Travel

I went to Paris, the Mona Lisa is a pile of wank and a homeless man tried to piss on me

I went to Paris, the city of love, romance and all things cultural. Maybe my stop here would be the start of an everlasting bohemian romance, or at the very least I’d get a one night stand with a drunken backpacker from Oz who’d let me share a dorm for the night. Instead all I found was a shit painting of a woman in an oversized glass prism and an angry mob of vigilante security guards calling themselves the railway police and refusing to let me sleep in their station at night. The cheese was good though.

Four days after leaving the safety of the white cliffs behind, I’d made it to Paris, sleeping rough and walking down motorways hitchin’ lifts and hoping not to get bummed or arrested (I imagine one could have led to the other).

Now I could live out every tourist’s dream, I could throw fifty cent pieces at homeless Algerian immigrants and pretend I was a charitable voyeur before drinking coffee and wine on the banks of the Seine and acting like I was Hemingway. Hell, maybe I could even write a novel.

First up me and my travel buddy hit the most famous of Parisian landmarks, that glass thing…you know the one.

No, that’s not Le Louvre, that’s a man in a rabbit costume outside Le Louvre.

In what was clearly some bizarre French equivalent of stagging, this poor chap was forced into a bunny costume by his ‘mates’ and made to dance on this concrete brick while passers by jeered at him as he read a list of ‘crimes’ or something in a rabbit voice from a piece of paper he was handed. I felt sorry for the guy and the whole ordeal was confusing for me but things were to turn decidedly uglier inside Le Louvre.

My travel buddy goes to Trent so I thought I’d be nice and let him have his picture taken while he made stupid poses with a shitty hat on his head. Just to keep him amused while I analysed all the historical shit. He just didn’t get how hard it was being so pretentious and making out like I always enjoyed all this fantastic culture all the time. Novels don’t write themselves. Orwell didn’t write Down and Out by taking stupid pictures of himself did he? No. No he didn’t.

I soon cracked though, maybe the heat was getting to me….Thumbs up, cos we’re so fucking cool we hitch hiked here.

Inside the pyramid shit got real. Security manhandled me and I refused to answer their questions. Mostly because I couldn’t understand what they were saying. Eventually they went into my bag, pulled out a pen knife and told me to get it later. I guess they were demanding to know why I was bringing a weapon to a place of cultural and historical importance. How would I defend myself from hordes of Japanese tourists now?

Surrounded by so much historic artwork I tried to be creative and use my photographic talents to take a shot of my friend looking like he was licking the nipple of his new found armless Parisian lover, Venus. As you can see I fucked it up. This is why Le Louvre aren’t currently displaying any of my work.

There were far too many people swarming the corridors and it was well past midday and time for a beer. But first there was the small matter of the ‘Mona Lisa’.

Luckily there was a much more impressive painting across the hall and no one clamouring to photograph it! It was bloody massive too, the kind of humongous art piece I expected to be displayed in an outrageously oversized glass pyramid. This, my friends, was art, but for some reason, everyone else was obsessed with the A4 sized paint by numbers of a woman’s head.

We made our escape, confused as to what constituted great art work, but knowing that we’d definitely seen something.

These guys knew what people REALLY wanted. Unfortunately for them we already had enough stupid hats.

Paris was actually quite picturesque. Maybe my French love was waiting for me across the Seine….and hopefully she’d speak fluent English…

But it wasn’t to be, storm clouds were gathering above the city and after spending the last of our day’s budget on camembert and CarreFour bierres we couldn’t afford the entrance fee for that massive steel tower in the picture below. How we would we take lonely longing pictures of ourselves crying above the city of romance now?

After a veritable continental feast of cheese and beer to rouse our spirits for the night ahead we began the long trudge to Le Gare du Nord, which I think probably translates into English as The Station to the North. We were going south actually but trains were too conventional for us. We just hoped it wouldn’t close; turns out even hostels are bloody expensive in the height of summer.

By now all hope of romance was dying fast, who could I woo to take home to the luxury of Le Gare du Nord? Most of the homeless were already there, and most of them were men…

I drifted off to the strangely comforting, melodic tones of the French rail announcer but woke in the grip of fear as a bearded railway policeman half heartedly restrained his German Shepherd from ripping my jugular out while he kicked awake the rest of the bums and broke travellers around us. Turned out ‘Le Gare est ferme’ after all, as we were ever so impolitely informed.

I imagine this is how I looked at this point in my life:

Luckily some drunk French Students were on hand to cheer us up outside and we conversed away in broken French and English. One of them forgot what language he spoke and couldn’t figure out why he couldn’t speak English correctly anymore. You meet the real Parisian heroes at 4am. Then all hell broke loose as the railway police chased down a drunken vagrant kicking off in the street and the idyllic multi cultural exchange ended as we all parted ways in the face of overwhelming threats of a violent beating.

The next morning we hitched south to Auxerre. Paris is truly the city dreams are made of.

Oh and a homeless man tried to piss on me in the night.

Richard Collett

Photo courtesy of Antony Bridle

 

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2 Comments on this post.
  • James
    12 January 2013 at 12:47
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    Spot on!

  • A.
    23 January 2013 at 00:29
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    My experience in Paris was the complete opposite. A true shame that you had to convey your experience using words like “shit/wank” in this article!

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