Paris: Best seen with a French person from the back of a very fast motorbike

Our mode of transport around the city
Our mode of transport around the city

I don’t have that many friends.

I mean, I have 1,200 friends of Facebook and I would recognise almost all of them in the street, but on a day-to-day basis, I’m a socially lazy, uncool hermit.

I’ve always thought that if/when my wedding day comes, it’s going to be embarrassing how few people will RSVP yes.

But I count myself extremely lucky in that the small fistful of friends I do have are brilliant, and all very, very interesting. None of them know each other – in fact most of them wouldn’t even like one other if they did all turn up to my wedding.

One of these friends is Frog, and I just went to Paris with him for a party thing. Frog is French. He is both my only French friend, and also the most French person I have ever met. 

Paris, and some good light
Paris, and some good light
Buildings in Paris are generally very good-looking
Buildings in Paris are generally very good-looking

Frog sometimes wears a beret, is extremely serious about red wine, snarls at people, has no inner speech, boasts about Napoleon, has Very Strong Opinions about the battle of Waterloo and slags off the English a lot.

He is also rather famous (for reals), especially in France, so people stare at him a lot and whisper, and very often when the whopping bill comes, it’s *zero Euros and a wink* – because he is worshipped.

Frog pretends all this is annoying and unnecessary, but secretly I think he loves it. You know, like Napoleon.

Anyway, he’s also great fun, and just about the best person to be a Paris tour guide because of his Frenchness. I’ve been to Paris before when I was young, but not many times, and never with a local. 

The Eiffel Tower, which shines this massive spotlight over the city at nighttime
The Eiffel Tower, which shines this massive spotlight over the city at nighttime
It also illuminates, and briefly sparkles like a fire cracker once an hour, as seen from Cafe de l'Homme, a restaurant directly overlooking it
It also illuminates, and briefly sparkles like a fire cracker once an hour – as seen from Cafe de l’Homme, a restaurant directly overlooking it

We only had two days and I wanted to see everything, so Frog took me around on his motorbike.

This was a stroke of genius, because I really did see everything – whizzing and weaving in loops around the city – from the Opera House to the Moulin Rouge, and all the little secret local back streets in between.

We tanked through the tunnel where Princess Diana died (which felt profound and sad), and past the president’s house (seriously swish), and through Saint Germain, which is Frog’s favourite neighbourhood.

Then we got off and walked very quickly and grumpily through Montmartre, which is basically the Portobello market of Paris – beautiful, quaint, bohemian, but completely overrun with tourists. 

Monmatre, which is beautiful but overrun with tourists
Montmatre, which is beautiful but overrun with tourists
The view from the
The view from the Sacré Cœur

I can’t stand tourists. I know I am one. But I don’t walk slowly and stop in the middle of busy streets to take photos. So I count myself in a different category.

We only stomped through Montmartre to get to the Sacré Cœur, which is a very beautiful church. It smells like frankincense and has extraordinarily attractive stained glass windows. Cleary it’s also a bit of a terrorist hot spot, because before you go in, a security man makes you open your jacket.

“Why the fuck do they want to see what I’m wearing?” I asked Frog.

“They are making sure that what you are wearing is not a suicide vest,” he replied. 

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The Sacré Cœur, which is an aesthetically pleasing church

Then we went to the Notre Dame, which made it two churches in one day. Because I’m a raging atheist, I haven’t been to a church since I was a child, except for two weddings in America which don’t count because they were new churches, which feel more like conference centres.

I like the old ones in the same way I like cemeteries. You can sort of feel the history seeping through the walls and clinging to the air, and tapping you on the shoulder every time you turn a corner.

Being at the Notre Dame made me think a lot about Esmerelda and the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and what a great story that is.

There were lots and lots and lots of candles, and my grandmother loves lighting candles at church. She says she lights one for me every week.

The Notre Dame, also an aesthetically pleasing church
The Notre Dame, or ‘Our Lady’ – a cathedral of epic proportions
The stained glass windows inside
The towering innards and stained glass windows

I said to Frog: “I must tell my grandmother I lit a candle in her honour.”

Frog said to me: “But you didn’t.”

I said to Frog: “Oh that doesn’t matter. I’m not paying two euros to light a fucking candle. It’s the thought that counts.”

Frog said to me: “That’s TERRIBLE! You shall burn in hell.”

I said to frog: “Conveniently, I don’t believe in hell.” Etc. etc. etc…

Eventually, Frog made me light a candle. 

Lighting candles and saying prayers are popular past times here
Lighting candles and saying prayers are popular past times here
This extremely delightful model glimmered in the corner of the cathedral
This extremely delightful model glimmered in the corner of the cathedral

The next morning I woke up with a surprise cold, so spent my last morning in bed wrapped up in scarfs watching Friends while everyone else went out and about.

And then it was home, to my beloved animals and some shifts at MailOnline.

Next stop, back to Australia. 

Goodbye Paris
Goodbye Paris

One thought on “Paris: Best seen with a French person from the back of a very fast motorbike

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