Travel Story 

Paris alive with the sights, sounds of 10 million

Look honey — there's the Eiffel Tower

Romance. This is the first thought that comes to mind when most of us think of Paris. There no doubt about it, Paris reeks of love.

I’ve been hanging out in Paris off and on since I was a kid. In many ways, the city is like an old flame for me, one that I often daydream about with fond memories. This time I will be exploring it with my girlfriend Jory, who has never seen the place.

As we all know, it can be challenging to introduce a new love to an old flame. But of course I’m up for it as it’s one of my favourite cities to visit. We’ve got 24 hours before our plane leaves l’Aeroport Charles de Gaulle bound for Vancouver.

At 9 a.m. we step out of our hotel, aptly named the Hotel de Paris, onto the Avenue du Maine in the Montparnasse district. It’s a crisp and clear spring morning and the streets are teaming with action. A street cleaner on a futuristic green motorcycle zips by scooping dog shit and other random treats off the sidewalk. Men in bright green overalls are sweeping the gutters while Parisiens of all types walk past, most in a serious gait looking like the sky will drop if they do not get to work. Cars honk and spew polluted air while scooters and motorcycles rush to the front of the line and race off down the streets. I relish my fresh-out-of-the-shower feeling and take a deep breath of semi-fresh morning air, knowing that I will be scrubbing off the day’s grime from my body in a few hours.

In the Gare Montparenasse, one of the city’s main train and metro stations, the intensity of the commuting crowd is peaking. We push through the turnstiles and dodge 100 or so people at an intersection and slide into a mass of moving humans dropping further underground. It is such a wonderfully liberating feeling to be temporarily observing the big city commute. With so many immigrants and cultures melded into a vibrant and energetic place, Paris is one of my favourite places to people watch.

The sound of a cello dances up a distant tunnel as we walk by, creating a momentary escape from the hectic reality of the commuter buzz. Up a flight of stairs, turn left, walk another 50 metres, then turn right and down to the platform. The elaborate network of metro lines makes Paris a pleasure to explore. No point in the capital is more than 500 metres from a metro station. The light of a subway flickers in the dark tunnel and the air around us shifts distinctly. The silver unit zooms into view. We hop on and speed away.

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