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The International Writers Magazine: Spotlight in France

President bling-bling is watching you!
Maria Marlais

There are, contrary to what many people might think, many different kinds of people in Paris. As a big city, Paris covers so many different districts, quarters and people. Some people seem to think that Paris is the city of eternal light, culture and hopes. I often think that it is depressing, poor and rough. Of course it is always different to visit a city and to live in it. However, I would like to take you out for a walk in Paris, to show you the Paris one can see from the street.

When you walk on a street in Paris you pass around one newspaper-shop every four minute. They advertise on the back and on the sides so you can see what they offer you this week. The weekly, right-winged, magazine ‘L’Express’ has the President Sarkozy on the cover at least every third number. It is not irrelevant to know that one of the first things that Sarko did as new President was to take almost complete control over the media. ‘L’Express’ used to be a weekly magazine about world politics, culture and people. It is now sometimes referred to as "Sarko-news" because of a somewhat obsession with the President. One time they had his wife Carla Bruni on the cover, and two weeks ago it was the football-hero Zinedine Zidane that had the honour.

Like most pictures of powerful people, the pictures of Sarko glow of power, honour and authority. However, his nickname as the President bling-bling comes from the fact that he amuses himself by borrowing yachts from random rich men and shares his ‘Elysée’ Palace with a former top-model and "singer". It’s very clear that this Sarko-era marks a vast change from different French Presidents. However, sometimes the politics and bling-bling of the President seem to be far away from the streets, yet he always seems to be there. Right, he is always there, in the streets. From the covers of the magazines and newspapers he watches the actions of the streets and his people. He is always keeping an eye on what is happening in his city.

One great thing about living in Paris is the fact that you can walk a lot. It is not as big as London and it feels friendlier to walkers. Another great thing about living in Paris is the fact that you have a lot of different options what you want to see when you walk. There are some amazing buildings and monuments. Some people want to see the Eiffel Tower, others prefer Nôtre-Dame. And some people choose to take the métro to the Panthéon where they can see the tombs of great dead French men. Some people choose to look at buildings while walking; others choose to look at the people.
In the streets of Paris there are a very high number of homeless people living in the streets. Some of them are hang outside their local super-marché, waiting for someone to give them money or a newspaper. There are many free newspapers that you can pick up in the metro or on the street, and newspapers can be good for many things. First, you can read them and see what is going on in the world and in your city. Second, you can use them as a light mattress; the street is not very clean so it’s better to actually sleep on something even though it’s paper. There is a bus that drives around the city all night and picks up homeless people. I don’t know if they offer them food or drinks, but the bus is at least warmer than the streets and you can talk to the driver if you don’t have anyone else to talk to.

Dogs are very popular amongst the Parisians and if you walk on a street here you have to keep an eye on where you put your feet. However, I believe that you learn to avoid dog-poo in the streets after some time here; it is like you develop some kind of radar which is necessary. Or maybe the Parisians have learnt their lesson.

A boulevard in Paris is always crowded with cafés. A Parisian café is a café where you can drink anything you like, including alcohol, and eat breakfast, lunch, dinner. The 1st of January 2008 it became prohibited to smoke inside a bar or a club in France; so there are always, at any time of the year, tables outside in the street so people can drink and smoke at the same time. Sitting outside in the street is like sitting on the front-row of the modern theatre.

It must be interesting for President Sarko to witness the action in the streets from his cover of the magazines. ‘La Comédie Humaine’ in reality; walking past French dogs, homeless men, drunken women, mad children and bored waiters, and the President that still keeps an eye on his city.

© Maria Marlais November 2008
m1marlais at

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