Oh Paris! Really?

Parisians and Paris never fail to give me something to write about. I find humour, quirkiness and curious disbelievement wonderment in practically every encounter, person and situation I come across. I walk past tiny shops and enter. I breathe in the history of those who were there before me and bought what I buy, decades before.

And then I open my mouth and shatter the illusion.


While my French continues to improve, there are many deer in headlights moments. This Boucherie became my favourite, not just because of its delectably spicy, melt in the mouth, roast chicken drumsticks. In my early days visiting there I didn't know the French word for chicken drumstick (they really don't teach you useful stuff in Year 1 high-school French!). The butcher, not effusive with smiles or emanating warmth, stared at me when I pointed childlike to those in the rotisserie.

"Comment ça se dit en français, s'il vous plaît?" I asked. Without a word he walked over to the whole raw chickens and picked one up. Pointing to one of its fat legs, he told me the differences between the thigh and the drumstick and the names. French people will always give you a lesson and not just an answer.

I live for those intimate interactions.  They are mine. 

In Paris, the simple act of crossing a road is not simple at all.  One can be hit by a car through no fault of their own simply because a little green man means nothing in Paris. It's an alien alien!  The other day when I was out in the madness of the 10th arrondissement, myself and a French lady beside me prepared to cross the road. We did this by simply taking two steps forward on to what we thought was a safe haven eg a road with a green pedestrian man.

Silly us. A car driver, knowing we were there, decided he still had somewhere to be more important than our lives - so he drove at us! He wisely screeched to a halt in the nick of time and out of we ladies mouths came French expletives that would curl the toes of the president. The lady and I huffed off.  'J'ai peur!' she said to me as we separated.

However nothing frightens me except spideys.

And maybe overflowing rubbish bins. As I wander around Paris I see things and take photos of them simply because I know it is impossible to explain them to someone. However sometimes you really have to be there to appreciate the absurdity. Case in point. The arrondissement bosses are devoted to emptying the street bins at the most inconvenient time possible. They don't like to empty bins early in the morning in Paris. image

No they don't. The citizens diligently put the bins and rubbish bags out early, neatly stacked on the footpaths. However the big wigs decided that it's much more fun to send the garbage trucks out on the roads at lunchtime or, even better, late Friday afternoon. That works particulary well on a warm day and on Paris's teeny tiny, winding streets. Oddly enough, the traffic just waits patiently behind the garbage trucks. No tooting. No honking. They're probably just bloody grateful the rubbish smell is gone.

I am not a terrorist.

I know this because whenever one walks into a large shopping complex/event/building here, every single person's bag is checked and they need to take their coat off. But moi?  No, no, no, no no!  I am waved through with a smile and a look of 'we know you would never be dangerous'.  Why? Is it my wheelchair? My disability? My Angloness? Nope. Only in Paris. It's politeness. Jump on that Eurostar to London though and my wheelchair is a potential weapon of mass destruction.

One reason I moved to Paris was because I felt my life in Melbourne was not full of the adventures I needed to write about.  However, after being in Paris, I have realised that is not Paris that creates my writing. It is how I see the world.  I am confident that should I return to Melbourne, or live anywhere else, if I look at everyday life with the curiousity, humour and wonder I do here then I will always have stories to tell.

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About Sandra E Brown

I withdrew from my Masters (Neuropsychology) to write a blog instead, and to teach English as a second language. Life is too short to be doing something you want to retire from at 65! I now live in Paris, France.
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8 Responses to Oh Paris! Really?

  1. Margo Lestz says:

    How true! Our attitude really does affect how we see things. If we look, we can find adventure and joy anywhere.
    Thanks for being a great example of that.
    Best – Margo

  2. Hannah Meek says:

    “I live for those intimate interactions. They are mine. ” They are mine too. Since I was a child, I have dreamed of traveling/ living in France. I feel it in my bones that the time is coming soon to explore this fascination of mine. We will have to meet in Paris for a nice glass (or two or three) of French wine! Love the writing… keep them coming!

  3. Susan says:

    Hello Sandra. I agree. You should find adventures to write about in Melbourne or anywhere, but I do enjoy your posts about Paris.

  4. Jayme says:

    I love these little intimate glimpses into how you see France. Especially the butcher “teaching” rather than just answering. My parents had similar experiences in Germany. I’ve yet to travel abroad, but when I do, I hope to go with expectations based on what writers such as yourself have shared, rather than the fake “touristy” versions that are more common.

    I don’t think a place, anyplace in the world, can truly be appreciated and loved until you’ve been there long enough to notice the grittier details along with the famous landmarks. I hope you have many more grand adventures, and the opportunity find beauty and humor in them all!

    • Thank you Jayme! I’m so pleased you’re enjoying the way I write about my life here in Paris. I’m sure you’ll find just as many intimate adventures when you travel – it’s all about stepping out of your comfort zone and taking a big breath!

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