Cosmo-topia! Paris

Posted on September 24, 2011


With Cosmo-topia! 2011 almost over, I feel like it’s compulsory for me to write a review of Paris. I know – everyone’s been there, we’ve all seen the Eiffel Tower, tell me something I don’t know, blah blah blah. True dat, guys. I don’t think I really have anything new to say about the Notre Dame (or Noder Day-m, as Americans like to pronounce it). So instead, I’m going to try and pick out a few of the things it took me a little longer to learn (read: all of three weeks, which is how long I’ve been here). Et voila – you will be un vrai connoisseur!

The Smell

Ok, I lied. Everyone knows about the smell already. The smell is the first Parisian landmark you visit. It hangs above Paris like a blanket, seeping into the dark corners and hidden alleyways. This smell is why the French like cheese. It is why Chanel invented No. 5. It is why Parisians all look like they have something uncomfortable wedged up their noses.

A Parisian public toliet; clearly not the highest priority.

It’s that ever-present odour of… well: Urine. Urine Urine Urine. Urine with a capital U. They should hang signs on all the platforms at Gare du Nord saying “Welcome, Urine Paris!” And it’s not just cat pee, either. It is people pee. I guess that when you have a homeless population to rival that of Rent, it’s not such a surprise that you can smell the evidence. Not that it’s not sad, because it is. It’s just that my first thought usually isn’t “Oh Sarkozy, why can’t you do something about unemployment?” It’s “Omfg not AGAIN I thought we were in St Germain for chrissake.”


But if there’s one thing that makes up for the smell, it’s the babes. Ok, again, nothing new here. But what I don’t think people realise is just how true the stereotype really is. You know that moment at the start of every semester when you walk into your tute for the first time and do a quick scan of the room to isolate any beautiful men? And how three seconds later, you sit down, heart heavy with the knowledge that once again the only boy in your tute is Creepy Tim who once wrote a short story about cutting out someone’s tongue? Well. That moment is no more. I don’t know where to look these days in my classes. And by that I mean: I don’t know where to look first.

I’m not kidding. Firstly, the French have mastered the art of cheekbones. There are enough prominent cheekbones in this city to make ten Cheekbone Chandeliers at the Kutna Hora ossuary (Church in the Czech Republic decorated entirely in bones. Tangential… but relevant. Will never get image of spinal cord “streamer” decorations out of my head, ever again). Secondly, they all dress well, too. There are no tracksuit pants or bumblebee jumpers in Paris. There is nary a Melbourne Grammar Short in sight. Instead, boys here like to wear jeans, or even “slacks”, with shirts and boat shoes. Boys here occasionally cut their hair. And they all have self-rolled cigarettes dangling nonchalantly from their strong, manly fingertips… Heaven.

Alternative Exercise Options

In Paris, you can walk just about anywhere. This is partially due to the fact that unlike back home, I have all the time in the world here. And it is partially due to the fact that the metro gets so stiflingly hot that walking (very fast, Parisian-style) is, weirdly, the only way not to have to shower three times per day. But mostly, it’s because they don’t do urban sprawl the way we do it back home. (Or at least, they have sprawl, but as you can actually live in the central part of the city, there’s no real need to spend any time there.)

The steps up to the Sacre Coeur.

Paris has been amazing for its incidental exercise. I live on the 6th floor, and even though there’s a lift, I don’t always take it. The university campus over here is spread over several streets, so I walk between those as well. And there are stairs, like, everywhere. You can’t walk along the Seine without encountering at least 5 or 6 flights of stairs.

I could go one step further and embrace the trend that is seemingly taking Paris by storm: Rollerblading. Those Parisians, they sure love their ironic 70s Californian exercise “statements”. Whole families can be seen prome-blading (get it? Like promenade, but with… ugh.) Girls cutely squidge the hands of their petits-amis as they roll tandem. And all the while, they get toned. Hella toned…


… Which is necessary. Don’t believe the hype: French women can get fat – or at least, Australian girls living in Paris certainly can. I know that the French have pretensions to great cuisine, but so far, every meal I eat here is some variation on “Wine, Bread and Cheese”. Not that it’s not a great meal – it is. It covers the essentials of “fruit, protein and carbs” – or alternatively, my own preferred food groups of “salty, crunchy and alcoholic”. You can eat them at any time of day, in any combination. This mystical triangle works at home, or as a quick snack between classes, or as picnic fare. And its simplicity really sets you free – these are the primary colours of food. I am in awe of my own powers of experimentation. You can have Bread for breakfast, cheese for lunch and wine for dinner, if you want. Go ahead and try. It works.

The Lazy Paris Diet

Anyway, I have reached my YDE-approved word-limit of 800-1000. Bonsoir, mes chers lecteurs. But don’t despair. If you now long to be in the city of light avec moi, my advice to you is simply to bring the city of light to your very own home. Urinate on your front porch, bring a handsome boy over and have a wine and cheese party for two before rollerblading away into the sunset. That’s all it will take.