“The City of Love”. I want to vomit.
In my pre-arrival state of mind, Paris is possibly the most hyped up city in all of Europe. I’ve heard the Eiffel Tower is ridiculously overrated (5 hour queues for a not-very-high view) and I’m fully prepared for shopping malls and hot dog stands where there should be beret’d artists and quaffed poodles.
Our first night, surrounded by the cozy smell of crepes, we round a corner of Trocadero Square and the Eiffel Tower smacks me in the face. A whoozy feeling shoots through my lungs, around my heart and down to my feet. Bright, white lights dance from the top of the tower, high-fiving and cartwheeling down to the bottom before racing up to do it all again. Fountains reflecting the lights become shooting stars as the curved edges slide down to a frame of topiary trees, statues and manicured gardens spread around the base. I am enraptured. It’s simultaneously magnificent and intimate; a mesmerising monument I want to pick up and put in my back pocket.
This first glimpse just so happened to be during the 10 minutes of every hour when additional lights are turned on. We met a friend underneath it the next day and I can’t express how grateful I am that my first sight of the Eiffel was with those lights. It’s just not the same in the daytime. We order a chocolate and banana crepe and settle on the edge of a monument for a longer look. It’s basically a giant Christmas tree. You can just sit and stare and stare and stare. Then, after glancing at the moon strung in the sky next to it like from a baby’s mobile, stare some more. I’m addicted. My plan the next night, if I can’t find Kendyl and friends at the club we’re supposed to meet at, is to go back there and lie upside down on my sarong, contentedly mesmerised for a few hours.
Eiffel Tower. Not overrated.
I do find Kendyl the next night though and we are treated to an early morning scooter ride through Paris by new friends Thomas and Charles. I tie a scarf around my neck so it can ride the wind with my hair as we speed past the Notre Dame, the Louvre, under the Tower (lights off), down the Champs de Elysees, through the Princess Di tunnel (goosebumps), along the River Seine and up onto the pavement outside Charles’ apartment. The four of us sip Rose on a balcony overlooking Paris’ rooftops. We are presided over by the moon which, though competing for attention last night at the Eiffel, is tonight the pis-de-resistance of our little tableu.
It was disconcerting then when, on our last night in Paris, the first act of the Moulin Rouge show “Feree” resembled a drunk rehearsal of an impromptu choreography session from a year 12 common room. I swear I saw one of the girls miss a beat (again) and turn to one of the other girls for a giggle about it. But what it lacks in performance finesse and originality, it makes up for in half naked bodies and costumes. I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence but it’s true. Furry, red apples explode into spider tendrils to swish across brazilian bikini-d backsides. An amazon woman wrestles in a giant see-through pool with what my limited understanding of the animal kingdom tells me are phythons. A man plays the drums by blowing ping-pongs from his mouth. Half naked heeled women dressed as pirates, sailors, lions and their tamer, butterflies, dominatrixes and (sadly) clowns all parade the stage, lip syncing to French love songs until finally… the CanCan!
Now, I’ve watched Baz Lurhmann’s Moulin Rouge enough times to recite it backwards. And it is my professional opinion that Cancan dancers are better fat. After all the naked girating of the past few minutes, skinny girls lifting their skirts just wasn’t the cultural experience I was expecting it to be. And ladies, you’ll be pleased to know that not even a professional Moulin Rouge dancer can get up off all fours in a heeled lion costume without looking a little like a drunk giraffe. Just saying.
Moulin Rouge. Only a little overrated.
Overall though Paris is, quite simply, beautiful. Even in Rome and Greece, ‘old’ has an underlying current of tired and dirty about it. Not in Paris. Every building is fresh, balconies lining the streets above trees and postcard worthy bars. Every corner boasts a lamppost, a garden, a statue…
“The City of Love”. I want to come back with a lover…