People talk about Paris being the city of romance. Of love. Of wandering couples arm in arm, gazing adoringly at each other or sitting in the park sharing vin et pain.
Certainly there was some of that.
Today, though, two other things struck me. The first was that the so called Red Light district is right in the middle of the main route from the tourist attractions in the middle, and Sacre Coeur which is up on Montmatre, high above the city.
As we arrived onto Rue Blanche I spotted Moulin Rouge. This is my friend Rachel’s favourite film so I stopped to take a picture to Tweet to her. It struck me then that it is not just a fabulous film with Nicole Kidman but actually an “adult review” bar that looks like its heyday has long since gone.
After taking a photo and getting our bearings (read me standing there Tweeting and Bruce studying the map up close for ten minutes saying “yep, we are here. We are going there. We need to go along there to Rue Blah de blah and then we need to turn right on to Avenue Whatsit” , I nod at his extraordinary sense of direction and try to look interested as I put my phone reluctantly back into my handbag).
We turned right and were suddenly walking down a road that had “Cinema Erotique / DVD Supermarche and my favourite: the “porno bar” on both sides. Bruce assured me this was the right way and I have to say I was stunned at the “open-ness” of all these shops, displaying their wares. Families meandering in the sun, with relatively small children eating ice creams on benches next to erm ladies who might be dressed as ladies but I don’t think they were born as such who were looking to earn a few Euro before lunch.
I have to say that I was shocked that Paris was so “open” about this seedier side. It was like Soho had suddenly taken over Regent Street.
Once at Montmatre I was acutely aware of more filth. This time, overflowing from bins.
There was rubbish everywhere. It was like the refuse collectors hadn’t been for a fortnight. I am sure there are three collections a night in Westminster! This meant that at times the aroma was pretty ripe too.
As we walked back down the hill and onwards to our hotel (I am sure it was like walking from Camden to Wimbledon, my feet certainly think it was) it seemed that every bin and corner of the city was full of rubbish.
I have loved my time in Paris. I am sure at some point I will blog more on the other aspects of it but for now I am left thinking that Paris is just a bit dirty.
In more ways than one.
Featured image of paris courtesy of Shutterstock.