Friday, December 11, 2009

The City

A few observations about Paris, the city. I could have written a book just on this but seeing as that book has been written several times over by better writers I just took a few notes and kept myself busy actually experiencing the city instead of writing about it.

Dirty city. You know, I really don’t think so. I mean, it is a city but not filthy or anything, just normal city mess I’d think, just from my experience of living in Chicago and Houston. They have people cleaning all the time: street cleaners (not just the machine kind either, we’re talking people with brooms!), metro stop cleaners, graffiti scrubbers, etc. The Parisians work hard to keep their city clean and it really seems to work. There are easily accessible trash bins everywhere and often even recycling. The one thing I don’t understand is the dog pooh. Given that I’ve seen dogs regularly relieving themselves on the sidewalks and streets and their owners doing nothing about it, I’d expect there to be more but it obviously gets picked up just not by the people that should be responsible for it. Don’t be fooled though, you do have to watch out for the doggie landmines in your path, they happen often enough.

Unique metro stops. I had no idea that so many of the metro stops had a unique personality reflecting the area of their location. One of the stops near the Bastille has beautiful multi-dimensional art work in the tile depicting scenes from the revolution. One of the Concorde stops has letters all over the walls, one for each tile spelling out different powerful words and sayings. The Abbesses stop on line 6 was breathtaking in more ways than one. With large photographic images of the Montmarte, the area it is located in, it has a winding staircase down several flights of stairs. We walked it down but took the available elevator up when we returned to the stop because it was so many stairs we had to stop and take breathers on the way down and to laugh at just how many steps there were. Some of the stops are created to reflect the personalities of their area intentionally, others just take it on over time as a natural evolution. I wish I had started taking pictures of them right away, I’ve forgotten many of the different stops already, many of them because we didn’t actually use the stop, just passed through en route to our destination. I must say too that I expected the smell in the metro to be much worse but most of the time it wasn’t even noticeable or all I did notice was the smell of the chosen cleaning product. There were times though when I would wonder if I could hold my breath until the train came it was so bad.

Scooters. Not of the Vespa variety though there are a lot more of those and motorcycles than I had anticipated even thinking there would be a lot. The scooters that surprised me though were of the Razor variety that my kids have. We have seen a lot more of those all around Paris than I ever would have imagined, not that I had spent much time thinking about it. The odd thing is most of the ones we’ve noticed were being ridden by adults. Seriously. I kid you not. Adults, often in suits and business attire are spotted riding through the metro station, the train station and along the side walk on scooters. When they reach their destination they hop off, fold up the scooter and stick it in their bag. These people have my respect, I’ve tried to ride scooters before, it really takes some skill and I’m not very good at it. Of course, apparently I’m not so good at walking either which would explain a lot.

Bikes. Europe has a reputation for great public transportation and charming bicycles. I found both to be true in France. I loved seeing so many people choosing to ride bikes over driving and there were bike lanes/paths everywhere around the city making it just another part of the transportation options available. Unlike the few bike lanes here, the bike lanes there were clean and clear and not used as trash bins for the street or where lawn workers blow all the leaves and other lawn debris. There were bike racks available everywhere as well and we saw quite a few partial bikes that hadn't been locked up well enough to detour thieves. My favorite piece of the biking options was the "rent-a-bike" stations positioned regularly throughout Paris. There would be a row of nice cruisers available for rent, free if you returned it to another station within a half hour and inexpensive otherwise. Part of the public transportation included bikes with baskets! How cool is that? Encourages zero emissions and exercise. Wish that would catch on here. It just made this already charming city more so. Very, very cool. Some day I will be riding through the streets of Paris with the wind in my hair and my baguette in my bike basket, just you wait.


  1. I hope you get you Paris bicycle someday.... and everything else you dream of.

  2. Just for the readers about the unique metro stops. Concorde : Actually, the words are extracts of the French constitution. Louvre-Rivoli : it has columns and some copies of the statues you can see in the Louvre (and btw don't go off at this station thinking you arrived at the Museum, it's the next one "Palais Royal - Musée du Louvre"). Cadet : the wall tiles are made as the American flag. And more...