The first time I heard the expression “C’est dûr, Paris” (it’s tough in Paris) was from a waiter in a brewpub in Richmond, BC. I was waiting on a kids birthday party at a trampoline park in the middle of nowhere so I wandered over to the nearest restaurant. The waiter had a Parisian accent of all things, and I mentioned that we were moving there in a few weeks. “C’est dûr, Paris” was his response. He’d tried it but couldn’t take it. But boy did he love Richmond, BC!
Eight months into our sabbatical here I do get where he is coming from. The sirens, the street cleaners, the bottle smashing, the Metro screeching, the stench of urine, the in dog crap and puke in the street--it is quite relentless.
Still, I feel a sense of euphoria every time I walk out the front doors of our apartment building and hear the familiar buzz of scooters, the church bells from St Augustin, a motorcade going by, or, if it’s around 3 o’clock, the old guy who wanders through the small streets in our neighbourhood playing a bugle. Now that wouldn’t happen in Richmond, B.C.
There is actually a same for people who get overwhelmed by the city: Paris Syndrome. Really. Tourists, particularly from Asia, get hospitalized for it all the time. Their Instagram filtered images of Paris just don’t match up with the harsh reality when they get here.
On Sunday, we took the Metro to an Art Deco outdoor pool in the 13th Arrondissement, known for its street art. Two very Parisian things happened to us. 1. There was a Police incident ahead of us on the Metro and everyone was told to get off and wait for an indeterminate amount of time (could be 20 minutes, could be two hours we were told). 2. When we finally arrived at the pool after a 2 k.m. walk in 31-degree heat, we were told the pool was closing in 15 minutes because the cleaners were going on strike. Yes, on the hottest day so far this year, the cleaners at one of the only outdoor pools in Paris would strike. “Damned socialists” I heard one of the Dads mutter not quite under his breath.
So, we filled our water bottles at some sort of public fountain that said it had the purest water in Paris from a basin 650 metres underground, and found a trolley to take us clear to the northern reach of Paris. We were headed to Aquaboulevard, the largest water theme park in Europe. The girls were beyond excited. Every other kid they know had been there before of course, probably while I was dragging them through the Musée D’Orsay. It was a bit of a trailer trash scene, but the girls loved the many waterslides and wave pool and Murray and I set up towels on the grass by the fake outdoor beach and relaxed. Truth be told, we were both very much in pain from having played soccer for an hour and a half on the parent-teacher team at Emmanuelle’s sport’s day on Friday. We took turns going into a jetted outdoor pool that furnished a mean back massage and we ate Disney freezies from the kiosk. “I feel like we’ve won some kind of all-inclusive vacation to a theme park in Orlando, Florida,” said Murray, basking in the sun. At the beginning of our trip I never would have allowed such a “waste” of a day in Paris, but frankly, it was just what we needed. Today, Paris was a little less “dûr.”