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Many people don’t want to look like tourists. There are even tee shirts exclaiming they’re not—which seems to defeat their purpose. This week I discovered what fun it is to be one, especially in Paris.
BonjourParis readers are generally a pretty sophisticated group—most have been to Paris more than once. Many take special museum and walking tours, attend a multitude of cultural events, go to special exhibits and hang out in some of Paris’s incredible gardens.
We won’t even discuss how many of them eat out and frequent the city’s open markets. Based on the number of questions asking where they can buy comfortable shoes, we know our readers are walkers. And then there are the shoppers, most especially during les soldes, the twice-yearly sales, and les promotions, of which there are many.
But, this past week I broke with my usual habit of taking a bus or a subway to go to a meeting and racing back to my computer. I didn’t even take a taxi where I can insist that the driver speak to me in French, a habit developed after finding most of my French friends speaking to me only in English. Instead, I bought a ticket for a double-decker tour bus. All of the passengers looked as if they were having fun—so what’s wrong with being a tourist?
Frequently, tourists know more about a city than its residents, because people who live somewhere tend to have specific routines and can always do and see something another day. And if you live in Paris, except for work, comings and goings are usually confined to your quartier. Paris is a city of small villages and some people can be lazy.
Few residents climb on a tour bus that doesn’t take the straightest route from here to there. I swore off gazing at the Eiffel Tower (constructed for the 1889 World’s Fair as a temporary structure) with houseguests at midnight. After the thirteenth nocturnal visit, all I wanted to do was be home in my bed and not a third wheel while friends went out, ooh la la. And in those days, the Tower’s lights didn’t twinkle at the top of each hour. I could see the iron structure, the tallest in Paris, from so many vantage points I figured I didn’t need to stand at the base and get a crick in my neck staring up at it. Pas moi, merci.
But on this lovely day the bus was a treat. Being on the top of a bus with nothing overhead enables you to look into windows you wouldn’t normally see into and gives you an entirely different perspective—sort of the peeping Tom’s vantage point.
The world isn’t flat, and people of all shapes, sizes and colors flock to Paris. Each person on the bus was handed a set of earphones. In the old days, tour guides barked away at you in something that could have been English or German or Italian. These days, count on Chinese and Japanese—or anything else you want. The recorded guides are available in every language you’d like, well almost.
No matter how many times you’ve been to Paris, it’s hard not to have your breath taken away when you approach Invalides, Place de la Concorde, Madeleine and, sure enough, the Eiffel Tower.
There’s no question that I’m going to buy two-day passes when my family next comes to Paris. Then we’ll have time to stop, wander and reboard after we’ve explored certain places (and, naturally, stopped for ice cream). There are new buses every 20 minutes and—who knows?—we may stop and get cricks in our necks staring up at the Eiffel Tower.
PHOTO CREDITS: Market breads ©volantwish; Paris bus ©Chris Willis; Eiffel Tower ©Francisco Rojas
© Paris New Media, LLC
Karen Fawcett is the publisher of BonjourParis. Please click on her name to read more about her and the hundreds of stories she has published here.
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