Thursday, January 29, 2015

The real "No Go" zones...

We had to smile.  The Local posted an article about places Parisians really avoid.  The article was in response to Fox "News" story about supposed "No-Go" areas of Paris that are (in some weird American fantasy) completely given over to Muslim terrorists or terraces (choose one).

Satyr and Nymph

The real Paris "No-Go" areas (according to the Local) include -
  • Arc de Triomphe
  • Eiffel Tower on Saturday afternoons
  • Cafe terraces
  • The Metro
  • Gare du Nord after dark
  • Public toilets
  • Forum des Halles
  • Champs Elysees nightclubs
  • Les Grands Magasins over the winter holidays
  • Bois du Boulogne after dark
While not a bad list, as far as lists typically go, I'm not entirely in agreement with their findings.  Here's why -

My brother and father had come over for a visit and we were on a double-decker tour bus.  We like to do this with guests as it gives them a nice overview of the city.  As we made our way up to the traffic circle at the Arc de Triomphe we watched a man walk up the very middle of the street.  He was a One Man Manifestation.  I'm not sure what issues he was protesting, but he held papers high in the air as he marched up the Champs.  He marched straight up the road and across the heavily trafficked circle.  Cars, busses, motorcycles and delivery trucks all stopped for him.  It was like witnessing a Parting of the Waters.  Once he reached the Eternal Flame he turned to face the Champs Elysee and shouted his grievances.  There was a Second Parting of the Waters as he marched back in our direction.  It was then that the police gently levered him to the ground and gently detained him.  He was completely naked.

Assyrian Treasures

OK.  So we were playing tourists and maybe normal Parisians never go there.  To the Arc, that is.  Nakedness is always optional in these parts.  Yet, where would we have witnessed a One Naked Man Manifestation had we observed the Local's "No-Go" zone rules?

I agree with the comment about the Eiffel Tower.  It's madness.  But... friends of ours were over on vacation and stayed near the tower.  On the 14th of July they joined a Mass Migration of Party-Goers.  Everyone headed for l'herbe (lawn) that runs from the tower down to l'ecole Militaire.  Our friends told us that a huge crowd of people sat peacefully as fireworks lit the Paris night sky.  They couldn't believe how so many people going to such a large event could be so well behaved.  It was one of the highlights of their trip.

I'm not sure how to apply the Local's "No-Go" zone rules to the Eiffel Tower.  Perhaps an astrologer could clear things up for us and let us know what would be the best time to avoid the place?

Cafe terraces.  Um.  Yes.  Except for... [bringing out a rather complex algorithm for calculating what's a "good" terrace and what's a "radicalized" terrace] ... er... it's too mind boggling.  Yes.  Some places should be avoided because of the massive-throngs-of-arrogant-gawking-loud-mouthed-tourists.  Other places can be just wonderful for spending a warm lazy sunny summer afternoon over a few beers.  Choosing Wisely can lead to one of those Magic Paris Experiences.  Such as on the night I ate dinner, talked to a rare book-buyer from the University of Chicago and his mistress, and watched the martins whirl and twirl high up in the twilight-lit sky.


The metro.  No.  I don't agree.  The smell of urine is part of the Paris Experience.  It simply has to be tolerated.  There's no avoiding it.  Besides, the city of Paris has cleaned things up a bit since the aristocracy dumped their sewage into open troughs down in the Marais where they lived before heading out west to follow the Sun [King] to Versailles.  Nothing could be as bad as that Marais smell, could it?  Well, except for the carnal grounds of the old cemetery of the innocents.  But that's another long story.  So suck it up and dive into the Metro like the rest of us do.

Dum-de-dum-dum... ah!  Public toilets.  Now there's a fine subject and one that I'm well versed in.  You see, I'm like a Big Old Dog.  I like to leave my mark everywhere I go.  Actually, I have little choice in the matter.  My bladder feels older than I am and it needs regular voiding.  So, I make normal use of the Public Facilities.  In fact, I hold a Mental Map of all the Public Pissoirs of Paris.  I'll agree that they're at times Horrid Hovels of Hell.  But... what was I just saying about the Old Marais and the filthy aristocracy?  Things have improved just a bit.  When you Have to Go, well, you Have to Go.

Scenes from the Louvre

Oh!  Which reminds me.  If you're a Connoisseur of Fine Urinals, head north to la bassine de la villette.  There sits one of the Finest Examples of Human Ingenuity.  It's a multi-stall (Multi-Stall!!! - no waiting - take your choice) urinal that stands proudly next to la bassine.  Its al fresco experience must not be missed (by men, at least)... and before I forget, for yet another Wonderful Al Fresco Experience, do try the urinals next to les bulles pits in les jardins de Luxemburg.  Smelly?  Yes.  But please do try and remember how the aristocrats lived before the city cleaned up the Marais, OK?

Forum des Halles... agreed.  Vile place.  Stay away.  Nothing to see there.  Move along, please... to hear the  tout les demanches 17h30 organ concert in Saint Eustache.  Now there's a Grand Experience and one worth passing through the Belly of Paris for.

Champs Elysees nightclubs... um... we have no experience.  Can't comment, really.

Les Grands Magasins over the winter holidays... er... well... actually... it's not all that bad.  If you don't mind feeling like you're being pushed into a train in Tokyo, that is.  Other than that, the lights can be all twinkly and pretty.  If you've had a little to drink or if you're very easily entertained it can be a nice experience.

The Bois du Boulogne after dark.  Huh.  We have no idea.  We hear stories about the gypsies driving vans into the Bois and setting up business.  What business? you might ask.  From what we gather it has to do with men and women and the aforementioned vans.  And we're not inclined to ask for further clarification.

There you have it.  Our response to the "real" Paris non-Fox-Snooze-approved "No-Go" zones.

Scenes from the Louvre


  1. Great article, Chris! I enjoyed that quite a bit. I agree with you on many points, though I haven't experienced some of the things that you mention. I enjoyed just standing around near the Arc de Triomphe to be amused by the traffic. Even drove through the circle once or twice. The metro is great for getting around the city. I didn't have any problem using it alone late at night when I lived there in '98. Paris is definitely to be experienced in many ways. Just keep an eye on your purse/wallet. There are pickpockets, as in any large city.

    1. Thank you, Debi.

      If a person pays just a little attention to the pickpockets they can be easily avoided. They're a nuisance, that's for certain. Fortunately the city of Paris has taken steps to limit the intrusion.

      Indeed, there are so many ways to experience this place. It's amazing. Before we moved here we felt it'd take a lifetime to get to know Paris. Now that we're here, I'm not sure a lifetime would be enough.