If you’ve ever been to Europe (particularly if you came from suburban USA), part of the initial shock is how much people live on the street. They walk places, they eat at restaurants with patio seating and they are all so close together.
If you’re like me, you’re probably used to driving everywhere because the only thing within walking distance is maybe a KFC and a Chase Bank. If you’re really lucky, a liquor store. In Paris though, you can walk almost anywhere and it’s incredibly liberating for those of us who grew up with miles between our home and the grocery store. It’s this behavior of walking that got my nose twitching as soon as I got to Paris.
I was a bit overwhelmed by the smells of France when I first arrived. Meg picked me up at a bus stop and we promptly scuttled to a subway station that smelled awful. New York City has an alley stench – Paris has a subway one. I formed about 19 harsh opinions of Paris during my first metro ride, most of which ended up not being valid at all. Especially ones about the wafting scent of urine… (seriously, whoa).
Upon further exploration, I found that most of Paris actually smells quite lovely! There’s always something edible nearby, so expect to smell espresso from patio cafe’s, bread from the bakeries, fresh tobacco because Parisians smoke like chimneys and flowers! Oh the flowers! France does not mess around when it comes to flowers.
In Denver, you’re hard pressed to find an affordable bouquet anywhere except your run-of-the-mill grocery bunch of roses, which can get a bit boring. In Paris though, there are people selling fresh flora all over the place.
The lesson here is that when in France, don’t breathe in the subway. I kid you not, I saw men actually peeing in the metro underground on three separate occasions. Yeah. I don’t know about that. But spritz a hanky and save all your breathing for above-ground where Paris retains some of the best smells I have ever… smelt. Smelled? Smelt. There are many sidewalk scents in Paris and I highly encourage sniffing openly – don’t worry, the French already think you’re a weird American anyway.