Nicole in Paris

Nicole is a senior majoring in international studies and Spanish from The Woodlands. She’s spending Spring 2008 in Paris studying French and art, and is looking forward to experiencing France before she graduates.

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On Paris’ streets and below

Nicole-1.jpg My first weeks in Paris have been a little rough. The weather has been cold and rainy, and I find myself without the commodities from home.

The apartment where they have placed me does not have Internet, and I have not watched TV since my last day of classes. I have to walk a block to do my laundry, I have a tiny room that I try not to spend much time in, but nevertheless, I love Paris.

Because of the lack of entertainment in my house I resort to the streets of Paris for entertainment. I have already visited all the important monuments and museums, so now I’m trying to discover new places that the tourist fails to find.

The many smells of Paris
Once walking in the streets of the French capital, it doesn’t take long to realize that Paris is composed of many different smells … some pleasant and some not so much.

The first smell that you will walk into is the most pleasant of all – pastries. There is a pastry shop on every corner and sometimes two next to each other. They have fresh pastries at all times of the day varying from all kinds of eclairs to palmiers.

The next inviting smell is of fresh bread. We have a stereotypical view of the French smoking a cigarette and eating a baguette. Well, this stereotype is not far from reality … the second most abundant thing in Paris are bakery shops, and fresh bread is made at every hour. A baguette accompanies every meal of the day. Breakfast and dinner time are “baguette rush hour” – it is at these two times that lines form in the bakeries.

A third smell found in Paris is the smell of perfume. No doubt that French perfume is world-renowned, and the French let it be known. Everyone wears perfume, and most stores greet you with their own aroma.

Creperies are found all over the city, and so is the smell of crepes with nutella. There are fancy creperies where you sit down, but the most popular form of creperie is the famous stand or kiosk where you can get anything from a crepe with sugar to a crepe with cheese, egg, jam and tomatoes.

The cigarette smell is probably the most annoying of all. Although a law has recently been passed in France where people can no longer smoke in doors, the smoke and the smell can be found all over the streets. People crowd around the entrances of metros, schools, hospitals, stores and churches smoking. Cigarette butts cover the floors of the entrances of many establishments.

And the worst smell of all is the one inside many metro stations – to this I will dedicate a whole section.

The Metro
Metro rides are an adventure of their own. My day starts by waking up at 7:30 am so I can get to my 9:30 am class in time. The metro station is packed with students and people trying to get to work – running to catch the metro is part of every morning.

Once in the metro car, I find myself being pushed around by the people getting on and off. Although I was already prepared for the lack of personal space, I have made a few “metro realizations.”

Metro realizations made the first week in Paris:
1. There is nothing worse than being trapped in a can of sardines when someone passes gas.

A couple of days ago, I was running late for class so I rushed to get on the metro. As usual it was packed with bodies, and I became one with the masses. All of a sudden people begin to sniff and give each other bad looks. The looks then intensified to arguments of who was the inconsiderate person that would do such cruel and unusual punishment to fellow metro riders. Finally the event came to an end by the car being abandoned by everyone at the next station. Of course, the culprit was never found. I hope never to go through that experience again.

2. The metro stations are one big bathroom.

Because there are few public bathrooms, people (mainly guys) have decided to use the metro station walls as bathrooms. Aside from the homeless who sleep, eat, and relieve themselves in the metro, there are other people who have taken this liberty in adding an unpleasant odor to the metro halls.

3. This could be the most important yet … Avoid all eye contact when riding the metro. Looking directly into a stranger’s eyes is construed as a request for intimacy. Furthermore, you may not be looking directly into their eyes, but looking at anyone for more than a few seconds is considered a “pick up.” The solution? To look at the floor, read a book, play on phone, or look out the window.

4. Getting a Navigo Card is the most economical way to pay for the metro. With this card you can buy a month or a week of unlimited usage, far better than buying a ticket every time for an E 1.50.

Aside from all of these realizations, the metro is the best mode of transportation since it’s cheap, fast, easy and will take you anywhere in Paris.

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    One Response to On Paris’ streets and below

    1. Ali Moslemi says:

      it was very interesting!

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