Street life in Paris

Posted on September 4, 2014 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments



This summer, a few overseas friends who visited both Paris and London told me that they enjoyed London much more than Paris. When I asked them the reasons, they said that the streets of Paris feel unsafe and chaotic, whereas London feels more vibrant and safer. I wasn't surprised by this as I have also noticed that Paris is not what it used to be anymore, hence, I have not had the urge to cross the Channel in the last two years. Interestingly, new figures also suggest that London has beaten Paris, to become the world's most popular city for tourists.

However, Paris is still one of most beautiful cities in the world and it is always inspirational, so it would hard for me to stay away from it for long. And since I know the city quite well, I try to stay away from touristy spots, so my experiences would most likely differ from my friends'. And somehow, as a Londoner, I feel the need to defend Paris because I think the city still has certain characteristics and charms that London lacks...

First of all, I think Paris is a more walkable city than London because it is much smaller and easier to navigate. I love walking in Paris because it is like a living museum. Aside from the beautiful historical architecture and inspiring shop window display, you can always find something intriguing on the streets including the following:

Art & dogs - Random art pieces (see above) and anything related to dogs...


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People - Parisians are actually not as unfriendly as people imagine, in fact, I have come across many friendly people. And for me, the best places for people watching are food markets and parks...




Architecture & landmarks - On the surface, historical buildings seem to dominate Paris' cityscape, yet new contemporary architecture is being added 'discreetly' in recent years. However, these new buildings are not as obvious and as imposing as the ones in London, you will need to seek out them out amongst the old (which I will write about in one of my next few entries)...


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Markets - I love food markets esp. in Paris where I can spend hours just wandering... I love the colours, smell, variety of food on offer and the interactions between shoppers and with the stall vendors...


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Graffiti and street art- In one of my old entries, I have mentioned about Paris' graffiti and street art scene, and like London, it is now part of the urban landscape. Nuisance or art, it's up to you to decide...


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Not only Paris has more elegant looking Vélib' bikes ( compare to Boris' more masculine bikes in London) with their bike sharing scheme, they also have Autolib', an electric car sharing service that was launched as a complement to Vélib' in 2011 ( a scheme which will also be introduced in London soon). With the wide boulevards, Paris streets are definitely safer to cycle than London, though what you need to be careful of is the mad and quick-tempered drivers!


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On a more serious note, both London and Paris have their issues of homelessness. While the British government has recently launched 'stricter' rules to combat the issue due to an increase of Eastern Europeans entering the country; the French Government has adopted a more tolerant attitude and so homelessness is becoming more problematic all over France.

It is hard to avoid begging gypsies with their young children in the centre of Paris, and even temporary street dwellings are on the rise. According to a memorial book compiled by campaign group "Les Morts de la Rue" (Dead in the Streets), a total of 453 homeless people died on the streets of France last year, and the numbers are likely to increase unless some drastic measures are put in place to tackle the problem.

This issue has even been highlighted in a multi-award winning short film directed by Bernard Tanguy. Je pourrais être votre grand-mère ( I could be your grandmother) is inspired by a true story of a young business lawyer, Joël Catherin, who helped and wrote hundreds of cardboard signs for the homeless people in his posh Paris neighbourhood. You can watch the short film below (though there is no English subtitles):


Je pourrais être votre grand-mère (2010), directed by Bernard Tanguy


To be continued...

This post was posted in Food & dining, Photography, Travel, Paris, Markets, Films & documentaries, Street art & graffiti, Social issues, Street life, Homelessness and was tagged with paris, Markets, graffiti/ street art, short films, cycling, street life, homelessness