Everybody knows “the day” where Ann Arbor becomes unseasonably warm and all of the sudden you realize that your fellow classmates aren’t the only people that go to your school. People appear in numbers greater than you imagined went to Michigan and you find yourself wondering where they all came from. Paris, in this regard, is no different. It may be on a different continent and in a different time zone, but when spring hits Paris, the two million Parisians that populate this city all come out of the woodwork and scatter themselves around the cafes, grassy knolls, and sidewalks. Every open spot of grass is a coveted spot, and you better watch over it like a hawk.
Paris in the springtime also means the metro begins to get muggy and crowded and is even more of a drudge than usual. Walking down out of the beautiful sun into the dark metro is almost a sin and, upon returning to ground level, you promise yourself you are going to walk more and never return to the Paris underground again. However, upon first coming to Paris, I was enthralled with the cleanliness and ease at which I could use the metro, especially after mastering the New York City subway – which is no simple feat. After the last couple months, the newness has worn off, and I have finally decided to get a Vélib pass, Paris’s bike share system.
After many attempts to implement a bike share system in New York, the city is still trying to issue a request for proposals. In this regard, Paris is way ahead of the game. Women in heels, suits, and dresses and men dressed to the nines are biking alongside old men and young teenagers alike. There is no limit to the different kinds of specimens biking. Some people appear to be training for the Tour de France and some people appear to have never ridden a bike in their lives. Using the Vélib has been an unmatchable opportunity to see Paris in a way that the metro doesn’t permit. The system is not flawless, however. I have been cut no slack from Parisians for riding the wrong way on a one-way street and have encountered many a time where I can find no open stations for my bike. Even with these frustrations, I feel proud to have tackled the many different modes of Parisian transportation. Another small step for Maya-kind in my Parisian adaptation.
With my newfound bike freedom, missing the last train, which is always a constant worry during the weekends, is no longer an issue. In celebration of the warm weather, in which I can happily bike, my friends and I went to our first concert in Paris to see (drum roll please), the Shins! One of my favorite American bands in one of my favorite foreign cities…what could be more perfect? The concert was at a small venue called the Bataclan, which offered a grungy appearance and gave you all of the comforts of seeing a small garage band concert. Getting there early enough to be right up close to the stage, my friends and I sat in anticipation, hearing more English than usual being spoken, but still in a mostly French populated crowd. After waiting through the opening band’s prelude to the Shins, the crowd suddenly got quiet and out strolled James Mercer accompanied by the rest of the band. While in an American concert I would’ve been pushed, shoved, punched, and had my hair pulled all so some girls behind me could go to “meet their friend” in the front row, the crowd was extremely reserved. When my friends even made the slightest attempt to push through the crowd to be closer to the stage, they were brutally yelled at by a man who made it clear this practice was not acceptable at concerts in Paris. Furthermore, I was surprised to hear no screaming professions of “I love you, James Mercer” or rather “Je t’aime James Mercer” and none of the audience was singing or dancing along. While my excitement was clearly written all over my face and could be seen through my body language I was one of a few in the crowd. While I must admit that this was my first big concert in a foreign country, I was truly surprised to see how different the audience reacted to the band’s performance. Would the audience have reacted differently if there was a French artist on stage? I guess I will have to do the research myself during my next concert.
Fingers crossed the weather stays warm and the Parisians continue to eat their croque monsieurs and side salads in the cafes and I am not too sore to continue my Parisian adventures after all of my biking.