After returning from Normandy, I made a solemn promise never to take Paris for granted again.
And so, despite my hatred of tourism, I decided to roam around the capital to get to know it a little better. Kim recommended L’As Du Falafel in La Marais, as it was apparently a Parisian lunch institution. On the way I made a lengthy detour past The Louvre just so I could claim I’d been.
If you never been, sure, go. But I once went when I was a teenager. Even if you are an art enthusiast, the Louvre will beat this out of you. It is vast, and filled. Even if you set aside two or three days to wander its corridors, you still wouldn’t see everything. Personally, my interest in things tends to dwindle after about 20 minutes, and I’m sure I’m not the first, nor will I be the last to point out the Mona Lisa is really small and thoroughly underwhelming.
At the falafel place I picked up a shwarma and made my way back to the river to have a sit down. I looked left and right along the walkway, and up the stairs from where I had just came. There was virtually no one to be seen. Just as I began to take my first bite, an irate French woman magically materialised out of nowhere and came scurrying and yammering at me, like a yapping she dog.
Apparently I was sitting on a Pétanque piste, where precisely no Pétanque was taking place. Many questions flashed through my mind, but why I couldn’t eat my lunch in peace was top of the list. My next question was whether Paris had it’s own Pétanque Police Division, and which rank she held in the department. I assumed a low one, as working with her was clearly a nightmare, and I’d imagine her aggression would alienate her superiors, souring her chances of promotion.
Before I had the opportunity to punch her in the throat rendering her silent, she informed me that it was to prevent littering and destruction of the course. To clarify, a Pétanque piste is literally a gravel rectangle. It’s pretty hard to destroy gravel any further. Also, her main concern should have been less about the litter I had no intention of leaving, and more about her dead body that I could have easily weighed down by placing Pétanque gravel in her pockets before throwing her in the Seine.
It is incredible. No matter where you go, which country or city you are in, there is something that universally unites all humanity – we’re all stuck having needless arguments with pointless arseholes at some point in our lives.
I finished my shwarma, pissed on the Pétanque piste, and decided to walk up to Montmarte.
I very much enjoyed the walk. It was peaceful virtually the whole way up from the river, and I found a quiet cafe where coffee was reasonably priced. I sat down, ordered a flat white and lit up a cigarette.
Smoking is terrible, and horrible for your health. But there is something so perfect about smoking with a coffee, sitting in a street cafe and watching the world go by. I had finally given in to my vanity as a poser and it was a small slice of heaven on earth. Still wished I had murdered that woman who had disturbed my quiet lunch though, but you can’t have everything.
I finished my coffee, paid and left. The closer I got to Montmartre, for the second time on my trip, I remembered what tourism was, and why I detested it. As I walked past the metro stop at the bottom of the stairs up to Sacré Coeur, the crowds thickened and the prevalence of dicks selling bullshit increased. I have never bought the tat they have nor have I ever seen anyone else buy it either, so how exactly they make money I have no idea, but nevertheless, there they are trying to sell cheap tack to idiots.
Attempting to walk to the top of the hill, I got caught behind the slowest moving group of school children in Paris, apparently out on day release, and with sweat pissing off me, I decided to change my route before this turned into a law suit. Even by selecting a longer and more winding staircase, I got caught behind yet more meandering fire hazards.
After eventually struggling to the top I pushed amongst the other tourists to get against the rail and capture the view across Paris. I’m not sure the ends justified the means.
I sat down on the stairs to the basilica and lit another cigarette in exasperated disappointment.
And that’s when the most ethereal and joyous singing began to emanate from the chapel behind me. It seemed to hush the throng of the great unwashed all around me, and as the crowd calmed and silenced, I felt my soul begin to lift.
That’s how they get you. The god botherers. They cheat by using some of the most captivating music ever written, expressly designed to sound like a choir of angels. While still managing to keep my atheistic beliefs strongly intact, I sat quietly, allowing the moment to wash over me and let the music do its work.
The choir finished and I wandered down a quiet set of leafy stairs back to the subway station, actually realising the trip had been worth it.
The next day I was going to visit my pal Mathias to make cocktails in his bar.