Paris [writing prompt]

PRACTICE

Paris is the City of Light, the city where the great modernists writers lived and met each other, like James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald and more. It’s the city where Ben Franklin did diplomacy and wrote for more than a decade. It’s the city of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables and Charles Dickens A Tale of Two Cities. 

Write about Paris. Write for fifteen minutes. When you’re finished, post your practice in the comments section. And if you do post, be sure to give feedback to your fellow writers. Happy writing!

Paris at Rush Hour

Photo by Dan Orbit

Here’s my practice:

In the café, the writing is going badly. It’s my fifth day here and the nerves of travel are still throwing me off. In front of me there’s a good looking man (is he Chinese?) reading a French book. He has a green scarf. He’s balding but still looks young. He rolls a thin cigarette slowly in the café (Lucky Strike brand of tobacco—do they even have that in the States anymore?). When he finishes, he puts it in his mouth, the shredded tobacco sticking out. Is he going to light it? Smoking is illegal indoors in France. He doesn’t. Instead gathers his things and leaves, the cigarette in his mouth the whole time, the leaves poking out like a frayed suit.

About Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is a writer and entrepreneur. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let's Write a Short Story! and the co-founder of Story Cartel. You can follow him on Twitter (@joebunting).

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  • wendy2020

    Great, job of dangling that Parisian cigarette.

  • wendy2020

    A young Cassanova from Paris,
    Promised the stars to an heiress.
    When her fortune was gone
    He ran off to Milan
    And left her with only Polaris.

    • Karl Tobar

      Awesome.

    • http://www.margaretterry.com/ Margaret Terry

      Very fun!

  • 이상훈

    A group sat around a table, sipping from a tiny espresso cup. It was a nice sunny Sunday morning and people leisurely walked past the group.
    The man with a thin graying mustache and a striped shirt took out a blue worn-out notebook from his pocket, “Paris Baguette”. He looked tired, but his 6’2 ft and 250 pound body frame still commanded the whole group. After looking at each and everyone in the group, he slowly opened his mouth. “Bon Jour, Je veux pain s’il vous plaît”.
    Everyone was shocked at what they just heard, but it was too late. The croissant was already gone.

    • Chloee

      I find it intreasting.

    • Karl Tobar

      What did he say? I feel like there is humor in this piece, but I can’t be sure.

      • 이상훈

        No humor there. I was just writing what came to my head. :)
        He said “Hello, I want bread please.”

  • Chloee

    I sat outside of the cafe sipping a mocha. The setting sun remined me closing time was soon. I gathered my things walking lazly down the old cobblestone road the cool fall breeze tickling my bare arms. I brushed my red hair out of my face gazing at the shops.

    I heard a child scream and I turned the corner I found a little girl in a grimy dress crying on the ground. “Are you lost?” I asked. “Yes.” The girl said wiping away the tears leaving wet trails of dirt down her face. “Where do you live.” “Nowhere.” I looked sadly down at her.

    I took her hand I walked with her down the Paris street.There was something familer about her I just can’t put my finger on it. “Who are you mom and dad?” She looked at me eyes brimming with tears. “You are mom”.

    • Eliese

      I love reading your work. You are very talented and it is a pleasure to watch you improve every time. You write with such emotion, and this one is no different. Nice job Chloee.

  • Karl Tobar

    Never been to Paris, Joe, so I hope my practice does it justice (however slight!)
    And just to keep you in the know–yes, we can buy Lucky Strikes here. ;)

    Practice:

    Ah, the heart of France! We have arrived—bonjour, bonsoir. In the back of this taxi on this clear night, I can see the lights of the city off in the distance, the headlights on some distant road, and—could it be?—I think, yes—it is the Eiffel Tower! I am drawing nearer now, and it’s true that the size of the structure cannot be comprehended through photo alone. The streets (how I wish they were cobblestone) bustle in just the way I expected they should.

    We’ve turned off of the main road. The street on which we drive seems still a “busy” kind of street, though less so than the previous, and we pass businesses, patisseries, and other buildings alight from inside with eye-goggling gorgeous French text done in the most exquisite of artistry. I can’t wait until we get to our new home. Frank, who is asleep (his legs across my lap serve as my desk) will be so disappointed that he missed the grand entry into the city, but he specifically instructed me not to awake him—I will comply.

    The lights are fewer now, but how bright they shine, casting brilliant radiance on
    as many as two or three properties, from so high above. These houses, the architecture, display a beauty for which I struggle to find the words. I wonder if one of these masterpieces is the home of Jean, where we will be taking residence? I fancy a few passing houses, thinking, “Perhaps that one? Yes, I could sit in front of
    that east-facing window in the morning, reading the newspaper. Or perhaps that one, with the moat-like porch which surrounds it on three sides? Yes, I could cook for Jean out there, whatever the delicate meats of Paris may be, and Frank and Jean would discuss politics over tea, before we began the class.”

    These thoughts fade into the back of my mind, much in the same way the houses fade
    from view, and the driver turned on a narrow, winding road that seemed to snake
    through a section of countryside. Disappointed!—for I am sure the landscape is all but gorgeous, yet darkness prevents me from seeing a single blade of grass.

    • http://www.margaretterry.com/ Margaret Terry

      Nice job for someone who hasn’t been there, Karl! You are right about the size of the Eiffel tower …

  • Chits

    May, 2006. Paris was the stopover. I had never seen Paris before and Eiffel Tower was my passion. I was going to India because my father had passed away suddenly. As the plane hit the tarmac of Charles de Gaulle my shattered heart had blinded my eyes with grief. I spent the next 6 hours in the city of my dreams totally numb. Three weeks later, I passed by Paris, again. Early June and there were fields and fields of poppies gently swaying in the mild breeze on that cloudy day moistened by the gentle rain. I spotted the Eiffel tower in the distance through my misty eyes. The poppies were dancing in the rain and I love Paris. I hope to see it all, one day.

  • rachelfisher

    It’s the 2,000 postcard-perfect streets and standing on the Pont Neuf at sunset with the inky blue of the Seine beneath your feet. It’s the uphill bicycle ride to Montmarte and stealing a kiss on a corner in Marais. It’s the sound of a moped zipping by and fast-speaking Parisians asking you nothing at all. It’s the soiree-like sparkle of the Eiffel Tower and the frothy taste of a cafe creme at St. Regis Cafe. It’s hours spent getting lost in the Louvre and collapsing into one of the chairs at the Tullieries after a day of being awed over and over again. This is the light they speak of. This is love they can’t stop talking about. This is Paris.

    • Eliese

      Sounds like a beautiful advertisement for Paris. Nice descriptions.

  • serenity8

    Ah, Paris. We’ll always have that time when I broke the world sprinting record in Charles de Galle Airport. Fog had delayed all flights coming in, but apparently all flights going out were free to go. Coming from Italy we had to go through Customs, too. Exiting Customs, the departure gate was still a half mile away and the monitor was blinking: “BOARDING. BOARDING. BOARDING.” So there I was, running full speed through a crowded airport, my bag of Italian cheeses klonking heavily against my side, my little wheeled carry-on bouncing around and sometimes catching air behind me. I think I may have run over some things, possibly small children or maybe just a teddy bear, but I couldn’t look back. By the time I reached my gate, they had airport paramedics on stand-by. Someone from the airline had radioed ahead about the red-faced, crazy lady whose lungs were burning from breaking the world sprinting record, so the flight was delayed. I told them I was fine, boarded the plane, stowed my Radio Flyer suitcase, & got situated in my seat while everyone else complained about waiting. I kept my mouth shut, patted my cheese, and soon fell asleep, exhausted from the rigors of travel.

    • http://the-unnamed-isle.blogspot.co.uk/ Leona Olivier

      Brilliant! Love it!

    • http://www.margaretterry.com/ Margaret Terry

      A very fun read, Serenity. Loved the line about patting your cheese…

    • wendy2020

      Love the quirky cheese!

  • Sara Eiser

    I looked at my watch. I’m not sure why I bothered, because there were five clocks within view, but somehow I felt better looking at my watch. Paris. I glanced at the ticket counter, where a distraught Chassid was arguing in animated French with the tired and slightly overwhelmed woman behind the desk. I didn’t know French, but his wife was alternating scratching her wig and talking to her mother? sister? on her cell phone about Haime taking care of the fact that there’s no kosher food in this airport.

    I hadn’t thought about kosher food on this sudden reroute, but I shrugged. I was sure Hashem would forgive me, and didn’t feel like the Chassid needed me to help him fight
    his battle. I flipped over my boarding pass, glancing at the time of my new flight, and decided to get something to eat, kosher or not.

    I snagged a croissant and a coffee from a bored barista at a place called Café Paris and
    wandered over to the windows. I’m not sure what I expected, but being rerouted to Paris wasn’t my favorite way to prolong my visit to Tel Aviv. I looked at my watch again. I’d managed to waste seven and a half minutes. It was going to be a long night.

    The bookstore had beautiful coffee table books about Paris, and I flipped through one as I nibbled on my non-kosher croissant and latte. It was too bad I wasn’t going to be able to leave the airport. I’d never been to Paris. After a half hour and a few dirty stares from the elderly man behind the counter, I wandered back to the gate.

    The Chassid and his wife were sitting, red-faced, staring out the window, and an airport steward came by to reassure them that their food was coming. An announcement came over the loudspeakers, first in French and then in Hebrew that the airline was providing
    a kosher meal to anyone on our flight upon request and that they were sorry for the convenience. I blinked as the announcer tried to correct herself. “Not… conv… not… Sorry it is hard for you to eat.”

    The Israelis laughed. C’est la vie. We all wandered to the desk to request our meal and the tired stewardess looked at this clump of people; knitted kippot, black hats,
    floor length skirts, tank tops, jeans, and scoffed at us in English. “Wait, you ALL need a kosher meal?”

    We looked at each other and shrugged, a gaggle of teens giggling in the back, and an elderly man in our group pulled out his Israeli passport, slapping it on the desk. “It says Jewish. The Gestapo asked me to prove I wasn’t Jewish and now you want me to prove I am?”

    The stewardess reddened and cleared her throat. “Name, please.”

    “Ira Kashner A-140611. And make sure it’s glatt.” He stuffed his passport back in his pocket and shuffled to the back.

    The woman next to me watched him go back to his seat. “He must be American,” she said to me in Hebrew. I looked a question at her as she bumped the person ahead of her
    a bit closer to the desk, waiting her turn. She shrugged at me. “He didn’t yell at her.”

    • Eliese

      I enjoyed reading this. I liked the characters and the idea of being in Paris, but not being able to see it. I loved the culture you brought to this with the religion.

  • Pingback: This is Paris | A Prompt | a lovely light()

  • http://www.devildrinksmilk.com/ Ana Burmester Baptista

    He passed the Paris travel guide to me as I curled in the couch as if I was hidding from something very fearful. “No, not Paris”, I said. “Why not?” he asked, his eyes almost falling out of his eyeballs. The truth is that Paris is always a good idea, what was the problem with me? “Easy”, I replied “I’ve never been to Paris but what really freaks me out is that I know it so well that scares me. I think that I could get lost in those narrow streets but never feel totally lost. I would feel home. And if whatever people say about Paris is true, then I would never come back and I don’t want to lose you.”

    Note – yes, it’s true, I’ve never been to Paris, although I live in Portugal and everyone around here is supposed t have been there at least once in their lifetime. :)

    • Eliese

      It is so sweet that she wants to be with him, even if it means not going to the city of love.

      • http://www.devildrinksmilk.com/ Ana Burmester Baptista

        Thank you!

  • http://www.margaretterry.com/ Margaret Terry

    I had fun with this Joe. Thanks! Loved your description of the cigarette, tres French!
    Here’s my practice:

    I am staying in the old section of Paris which suits me fine because old
    means ancient in this country and ancient means stories in the crumbling walls
    and cathedrals, and isn’t that why I came here? This area is called The Latin
    Quarter or Le Quartier Latin which sounds sexier since Latin is pronounced
    “Lahteen” in French. Everything sounds sexier here. Even when a person orders a glass of water it sounds like something steamy from their chambre a coucher! Puis-je avoir un verre d’eau? Oooh la-la. Makes me want to ask for water all day long! I know most people call Paris the city of lights and although the light smiles on the ancient stone and cobblestone streets at the end of each day and is is something to behold, I think Paris should be called the City of Love. Or, maybe City of Lovers. People make out everywhere here! Young people. Old people. Tourists. Parisians. I have never seen so many people kissing in the open! I don’t mean those stiff French pecks on the cheek. I mean long wet sensuous kissing with tangled embraces that would make my Catholic granny’s face burn brighter than any light Paris is known for. Yesterday, I
    saw a couple who looked older than my parents laughing and kissing and rubbing
    their noses while they were waiting in line at the taxi stand. Such passion everywhere. Maybe passion is just a part of the personality that makes Paris Paris and it rubs off on everyone who walks her streets…

    • Karl Tobar

      Ha! “Makes me want to ask for water all day long!” This is such an enthusiastic piece, I can all but believe you have actually been to Paris (have you?).

      • http://www.margaretterry.com/ Margaret Terry

        Thx, Karl! yes I have been to Paris. Had five wonderful days there in 2001…. Always wanted to go back. I wonder why…

    • wendy2020

      Steamy and fun…

      I need water please.

      Hope the writer got her own passionate Parisian bisous.

      • http://www.margaretterry.com/ Margaret Terry

        thx for the read and comments, Wendy! Re: the bisous, not yet!

  • drdap

    We woke, in our tiny but extremely comfortable, cozy, well-maintained hotel room with the phenomenal bed. The must-be-a-million-dollars bed that seduced you into the deepest possible sleep before you had fully decided you were ready for sleep.

    When we’d made the best of the showerless bathtub to refresh ourselves, we straightened up and mission-like, headed out to begin our day. Usually we greeted and/or were greeted first by one of two hotel employees, Madame the older blonde, or Monsieur the middle-aged brunette. I don’t recall their names now, but they were very good and gracious caretakers. We would hand over our key (or risk being chased after for the key), which was the hotel rule when you stepped out. I believe it was the
    only key they had, one for each room, so they needed the key in order to clean
    the room.

    With that, we would emerge from the hotel, on that sideways, side-sloped little alley street, and march against gravity up the hill toward Lateral, with L’Arc de Triomphe visible just ahead. The massive structure was our beacon to remember how to get to Champs-Elysees, the starting point for all our touristy ambitions.

    Lateral was “our” neighborhood café, discovered on our first day and to which we returned almost every day as the prelude to our Parisienne adventures. My Paris imagination had already been built on verses and images of the ubiquitous sidewalk cafes, but what I had never heard or read about, was how the seats are turned toward the street rather than arranged so that guests are facing each other at their respective tables.

    Parisiennes apparently love people-and-city watching so much, that this love is reflected in the café seating. I totally get it; there truly is so much to see in this jam-packed little city. It still has the uniqueness and individuality that makes you have to walk into every store you pass, because you’ll never see anything quite like it again.

    At Lateral we learned what French breakfast looked like: A rather big piece of baguette- not a slice, but a “chop” off of a large baguette, toasted, with butter and jam on the side. Coffee. Eggs if you wanted. The menu listed the options Dejeuner Hollandaise; Dejeuner Germaine; Dejeuner Americain; Dejeuner Francaise. A lot of the distinction had to do with how the eggs were prepared. They wanted their tourists to feel at home.

    • Eliese

      You sound as though you have experienced Paris yourself. I loved the bit with the hotel keys and french breakfast This was a nice read that made you wish to be there and sleep in that bed! :)

      • drdap

        Thanks! Yes I don’t know if it’s cheating, but this is more travelogue than creative writing!

  • http://the-unnamed-isle.blogspot.co.uk/ Leona Olivier

    They are watching me. From their perches high above. I can feel their dead, grey eyes peering down, judging me, sniggering…plotting.

    I purchase a chocolate crepe and a latte from the crepe van and steadily munch the delicious, gooey warmth as I gaze at the cathedral. A beautiful, Gothic monstrosity that looms up from the bustling square. Flanked by the sedate Seine that flows through the heart of the city, the Notre Dame, stands like a dark stain upon the landscape. Its architecture somewhat more profane than the genteel buildings surrounding it, it harks from an earlier time. Its stones are stained by the pollution of the city and it seems to loom, slightly slumped in posture, like an old battleaxe at a wedding. Just like Great Aunt so and so who everyone avoids for her whip-like sarcasm and snide remarks, who has the odious habit of hovering behind you like a threatening, black cloud.

    I gaze up at the rose windows and, with hesitation, my eyes climb higher, to the towers. I can make out where I’ve just been, up on the rooftop. Where the gargoyles lurk. The Gargoyle Walk is a tour that takes you up one tower, along the rooftop and down the other tower. I didn’t see Quasimodo but up there, carven from stone, stand sentinel the dark, devilish forms of gargoyles and grotesques. A magnificence of masonry, beautiful craftsmanship, the maniacal monstrosities are dotted all over the towers. Their surreal, bestial chisellings linger in the minds eye. I feel certain they move as soon as you look away. Looming, just like the edifice they perch upon, they peer out at Paris. Watching. Always watching. Judging, laughing, plotting…

    • wendy2020

      Ooooh, Gargoyles. Had forgotten about those nasty suckers. Thanks for reminding me of them with this fun read.

    • http://www.margaretterry.com/ Margaret Terry

      I have had a chocolate crepe from one of those vans, loved the memory of that! Also love your descriptions of the Notre Dame here, a description I’ve not considered before but one that works so well in this context. “Their surreal, bestial chisellings linger in the minds eye.” Nice work!

  • Erica

    Delirious from lack of sleep, she walked the streets of Paris in the rain, her flip flops splattering mud up the back of her pants. So much for fashion, she thought. She stopped to consider a statue of two lovers in the jardin. Despite their tender gaze, loneliness ached through the stones.

    Later, she sat at the Cafe with a glass of wine and a plate of olives. She watched the street come alive like new sunlight on the Seine. Two men sauntered past, their heads together as their scarves embraced. A nanny with dark hair pushed a stroller with two blond babies, and bought each a cup of “la glace.” The afternoon performance of Life had begun.

    • wendy2020

      Really like a little details!

    • Gwendolann Adell Ford Faulkenb

      Nice.

  • Mary Saathoff

    “But Mama! Why are we in Paris?” Angelica panted as she ran
    to keep up with her mother’s fast footsteps. She looked around with wide frantic eyes and grabbed her mama’s hand, holding it tight. The sound of so many
    voices, airplanes taking off and announcements in a language Angelica didn’t
    understand overwhelmed her. They had left home so fast, not taking time to pack.
    Angelica hadn’t even had time to say goodbye to her best friend, Allison.

    “I told you my darling, we need to meet daddy about your uncle’s estate,” her mother replied, her eyes flicking around the airport nervously.

    Finding a cab, her mother pulled Angelica in with her and crisply said, “To the Jardin Atlantique and hurry please!”

    “What is the Jordan Atlanta, Mama? Will daddy be there?” Angelica plied her mother with questions.

    “Shh, my love. The Jardin Atlantique is a park and daddy will be there.”

    The sudden screech of tires filled Angelica’s ears right before the loud crash of metal on metal. Angelica was thrown from side to side banging her head sharply against
    the window. Through squinting eyes, she saw her mama ranked roughly from the car, then felt hands lifting her from the wreckage.

    • wendy2020

      Wow, reads like you already have plans for a larger work.

  • Eliese

    Written first on paper which was kind neat for a change.
    ***

    It is the last flight of many and I am exhausted and sick of flying. I hate air travel. I can’t stand the crowded isles, the smell of reused air, the sweaty people, and the over friendly flight attendants handing out tiny packaged pretzels.

    The plan begins its ascent into the sky and I am crushed into my seat. I can hear my heartbeat echoing my terror.

    “Are you alright?” A stylish European woman in her 20’s asks me. I roll my eyes.

    “Yea.” I answer. “It is just a stupid fear of flying.”

    “You should try hypnotism.” She suggests and I wonder to myself why everyone must help.

    “Yea. I tried that.” I answer as we reach cruising altitude. I open my book to avoid any more conversations on this long flight.

    Time passes. Food is distributed and later thin blankets and scratchy pillows. Tired, I ignore the pillow and lay my head on the hard plastic window and attempt to sleep.

    I awake to the pilot announcing that we will be landing soon. I place my try in its upright and locked position, and fasten my seat belt.

    My ears pop as the aircraft gradually descends. We bump through fluffy white clouds, and then are able to see the first bits of new land. Adrenaline sparks through my system from my phobia and excitement. After years of working and saving I am there.

    The earth creeps closer and objects grow larger until they no longer seem like doll toys. At last toys. At last the airplanes wheels reach pavement. Relief trickles through me. I am safe and ready to vacation.

    “Welcome to Paris.” The pilot welcomes first in French and then English.

    I smile.

    • http://www.margaretterry.com/ Margaret Terry

      I liked this, Elise. I felt like I was on the plane with you – you nailed the details of plane travel. Especially liked the opening a book to avoid conversation, something I’ve done many times…

      • Eliese

        Thanks so much Margaret. :D

    • drdap

      Great passage, I especially love how the entire piece is a prelude to the joy of Paris. And the prelude is full of anxiety and discomfort to which Paris is the complete antidote. You get all of that across through the detail, and then the last two lines are a short but powerful contrast that lets readers know how you feel of this city. Loved it!

      • Eliese

        Thanks so much! You made me smile :D

  • http://www.toodlesbookclub.blogspot.com Kym Bolton

    I managed to fit in Write Practice today, thank you for the prompt:

    Every week, on a Monday, at precisely 10 a.m, I come to this café. It’s not the best café in Monmarte, and it does’t serve the best coffee, but I just love to be here. The comfortable atmosphere, the smell of cafe au lait and croissant, the spotted tableclothes and iron tables and chairs. It’s all typically Parisienne, and quite compelling. The most compelling thing though, is him.
    I imagine that he would be like the first bite of buttery soft croissant with a dark pinch of chocolate right at the heart.

    Short, darkly, curling hair and blue, blue eyes like the sky on a June day. A patrician nose and the most full, and I have to say darkly tempting lips. Oh, and did I mention that behind. Very smart, very tight, very attractive pulling over that peach, that I would just love to run my hands over.

    I’m not some oddball, weirdo creep, really I’m not. I just love him. He makes my heart trip and bump along like a brook, and the worst thing about all of this is that he has no idea. No idea at all that I feel that way.

    As I stutter my way through a sentence asking for order, he smiles … those baby blues all crinkly at the corners, and I’m rewarded with a brief glimpse of perfect white teeth. Oh, what it must feel like to have those bite down on me like the croissants I love so much, and scrap their way along my arm, and then nibble right back up again.

    I sometimes like to imagine that he keeps that smile just for me, and then pops into a jar when I’m not around.

    Poor delusional old woman that I am, I know that’s not really the case. I duck down my head, and carry on reading my book.

    He places my cup carefully in front of me, and next to it the croissant. Today though, it’s not the usual one, it’s a heart. Maybe, just maybe he’s trying to tell me something too.

    • Gwendolann Adell Ford Faulkenb

      Have you ever read “Miss Brill” by Katharine Mansfield? Reminds me a little bit of her. I’d like to know more about this character and see for myself if she’s some oddball, weirdo creep.

      • http://www.toodlesbookclub.blogspot.com Kym Bolton

        I haven’t, bug will.now.

        Thank.you, I think I’m going to develop the character into a short story as d fun writing the vignette

  • Gwendolann Adell Ford Faulkenb

    Paris? I don’t know a
    dang thing about Paris. The realization settles
    over me like the smell of a chicken house in summer. I should know. I’ve been there three times. But when Grace asks me the question I don’t
    know how to respond.

    “Eiffel Tower,” I say.
    “Napoleon’s Tomb. The Louvre,
    The Musee D’Orsay.”

    She frowns. “I’m not really
    into museums.”

    “Well, Notre Dame.
    You have to see Notre Dame.”

    “Okay. But mainly I
    want to sit in a café and watch people.”

    Her words are blasphemous to my ears. But they’re also something else. Music?
    She may be onto something.

    • Glenalyn Carolyn

      I like how you made it conversational and so relatable!

  • Yael Luxman-Bahat

    Paris in the spring. Simply marvelous. Joyous, to say the
    least. Bicycling through the city on a warm spring day is an exhilarating experience,
    there is nothing like it in the world. They never tell you that, but Paris is
    not as flat as it may seem at first. Sure, there’s all sorts of “monts” – Montsouris,
    Montparnasse, Montmartre, even a park called “Butte Chaumonte”, but they don’t
    tell you about the rest. You barely notice it when you simply walk, or take the
    public transportation (God forbid, no private cars please, unless you want to
    get stuck in endless mazes of traffic and tiny one-way streets), but the
    bicycle will prove to you that the city is somewhat “wavy”. One of the major
    hills in the city is quite famous, perhaps you’ve heard of it. It’s called “arc
    de triomphe”, the victory arch. A lovely monument, a tough hill to conquer by
    bicycle, especially if you’re out of shape. You pedal with everything you’ve
    got, but sometimes it’s just not enough and you must descend and walk your
    bicycle all the way to the top, feeling a little self-conscious as you attract
    gazes from bypassers, French (because who are you to walk on the sidewalk when
    you’re supposed to be riding on the road) and tourists (who probably don’t even
    know there’s a public bicycle system in Paris, and would probably prefer not to
    use it anyway). By the time you reach
    the top, you realize that the road surrounding the Arc is a place reserved for
    public transportation and crazy drivers, not for serene bicycle riders. You
    watch, horrified, as cars and buses and taxis and motorcycles cut through
    entire lanes without even blinking, and soon enough you notice you’ve been
    holding your breath a little too long. After gazing for a while, admiring the
    craftwork of that truly amazing arch, imagining what it was like to be a 19th
    century builder or carver or sculptor working on that grand monument, you take
    your bicycle and go back a little, to use the road that bypasses that hectic
    traffic, take a long, deep breath and resume your ride on that warm spring day.

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      So fun to see your practice here, Yael. This is a fun tour of your Paris. I still haven’t ridden a bike yet, can you believe it?! That needs to happen ASAP.

  • JJ Bach

    The bitter smoke from burning car tires filled my nose and burned my eyes. Looking through the haze of smoke filling the sidewalk I heard “tue-lui! tue-lui!” somewhere in front of me. Squinting through tear-filled eyes, I could see some little turd had leaped up on the hood of the burning car and was pointing at me as he shouted. A checkered keffiyeh covered his face. He was heroically gesturing like Joan of Arc inciting his fellow rioters into action. One more quick shot and I should probably think about leaving. He must have been a persuasive guy because his friends were now coming my way. Someone threw a rock at me. It missed but I felt chips hit my jeans.

    It was clear now. I had definitely taken a wrong turn back a few streets. I held up my camera and took the shot, hoping the autofocus on my old D90 would work through a haze of rubber smoke. And then I ran. Fast. Away from the mad crowd. I hoped.

    Where were the riot police when you needed one? Here in Paris, it seemed they were enjoying their union-mandated croissant break. Just when I needed them. A rock or maybe a bottle smacked me square in the back. Luckily the top of my pack took some of the blow. After a few hundred meters, I threw a glance over my shoulder and saw the crowd had thinned to the half dozen fastest rioters. One more block and three more had dropped out. I stopped. Three was a good number. I could take three. But first one more picture. Good focus this time. No smoke.

    My three young rioting amis had stopped and spread out. All had keffiyehs covering their faces. I guess these three were both fit and smart. A rare combination here in this section of Paris.
    “C’mon guys we don’t have to do this,” I said to them.
    “tais-toi cannard,” one of them said.
    And then it was on. The first one threw a simple straight jab. I ducked, it went over my shoulder and my uppercut response took him out for a few rounds. I followed my momentum and spun into the next rioter, put him in a headlock, bent him over and kneed his beak. He didn’t like that judging by the blood that erupted out his face. Poor guy I thought. Next time leave the tourists alone.
    Just me and the third guy now. Low moans from the other two made a quiet backdrop. He pulled a wicked looking knife out from behind him and went into a crouch. Silent. Eyes radiating hate. Poor devil must have had a bad hair day.

    Next time I really did need to ask first.