I’m in Paris for the first time. I arrived Friday evening and went to stay with Juliette and Jean-Marc in their very small flat near the Place de la Nation. Both of them are students and are working hard on their exams just now, so I got all of Saturday to myself to wander around Paris and get a feel of the city of cities.
The centre of Paris isn’t really like other cities. It’s more like a monument to France. With the boulevards, the museums, the palaces and the actual monuments there is little real people life seeping through. It’s very grand, but it’s not a living urban space. It’s more of a petrified memory of the Imperial past of France. And not just that but it is also a monument to the “greatness of western culture” – of which the French like to perceive themselves as the originators.
I talked with Juliette about it, and she agreed, but she pointed out that this image of Paris is internationally known and branded – it is not the sort of thing that you can change even if you would want to.
As you can see on the picture, I finally got to see the Eiffel Tower, the symbolic power of which I wrote an essay about. The Eiffel Tower is naturally connected to this international image of Paris as a cultural centre.
The real Paris is instead seeping out in the suburbs and in the less visited neighbourhoods of central Paris, in the metro and the back alleys. Paris is known for its many immigrants from the former French colonies but when taking public transportation in Paris, I was still impressed with the cultural mix of people. I find that that is a much better indicator of the life of city.