old world charm is entirely fake. The street has no cultural or historical significance. The row homes were built in the 19th century. But it wasn’t until 1996 that residents began painting their homes in pastel hues. They are just pretty. C'est tout.

It’s admirable in a way, because most of Paris is 19th century Haussmann beige. So Rue Cremieux is decidedly unique.

But is Rue Cremieux one of the “best things to do in Paris”? Decidedly not, there are vastly more interesting cultural things to spend your precious time on. Even if you like pretty Paris streets, which I do, it’s not worth the effort anymore. It's just too arduous to battle with Instagram influencers.

If a place is Insta-famous, I’m crossing it off my travel list.

-- Leslie

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