Friday, August 18, 2006

Des vrais Parisiens...pour de vrai

About a year or two ago, there was an amusing article in the Paris publication Zurban entitled "One Hundred Ways To Know If You Are A Real Parisian". It's a well known fact that most "Parisians" were not actually born in Paris, but in the provinces. Kind of like many people who consider themselves New Yorkers who were born in Kalamazoo. Well anyway, some of the high points of the article included:

Number 23: You know that Paris is recognized worldwide as having the best museums in the world, but you haven't set foot in one since 1988. (This is eerily true, the last time Eddie went to the Louvre was when the glass pyramid opened up).

Number 58: You know the best places in the city to watch the sunset, that aren't packed with tourists such as Sacré Coeur and the Eiffel Tower (hmm, I'd like to get around figuring that one out)

and last but not least, the incredibly true number 76:

You know you are a real Parisian if you venture out of the metro to take the bus.

It's an odd phenomenon, but many people, when they first either visit or move to Paris, have a phobia of the bus. Myself included. I'd been living here for two years before I took a deep breath one afternoon and decided to attempt to get from the Jardin de Luxembourg to the Piscine Butte aux Cailles on the bus. And I was up at the front window, glancing every ten seconds at the map above the door to count how many stops I had left, ringing the bell miles before my stop, and then performing some judo moves on fellow passengers to be sure to get right in front of the exit so there was no chance the bus would shut its doors and carry me off to the banlieue. Just last week, having dinner with a newly expatriated American who moved to Paris a month ago, coming out of the restaurant at 11pm Eddie suggested he could avoid having a metro change by taking the bus, which was direct. NO WAY! the expatriate exclaimed. I'm not ready to use the bus yet.

It's true that riding the metro is considered by many visitors to be one of the most quintessential parts of Paris living, and that may explain in part the initial reluctance to hop on the bus. I know that was the case for me. Even if it's smelly and crowded and unbearably hot in the summer, coming from a city obsessed with car culture, the Paris metro was a brilliant marvel to me. I actually went out of my way to ride it, and my heart would flutter with joy whenever a performer would get on and begin a loud rendition of the accordion theme from Amelie and then come around afterwards to passer le chapeau, or dixie cup as was often the case. But then one day, I realized that to get to the Champs Elysees, I would have to take one metro south and then change and then another line west to get there, whereas I could hop on a bus and be there in about ten minutes without changing. And so, it has come to happen that I'm a converted Parisian bus user, that I seek out possible buses instead of the metro, especially if I'm in a new neighborhood so as to get my bearings.

I do suggest taking the bus. Some of those routes are really pretty and will take you past many historic sites. Line 72 will start you off at Hotel de Ville and will take you up the right bank along the river, past the Louvre and the Tuileries Gardens, through Concorde, then past the Pont Alexandre III and Trocadero with a great unobstructed view of the Eiffel Tower from across the river. And Line 27 will drive you through the Louvre courtyard at night, with the pyramid and museum all lit up and the Eiffel tower sparkling in the background. Now that is sight to behold, that never fails to impress even the most seasoned Parisiens...


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