Behind the opulence of the major landmarks, there are 5 secrets that you cannot capture well enough in a picture – they stay with you forever, as a ghost of Paris, following you everywhere, no matter where you are.
I have had the opportunity to visit Paris several times throughout my life, more or less against my will. There is something about this city that makes me burst with excitement every time I think of it. I have naturally been a typical tourist and strolled down the streets with my nose in the map, but it gets a bit boring, even depressing. That’s when you know it’s time to throw away the map and wander about looking for the secrets of Paris – here’s my five.
It’s everywhere. No matter which way you turn you will always find a kiosk selling replicas of famous paintings or monuments. They are incredibly vulgar, but you cannot stop wondering who buys them. Does the guy in specs and several rucksacks hanging on him even know anything about Mona Lisa or Leonardo DaVinci? Probably not but he buys magnets, scarves, postcards – basically anything you could think of – with the famous lady’s face inked on them. Montmatre is a different story. Cherishing its history, you will find hundreds of artists with a beret fixed to the side of the head, haggling with you for a portrait.
You don’t need a degree in French to be captivated by it. Once you step in the city of lights, you will get your ears flooded with the beautiful language spoken so passionately by everybody. The couple by the red Vespa, the business man having lunch outside at the Bistro, the girls gossiping behind the covers of Vogue, the merchants trying to sell you little Eiffel Tower key rings – they all embrace this language no matter what. And once you get to mumble a bit of bonjour, merci, au revoir, you will feel like you belong a little bit more to the city.
More than their passion for wine and fois gras, the French are known for their manners. Extremely polite, should you get lost in the colorful web of the Métro, the French will notice and come to ask you politely (in French of course) if you need any help. And of course you do, but how could you tell them that other language than in French without feeling as if you are betraying their infectious manners.
Well, Paris is after all a major fashion capital but it’s not all about catwalks and extravagant designers. It’s in the Métro, in parks, on the streets. Shops swarming with mannequins in awkward positions which make you wonder if that’s the right way to wear the expensive clothes are all over the place. There will be times when your humble tourist eyes will linger on watching the way some high heels move so surely on the pavement, and how that hat finds its way among the crowd, without any hint of insecurity.
If notes could fly out of the sheet music and fill the air, there would be a never ending fog covering Paris. From the hill of Montmatre to the depths of the Métro, accordions, guitars, keyboards even barrel organs fill the air with music. Everything from nursery rhymes to classic Edith Piaf songs provide you with the most heartwarming soundtrack for your trip to Paris. Throw a coin in the busker’s hat and you will plant a smile on his face followed by a sincere Merci!
Next time life takes you to Paris, and you head straight to the enormous queues beneath the Eiffel Tower take a deep breath and look around. Rattling key rings, gently whispered French, heels stomping on the ground, accordion sounds could only make your soul shout in bliss a loud Oh la la!.
Images courtesy of Bianca Pana