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The other side of Paris

Mark Hill - 08/07/13 - www.MyFrenchLife.org

The marvellous adventure of Amélie Poulain, Montmartre, sunset by Notre Dame, picnics along la Seine and Parisien café culture.

The view of Paris from afar might suggest a city void of disturbances and inconveniences. Unfortunately the truth is slightly removed!

Excruciatingly, this disruption begins even before the sun has climbed over the slated rooftops. On the streets of Paris teams of men circle the city. Their mission is to keep the city clean. This frenzied activity though takes place at the same time as ninety nine percent of the city rest peacefully in their beds. Without any regard for the majority, these men with heavy feet proceed to bang, thump and clatter their way through the cities streets disrupting countless dreams.

Once out of the door and underground the problems continue. The long corridors which link the numerous lines and connections are laid with escalators to hold the city together and give tired feet a well deserved rest. Frustratingly though for commuters heading to the office and tourists dragging their luggage around the city, these long metallic belts are often motionless. Technicians work around the clock, desperately trying to resuscitate them.

Mark Hill - 08/07/13 - www.MyFrenchLife.org

Then on the metro, you’ll have the great pleasure of either a singer wheeling a tatty music box, a lady with her child striding up and the down the carriage with her hand held out or simply a dishevelled looking individual bellowing out their plea.

Of course, this wouldn’t be France unless every few months or so the entire transport system and consequently the city is brought to its knees. The scene on a crowded platform at eight o’clock in the morning is one to smile at philosophically. Shuffling impatiently around, clutching their mobile phones tightly in their hands and frowning intently at the screens. When a train does finally arrive, there is a great gush forward and a mad scramble to push oneself onboard.

Another great French cultural tendency is to protest against anything which annoys this overly sensitive country. Huge crowds gather, arm themselves with placards and megaphones and take to the streets.

Mark Hill - 08/07/13 - www.MyFrenchLife.org

The result: complete chaos. Buses either crawl their way through the streets or are forced to follow another route. Drivers in the city are also affected. Queues stretching back along the grand boulevards are commonplace. Being stuck behind a marching band of angst can add incalculable amounts of time to their journeys.

Finally, a Sunday afternoon in Paris is a blurry picture of people pacing up and down the city in desperate search of milk, bread and coffee. From supermarket to supermarket they move but are met by shutters firmly closed. Reluctantly, they find a small convenience store and are forced to pay extortionate prices for a poor quality imitation.

Of course, though, Paris is a magical city where the delights far outweigh these small annoyances. However, those living elsewhere who see the city through rose tinted glasses need to slide them off, take a moist tissue and give them a good old wipe.



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6 Comments




  1. Debra
    9 years ago

    It seems men intent on keeping cities clean all over the world have no time or regard for those of us sleeping! Very glad you are still enjoying the adventure of Paris. Open eyes often make a city more enjoyable in my opinion. Your writing is so visual Mark! A great article, thank you and great photos.


  2. Mark E Hill
    9 years ago

    Thank you very much for the kind comment Debra. It’s very encouraging to hear such positive words! I hope I’ve not put you off the city, honestly it’s fantastic.


  3. Laura Griffin
    9 years ago

    What about the dog poo? That was one small thing that irked me about the la ville d’amour!


  4. Sue Williams
    9 years ago

    Great article, Mark, which made me smile. You reminded me of something a Parisian friend once said when he came here to Melbourne (Australia). “What’s wrong with you people,” he said, “nobody protests against anything!!”


  5. Britt Aylen
    9 years ago

    Yes, the dog poo. So much of it. And the gypsies who steal your food from your hands – once I had a lady take a whole baguette from me as I left a boulangerie!


  6. Debra
    9 years ago

    Open eyes help to be aware of the negative to try to avoid it, like seeing the dog poo so you can step over it. Mark, I’m afraid no-one could ever put me off Paris! But it’s wonderful to go in with open eyes. Thank you, look forward to reading more.