Paris Local Custom Tips by tiabunna
Paris Local Customs: 781 reviews and 817 photos
Large tromp d'oeil painting on walls
I had read of ‘trompe l’oeil’ paintings, but had not seen more than a photo of a large example – until we chanced upon the one in the photo. We had gone to a bus stop in the Bde Magenta, near the Gare d’Est, but decided we had time for a coffee. As we sat, I noticed this magnificent example across the way. These paintings usually have optimum viewing positions and I think the representations of trucks in the foreground would probably look more convincing from a position at the curbside and slightly downhill from where we were, but the result still is very impressive.
These paintings must be a French specialty, because we later saw another excellent example in Quebec and were told the artists had been brought over from France. (It will be the subject for a future tip, when I finalise my Quebec page! :))
I have put this tip under the grouping "les dogs" because I suspect they provide much of the work for these street cleaners. I came upon them not far from my hotel.
Paris is a very large place with a great many people, many of whom are dog owners and dogs ... well, when you've gotta go you've just gotta go! Add to that the general detritus which is dropped randomly (cigarette tips for example, many French still smoke) and the cleanup needs to be constant. This seemed a rather impressive way of going about it: on my previous visit I'd photographed (unfortunately on video) a cleaner on a motorcycle with a back-mounted vacuum cleaner, circling around the pedestrian plaza near Abesses Metro, doing much the same thing.
Update My VT friend JLBG has advised me that the nickname for these cleaners is "Moto-crottes"
Optimistic parking manoeuvre!
Parking in Paris is more than just something you learn for your driving test, then forget because there are spacious carparks. In Paris, if you can’t reverse park your vehicle into a space not more than a smidgin longer than the vehicle itself, you just may have to drive around forever! Fortunately, everyone else has the same problems, so a spirit of cooperation often emerges.
These three photos, taken while we were dining at a bistro with another VTer, illustrate the point. The first photo shows a supreme optimist, trying to reverse into a space I’d have thought shorter than the car. The motorcycle owner comes along and, in the second photo anxiously assesses the possible outcome for his motorcycle. That cooperation I was mentioning comes to the fore, and in the third photo he has moved the motorcycle back to give more space.
As I said though, parking is where you can find it – and if your vehicle is small enough, it’s almost anywhere! The fourth photo shows a typical mixture of parking on the footpath, with bicycles, motorbikes, a Smart car, and even a quad motorcycle. Interesting to see the latter in road use, in Australia quad motorcycles are not street legal!
From time to time in Paris, you’re likely to encounter advertising signs that, in an Anglophone country, would bring down the roof on any company brave enough to use them. For example, this giant billboard at Galeries Lafayette, advertising swimsuits with the line (roughly translated) Summer will become hotter. I’m sure this would create a furore in Australia at least, as an example of sexism and exploitation: in the context of France, I doubt anyone thinks of it as more than an advertisement for swimsuits! What you make of it I’ll leave to you. To me, it seems this is an example of the relatively more relaxed French approach to some issues (e.g. my tip “the smells”) – though the French can become far from relaxed over issues of social justice, as shown by various revolutions and other civil disturbances!
Leafy corner of the 'Square of the Temple'
This was to be a “Things To Do” tip, but on further thought it’s very much also a “Local Custom” topic. Living in an (often cramped) apartment during the week, Parisians love to spend sunny weekend days in the park. Here they can soak up some sunshine, let the kids run and play, and enjoy the greenery. As you see them doing in these photos.
Why was I in this particular park? Convenience was a factor, it was near my hotel: apart from that, this was the site of the Temple of the Knights Templar, which held an important place in Parisian history. It appears the Temple may have been a similar fortress to the Conciergerie. After the Templars were despatched by the truly dreadful King ‘Phillip the Fair’, their building became a State prison. It again rose to fame when the French royal family were incarcerated there during the Revolution. Finally it was demolished on the orders of Napoleon in 1809 and Baron Haussmann created the “Square of the Temple” park (one of 25 such parks) in 1857. Somehow I doubt all that history is the slightest concern to the little boys running around in photo 2!
Musicians, Place des Vosges
At a very different point in the musical spectrum, this group of young musicians were playing to an appreciative audience in a somewhat run-down section of the arches surrounding the Place des Vosges.
I presume the group may well be from a music school and, from VT tips, it seems quite a few others have encountered different groups of classical musicians here. Check Vter Nemorino’s tip for a listing of reports . These musicians were playing one of Bach’s Brandenburg concertos – and doing an excellent job of it. You hear about matching wine to meals: this was matching music to locale, if ever there was!
Had I not been bent on covering as much touristic ground as possible, I would have been very tempted to stay and soak up the ambience. Whether they are there daily I do not know, but my visit was on a Sunday.
The lonely busking jazzman.
Paris has a range of buskers, in all manner of locations and with a wide range of talent.
The sounds of jazz music wafted out to meet me as I walked across the pedestrian-only Solferino bridge near the Musée d’Orsay. Under the Quai Francois Mitterand near the Tuileries Gardens, I found the source: a one man band. There was nobody else in sight, but he was determinedly blowing his trumpet, playing his accordion and hitting his drums long before I appeared. He was not bad, either.
I left a few coins in his hat, stopped to listen for a while then took my photo, receiving a smile in return. As I walked into the distance, he still was playing to a non-existent audience. I’d like to think the photo conveys the loneliness of this solitary busking jazzman.
As many have reported, the French approach to toilets is, um, different. Not before time, there now are free toilets in some streets, but finding a public toilet often is not easy (eg the Halles shopping complex, you may well have to go to a different level): then expect to pay! (In all fairness, the 'pay' toilets were generally well kept). I was suitably astounded at Gare Montparnasse to find the cost of the public toilets 'Pourquoi êtes vous ici: pipi? C’est 0.40€'. Bloody hell, getting rid of a drink costs more than having it! So it is hardly surprising that from time to time, your nostrils will be assailed by the stench of rancid urine as you walk past doorways, laneways or whatever. As I said, accept it, that’s how it is!
Mounted police in Tuileries Gardens
Although the museums are much of the attraction for tourists, Paris itself is no museum. It’s essential to remember that Paris is very much a living breathing and working city, with over 2 million in the central city and an estimated 10 million in the urban area: more if you count the surrounding districts. It is a tremendously cosmopolitan mix of different ethnic groups, religions, and social categories, all constantly interacting. With all those people and activity, sometimes Paris is untidy, sometimes it is grubby: as a visitor, just accept that’s how it is.
Not surprisingly in the current world, there is a substantial security presence - and I'd have to say that it was generally reassuring rather than intimidating. Near the Louvre and Tuileries Gardens, I saw police on horses and even on rollerskates (photos 1 and 2). Occasionally I saw convoys of police vehicles (photo 3) bound on missions unknown. Nearly always the sirens for police, ambulance or other emergency service vehicles echoed through the streets.
Hey, look up there!
Before going further, I need to mention that I come from a rural area of Australia where grafitti is uncommon, to say the least. That may explain why I never cease to be amazed by the grafitti in Paris - not the content or 'artistic quality', so much as the sheer inventiveness of the perpetrators in creating it in unlikely places. It's easy to imagine it appearing on a wall at ground level, but how does it come to be on the tops of buildings, where both access and a ladder would seem necessary? Or (see second photo) plastering it all over delivery vans, something I'd never before seen. VT goes worldwide, so if grafitti should be the same where you live, please just be tolerant and accept that this tip may merely show that I'm just a country boy!
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