I had a wonderful weekend in Paris. Great food, time with family and friends, and beautiful weather made for an incredible few days. And is there a city more beautiful than Paris? I just love the architecture, the gardens, and the vibe of the City of Light. But I also observed a darker, underside to Paris this weekend.
As someone who rarely drives, I find public transportation is vital–that helps to explain why I am such a city slicker. I have used public transportation systems on six continents in just about every major city in the world and have seen the good, bad, and the ugly. But I have never seen a subway system as messy as the one in Paris (even messier than my previous visits). Trash strewn all over, mold on the walls, broken escalators, foul odors, and crowded subway cars pushed me to the bus for travel within central Paris for the remainder of the weekend.
For a city that is so beautiful on the outside, I found it a shame and a travesty that the Paris metro system is in such a state of disrepair. I point this out merely because it really surprised me this visit and also because I would advise you to avoid the underground when possible and opt for walking or taking the bus. I walked from Montparnasse to the Opera house in about a half hour–a beautiful walk across the Seine and through the Louvre. The return via the subway took 45 minutes (a lengthy transfer in Les Halles / Châtelet was required).
Last night I was on my way to to De Gaulle Airport around dusk on the Réseau Express Régional (RER) and witnessed a bloody fight just a couple feet from me onboard the train. We were going through a rough, rundown community in Northern Paris and all of a sudden a Moroccan and Indian man began exchanging blows. This was no friendly brawl–blood was spewing and if not for a brave bystander breaking up the two men, the situation would have been very grave. The bloody Moroccan man sat down next to me and was feverishly gibbering about something as the train roared toward CDG.
A few moments after the fight, five armed police officers dressed entirely in black stormed the train. They glanced suspiciously at the man next to me–who still had blood running down his left temple, but said nothing to him and hopped off the train at the next station.
Just another weekend in Paris?