Left for Love

Parisians are cold, haughty and unhelpful. Oh, and did I mention intolerant of anyone who comes from outside Paris, let alone France? Everyone says it, so it must be true, right? On my short experience of the city, however, I couldn’t disagree more. Hauling an oversized bag, containing a year’s worth of clothes, shoes and paraphernalia, through the Paris métro should be an absolute nightmare. However, at every flight of stairs I reach (and there are many) I have offers of help. As I stare blankly at a map on the wall, trying to work out which line I have to take to get to my hotel, a busy-looking woman of about my own age stops dead and asks, with a smile, if I need help. A taxi driver, on getting stuck in traffic and finding out that I only have €10 on me, takes me as close as he can to the door anyway, despite the fact that it leaves him €3 or €4 out of pocket. Cold? No. Haughty? Far from it. Unhelpful? Couldn’t be further from the truth. Intolerant? Well, if laughing at my accidental use of Italian words and correcting them with a friendly grin is intolerant then yes – but I’d say, on the whole, that the myth of the Parisian personality is just that: a myth.

At Paris Nord, I drag my bag to the taxi rank rather than attempt yet another change of métro. It’s been a somewhat circuitous crossing of Paris. An hour or so earlier, as my sleeper train pulled into Bercy, I realised that nowhere had I written down the address of my hotel. Ah. I know it’s somewhere near Nord train station, as I’d booked it for that express reason, but further than that I’m a bit lost. Thank god for mobile internet, is all I can say. Striking train operators on the RER haven’t really helped my journey either, but I’m within distance now. Lugging my beast of a suitcase across the road to the taxi rank I smile at the first cab driver and attempt to speak French properly for the first time in about 10 years. Astonishingly, I manage not only to make myself understood, but also to flabbergast him when I reveal that I’m English. Ha! This probably has more to do with my inadvertent slips into Italian than my flawless French accent, but no matter. We chat away happily as he drives me to my hotel. In the first of many such conversations that I will encounter over the next couple of days, he expresses shock when I tell him I’m here alone. Really? No boyfriend or husband? But Paris is the city of lovers! It’s almost sacrilegious to admit to being single in this city. He decides, with a wink, that I will find someone here. I laugh and concede. Perhaps …

I can’t say that I’m looking for a lover, but Paris is going to do its damnedest to find one for me regardless. A man walks past me the following day as I wander along the Left Bank in the sunshine. I see dark hair and long limbs, and smell delicious Armani aftershave. Usually that would be the end of it, but this is Paris, where every woman gets to be in her very own Impulse ad at least once in her life. As he passes he glances at me, then stops and asks for directions with a lazy smile. I shrug and tell him I don’t know Paris. No matter – it was, of course, only a pretext. I don’t think I’ve ever been chatted up quite so deftly in my life. Once again, there is shock and amazement that I could even *think* about coming to this city on my own. He falls into step with me as I walk towards Notre Dame, which is where I’d been planning to go. Are you from Paris? No? You’re English?  But it’s impossible! An Englishwoman who speaks French? It can’t be true! 20 minutes later, Notre Dame is far behind us, we’ve crossed the Seine, and we’re back in Le Marais.  Catching me by the arm, he takes off his sunglasses and gives me a dazzling smile. I love Englishwomen, you know … I start to giggle and he grins disarmingly. I must see your eyes! Take off your sunglasses! I obey, laughing, and he mock-swoons. Come for a drink! You can’t possibly leave me now! Regretfully, however, that’s exactly what I have to do. He tells me, with a cheeky wink, that whenever I come back to Paris I must call him up. Just dial 0033 Gorgeous Parisian, OK? He kisses me on both cheeks, murmuring sweet nothings all the while, and I head back to my hotel, giggling like a schoolgirl. I may not have seen Notre Dame, but I’ve been romanced by a Frenchman on the Left Bank of the Seine. I’d say that’s worth missing gargoyles and pigeons for any day of the week.

Images by Kate Bailward and *RICCIO

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About Kate Bailward

Kate Bailward is a cat-loving, trifle-hating, maniac driver. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+
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11 Responses to Left for Love

  1. Well you have really cheered me up about the station change I’ve been worried about when we next go home.

    Have to say that I think my ten year old appendage and rather haggard appearance (see ten year old appendage) will make any personal Impulse! ad experience vanishingly rare though LOL.
    Sarah in deepest, darkest Lomellina´s last post ..We have EXAM RESULTS !!!!!!

  2. Katja says:

    You’ll be fine, Sarah. The worst bit is getting out of Bercy and into the underground, because they’re not directly linked, but it’s only a short walk from the trains to the metro and if you roll your suitcases down the handy ramp rather than (as idiot moi did) trying to lug them down the stairs it makes life a lot easier …

    If the worst comes to the worst, hide behind a pillar and tell Son of Thor to look lost and pitiful. It can’t fail.

  3. Carrie says:

    I love it! I’ve had similar experiences, although perhaps not quite so many in such a short amount of time! I, too, argue against the steroetypes when the conversation arises.

    I’m glad everything went smoothly…and that Paris was hospitable to say the least!
    Carrie´s last post ..Ch ch ch changes

  4. Pete says:

    I must say it sounds like these French chaps are rather smooth. This said, I liked your description in the first sentences, it sounds so wonderfully condescending and snooty; the kind of place it would be worth living, if you were one of them! ;-)

    I also love the design of the metro, the signs and what not are quite wonderful. I look at the Paris Metro – wonderful art deco signs, the New York Metro – stylish helvetica, then I look at the Tyne and Wear Metro and a little bit of my aesthetic soul dies.
    Pete´s last post ..The Napoleon of Notting Hill…

  5. Katja says:

    The métro itself is nothing like as beautiful as its signage, unfortunately. The Tube seems positively spacious and pristine in comparison. Speaking of the New York subway (as you did), the Paris métro reminded me of it in some ways. Or, rather, what I’ve seen of it in films – I’ve never actually seen it in the flesh. It has that retro graffitied look to it which the London Underground has in the main got rid of in recent years.

  6. Pete says:

    Oh, you see – I still had in mind those vintage carriages with the wooden exteriors! It’s a long time since I travelled the Underground last but it seems very modern and clean looking in pictures now.
    Pete´s last post ..The Napoleon of Notting Hill…

  7. Elora says:

    hahaha! How romantic! It’s a shame you didn’t get his number (the real one that is!) you never know, in a few years you could be teaching English in Paris! :)
    Elora´s last post ..Simple

  8. LindyLouMac says:

    I thought it was the Italians who were supposed to be such flirts!!
    LindyLouMac´s last post ..Notte di San Lorenzo

  9. Jana says:

    moments like this just fill you with so much energy and good mood that you can turn around the world:)))
    very glad for u…and Paris is an incredible city, so lovely things happen to lovely people:)

  10. Katja says:

    Jana, thanks for dropping by and commenting. It’s always great to see new faces. :)

  11. Pingback: Bon Appétit? – Driving Like a Maniac

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