HERE IS THE THING ABOUT PARIS.
It ticks all the cultural boxes – and you don’t even have to set foot inside a museum for it to happen. Trust me when I say Paris will find a way to seduce you, even on a public holiday and you’ve seen it all before.
It was at the Arc de Triomphe, where I was seriously considering SLR ‘selfies’ when the seduction began. Standing on the famed Champs-Elysees I watched as tourists of all varieties hopped on the sightseeing buses. Do I or don’t I? I’d always been against such ‘touristy’ attractions but as I walked down the line of buses, hunting for the least full, a voice called out to me in French.
I stopped and replied back the same. The young bus driver asked me in broken English if I was America (obviously my hello in French didn’t sound authentic) and I informed him I was Australian. I couldn’t understand what he said next, but from my very short French lessons I picked up the word ‘belle’. Beautiful in French. Granted I was wearing oversize sunnies but when I offered him the 32 euro to board he wouldn’t accept, instead passed me a pair of headphones and directed me upstairs. I took the Paris ‘romance’ where I could get it and boarded without arguing.
It meant I couldn’t hop on and hop off without a ticket but this didn’t matter. As the cobbled streets rushed past I got to enjoy the Napoleonic splendour, belle époque brassieres, icons, romance from a vantage point I’d never considered otherwise. My inner photographer was patting me on the back and my feet were delighted they got two hours off.
Back at the Arc de Triomphe I exited with a merci and a knowing smile.
In the Marais Quarter I was greeted by a French acquaintance. We gossiped over crepes and drinks until I was lured into the only open boutiques in the city. As we walked down the Rue St-Antoine chanting and music drew our attention, and before we knew it we were at Place De La Bastille – heart of the political May Day protests.
It was like nothing I had seen before, people sitting upon the 52m green-bronze column, groups dancing around the bottom, pop-up vendors keeping protestors hydrated and fed. Then the marching parade started, each political group trying to outdo the other in noise and theatrics. My French friend provided translation and explained while the protest was calm now later they get a lot wilder. I was now glad I didn’t check those public holiday dates before jumping on the Eurostar.
We said our au revoirs and boarded different metros. And it was here I saw the true heart of Paris. Three French buskers singing and performing as if they were on stage instead of an evening metro. I caught the eye of the singer and smiled. He gave me a wink back.
Ah Paris, you really are a seductive one.