Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Street Rat

Yesterday in conversation with a vendeuse, she asked if I thought Paris was "trop salle", i.e. too dirty.  She wanted to know whether I was disappointed by the crowds, the smells and the general grime covering the city.

"It's just Paris," I replied.

Given that I have spent the majority of my life enjoying sweet sea breezes and wide open green spaces, I should be more bothered by Paris' less shiny and perfume scented bits.  At home I am never more than ten minutes away from the nearest beach and the only sweat I smell is from Countess' flanks after a sunny ride.  I can always find space to be alone and even my office has a forest view.

Truthfully, I don't miss those things very much.  When I am away from Paris, I crave architectural details and streets that spill into each other with names I can't pronounce.  I crave the challenge of walking shoulder-to-shoulder and not tripping into the street to be run over by an errant scooter.  I love that I always have to be aware in Paris.  I am not a dreamy person and I love how Paris demands my attention and my engagement.  Paris stimulates  me.  I crave hearing different languages. I crave restaurants that sit on sidewalks and waiters that will let you linger two hours over a single glass of wine.  I don't mind eating with my elbows tucked tightly into my ribs to avoid knocking over my neighbour's plate of foie gras.  I like hearing whispered "pardon's" and the polite replies of "c'est pas grave".   I am not bothered by the traffic noise, even the piercing and peculiar sounding sirens that cause older Parisians to drop their shopping baskets to cover their ears.  I love that Paris is mostly a city of greys, greens, creams and golds and that its residents provide its colours and enhance its personality.  I crave Paris' attention to detail; for every piece of garbage or grimy smudge I notice, there is something so stunningly beautiful or carefully executed that it literally brings tears to my eyes.  I love that if I walk two blocks in any direction, I can  experience a totally different Paris.

I love Paris.  

Still chic...

After yesterday's wild storms, the sun came out and temperatures soared near 30 degrees.  I took the métro to meet a friend (another one!) for a drink at Merci and arrived sweaty and sticky, trying to dry my face with those teeny-tiny feminine face blotters.  I needed a body towel.  The Parisians standing near me on the métro looked dry and shine-free.  There was a guy leaning against me wearing a thick green tweed suit who looked so comfortable he could have been wearing a Speedo on the beaches of Nice.  None of the women had make-up running down their faces or sweaty, smudge marks on the lenses of their over sized sunglasses. Maybe I have had too much fresh air?


Maria W said...

I'm trying not to pick favourite posts, but this one really captured all my feelings about Paris too. Beautifully said!

After Fifty / Sylvia said...

I know what you mean, Paris can be dirty and smelly but I guess it's the bad that comes with all the good.

This last time I was there, I noticed a stronger sewer smell that sometimes was unbearable if you were in or near a toilette. I hadn't noticed it before so I don't know if they're having a problem with this now.

I always think of how different a place is for visitors than it is for locals.

As visitors we get to see the nice parts and charm of the city; we are on vacation and don't have to deal with the day to day nuisances that locals have to experience.

When people visit Miami, they can't understand why I don't like living here. To them this is paradise!

You write beautifully and express the mood of Paris very well.