When I stood in the plaza in front of the Pyramid at the Louvre, I was amazed by the scale and delicacy of the surrounding royal palace. I’m sure the U shaped plaza has heard praises in all languages ever since it was converted from royal residence building to national museum. The sun fell on the Baroque statue of the Sun King Louis XVI that day, and it was a perfect composition of meaningful picture!
However, after examining all the pictures I took, I admitted to myself that it was one of those typical photos of Paris by a tourist, and the picture on my laptop screen no longer communicates the awe I felt at that moment. For students like me, staying in Paris for only one semester, I want to have cameras with me every time I’m out in the streets, like those on their honey mood. But later on, when I try to upload pictures to show to my friends, I realized that I took pictures of some but not the other. In Paris, the some usually means magnificent cathedrals, tranquil Seine, the Eiffel Tower from all possible angels, the Arc de Triomphe, elaborate decors of the Royal Palace, the Pyramid at Le Louvre, graffiti down at the metro stations, panoramic view of Paris from highland, this is especially true in the photos of the first few days of those encountering Paris for the first time, like me. I doubt if there were everyday records of the number of tourists in Paris, it would exceed the number of people in any single occupation. In that account, the touristic pictures of Paris I took is part of the routine of almost every tourist in Paris who wants be amazed or surprised, take photos and have memories. Back to the Plaza of Louvre and the army of tourists, it is also interesting to think that being among them, I might be in the pictures of thousands of other tourists. Part of me as a tourist seem to be walled in the touristic mood every time I see a monument, but when I come to my sobriety, I always ask myself what is Paris in its entirety, simply put, what is the everyday, mundane Paris?
In the past few weeks, I did have some observations of the Paris that I did not take pictures of. Why are these observations important to me? If some decades ago, travelers found them shocked by differences in foreign societies, I often find myself confused about how things are getting similar in many ways in cities around the world. It spares you from homesick sometimes when you walk into a store and find the same Neutrogena and Starbucks in U.S., China, and France, but it takes efforts to escape the similarity in the everyday commercial life to find out how people there live a different life than you.
People love to read when commuting in the metro. They read wildly about everything, from free metro magazines to Montesquieu. There are bookstores on almost every street in Paris and they seem to be in good shape in the time when Barnes & Noble were closed in Chicago and some bookstores in China have started to sell clothes to make profit. People do window shopping for shoes and clothes as well as for books and magazines here.
The poor people sleep in the brick bench down the metro stations or the telephone booths on the road at night. Some of them carry pets and some others play musical instruments. Most of them are
Art in the metro and tunnel
A street artist plays J.S Bach’s Prelude Cello Suite No.1 in the metro tunnel outside the Louvre every time I go there, and a men choir is often seen in the metro tunnel for line 1. Also I find the majority of posters and advertisements down the metro stations are about films, performances, concerts and expositions
Family on the street
I saw many toddles with one parent or grandparent walking in the street in business hours when parents are supposed to be at work. France have parental leave for both women and men, they seem to spend more time with their children.
Lots of toilets in Paris have choices for flush: three droplets sign and one droplet sign for different amount of water. Moreover, people do grocery shopping usually bring their own shopping bags, and sometimes you need to pay for the plastic bags they offer you if you don’t have your own. However, all the garbage cans in the streets are plastic bags attached to iron hoops and post. They were changed to this simple form after threats of terrorist bomb were found in the garbage can sometimes ago.
I try to picture Paris as the city I’m now living in and not just visiting, so all my other stories about school, friends and family have a proper backdrop.