Paris Bound – Partie Un

If you were to tell me a year ago that I’d be walking around the streets of Paris while wearing breton stripes in late spring, I wouldn’t have believed you. But, turns out, in the last warm days of May, I found myself doing just that, thanks to the perseverance, spontaneity and extreme levels of energy and enthusiasm from my Gemini quadtruplets @valombao and @itskristiineee, the other two sides of the #KUCTrinity. And after the two and a half days wandering around the city, coming back to London filled my heart with a whole lot of love and a plan to return to the city of lights as soon as possible.

After landing in Paris through Charles de Gaulle Airport from London Gatwick, we taxi-ed our way to Hôtel Parisiana, near Strasbourg Saint-Denis Station, which we spent the night watching French adverts, BBC News Asia in English among others things (#Oops2016). The rest of the evening actually flew by because I slept like a baby! Paris, you were a dream from the beginning.

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Doesn’t that just remind you of the first song number from the Disney classic Beauty and the Beast? How does that one go again?

[Belle:] Little town
It’s a quiet village
Ev’ry day
Like the one before
Little town
Full of little people
Waking up to say:

[Townsfolk:] Bonjour!
Bonjour! Bonjour! Bonjour!

Mornings in Paris were something to behold. As I looked over the window I could see empty streets being coloured by rays of sunshine like spilled liquid gold and a lone person walking about. The rest of the street may have become busier but it’s still pretty easy to fall for the mystical lore of Parisian romance that seeps through the corners of Rue Chabrol. And waking up to that seemingly boring view of the old windows and cement walls was actually an added bonus; I looked forward to absorbing the vibes of their architecture and history.

Jour 1:

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In the morning, which greeted us with gleeful blue skies in an already busy street with cafés, market stalls and used electronic stores that reminded me of Kilburn High Road and North End Road Market, we met our first monument: the Porte Saint-Denis. Like the arch we see in Marble Arch: presence powerful, detailed and for some reason totally fits in with the contrasting surrounding of marketplace and leaking sewage water.

We made the Eiffel Tower our top priority that morning. After taking the Metro for nine stops, we realised how much we take the London Underground for granted. Maybe because it was early in the work day, but the Metro was packed. We thought to wait for another one after realising we couldn’t get in due to the amount of people already squeezing themselves in (“dapat kasi hindi pinagsisiksikan ang sarili kung hindi naman talaga nakalaan para sa iyo”), but after three more trains we decided to give up and get on one at last.

If you want to visualise this scene, think of Westfield Stratford days before Christmas. On a Sunday afternoon.

But despite this, the people on the carriage with us were never loud or irritated by the compactness and the sweatiness; they actually made us look like spoiled cavemen during rush hour on a Tuesday morning with their ease and politeness, save for one woman who chose to lean onto one of my friends and give all of her body weight to her.

The Eiffel Tower, on the other hand, is a force to be reckoned with.

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I actually had the deluded idea that people who talked about The Eiffel Tower with such googly eyes were just being tourists recounting a dazed dream, romanticising the life out of the 1887 French monument. But I was wrong.

Upon arriving at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, we were taken aback by its sheer size, first of all. Just by trying to look at the very top you felt dizzy and like you weren’t on the ground already! Even at ten in the morning, the Eiffel Tower was astonishing. It amuses me how people actually hated it when it was first built, calling it ugly and “not fitting in with the rest of the city”.

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Photo by @valombao and her trusty sidekick slash “travel buddy”, her selfie stick!

BTW: If you’re going to go to the Eiffel Tower, be ready to ward off people who ask you to sign and donate money to “help the blind and the deaf”; it’s a well-known scam in Paris to get money off of you so don’t fall for it. Just ignore them completely, or if this is something you find too rude to do, simply say no firmly and move on to whatever it is you’re doing. There’s usually policemen and signs around the tower saying that these people are gypsies and should not be entertained, but always be wary of your things being stolen.

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After taking another Uber to the Louvre (and passing the River Seine), we decided not to go inside because of the long line and just chose to take pictures around the terraces and with the huge glass pyramids. Who knew French orbs were a cool, suave sky blue?

After The Louvre, we found ourselves eating really delicious Japanese food in Sanukiya, which was just a few minutes walk from The Louvre. I had the Kamotéri-Don, rice and caramelised duck.

Walking around + heat + chill Parisian vibes = tired Troy

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Pour tous les Lions

Le Lion de Belfort was like the four lions that patrol and reign over Trafalgar Square, but this one had more soul and movement to it. It had a strong, enormous presence on the roundabout and I was both disappointed and relieved people couldn’t come close to it to the point of riding and taking close shots of it because it had no pavement around it. That meant people couldn’t tarnish it or even vandalise it even if they tried because they’d be run over. It is a smaller version of a bigger statue in the French city of Belfort.

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Through out the day walking around the city and taking Uber cab on top of Uber cab, it quickly dawned to me: Paris doesn’t feel like a capital city. Or at least the kind of capital city that I grew up knowing. It didn’t feel as condensed and stressful as Manila or as work-oriented and corporate as London.

Instead, every inch of the city, garbed with colourful street art, highly maintained landmarks, street performers and even random book stalls all around the city, painted the city with artistic satisfaction and a breath of fresh air from men suffocated in suits and women trying to function under pencil skirts on their way to the office.

Le Grande Livre des Gémeaux par Paul Colombet et Le Grande Livre du Le Lion par Jean-Pierre Vezien

How kismet is it that we would find a book stall selling huge books on individual star signs? Each for just 3€! Time to brush up my French, I guess!

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Here’s another shot of the Eiffel Tower at night. I think this was about 9-10pm. We went back after taking a few hours rest back in our hotel room with our friends KFC, M&S and the very very cool aircon.

Every turn of the hour the Eiffel Tower has lights dancing around it for about a few minutes. If you lived in the city, you’d think you would have grown tired of this dancing lights extravaganza, but at around 11pm and the third dancing lights session, every Parisian drinking and lounging around the park cheered and sent the love back to the Eiffel Tower, which cemented my idea that French people were officially the chiller group of people.

– Troy


Published by troycabida

Troy Cabida (he/him) is a Filipino poet and producer based in south west London. His recent poems have appeared in TAYO Literary Magazine, harana poetry, MacMillan and bath magg. He is a producer for London open mic night Poetry and Shaah and co-founder of Liwayway Kolektibo, an arts and culture network providing space for UK-based Filipino/a/x creatives. His debut pamphlet, War Dove, was published by Bad Betty Press in 2020. Photo taken by Ray Roberts.

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