Every travel guidebook on the planet extolls the quintessential perfectness of Paris. Beautiful old boulevards lined with regal apartment buildings! Winding old cobblestone streets filled with open markets and cute old ladies! Grand monuments across the skyline! Champagne at breakfast, lunch and dinner!
OK, that last one is a personal interpretation of Paris. But the point is, there’s one glaringly pungent omission from all these gleaming reviews: The dog poop.
There are nearly 1 million dogs in the City of Lights, and I read somewhere that about 2 tons of dog crap hit the ground on any given day.
Side note: to the list of jobs I’m glad I don’t have, please add “statistician who estimates daily tonnage of dog poo.”
That’s not to say you won’t be totally enamored of this city’s grittiness and crumbling old charm. Just be prepared to step in some of that old charm on every morning trip to the boulangerie.
On our second night here, I watched Husband pick up a pair of his favorite sneakers and head for the trash. We had just spent the day walking the city, hopping from Metro to Metro, exploring our new hometown.
“What are you doing?” I asked. It seemed pretty odd that he would toss his best kicks when we’d very recently decided to abandon all other modes of transport.
“I think these Pumas are spent. They stink.”
I peeled myself off the couch for a closer examination. I lifted a shoe and inhaled a sweaty waft from the inside. It didn’t smell great, but definitely not trash-worthy. “Well they smell fine to….OH MY GOD, Oh my god. You stepped in dog poop, dummy!”
I flipped the other shoe over in disgust and held it a safe distance away. “Here. Smell.”
Untrusting of my diagnosis or naive to the horrors of day old shoe poo, my dear Husband leaned in for a deep whiff, almost touching his nose to the caked treads. In short order he ran screaming to the bathroom and nearly puked.
Ah Paris. The romance here is just undeniable.
To be fair to the dogs, this town seems to have plenty of the other kind of shit as well. The emotional, metaphorical kind, that transcends nationality and geography. For example, Washington has slick politicians and sketchy lobbyists. And Paris has snooty waiters. Like the absolutely lovely one we had the pleasure to dine with at the brasserie around the corner. I smelled trouble the minute I laid eyes on his shaggy hairdo and skinny jeans.
Side note: I harbor deep mistrust for any man who wears smaller pants than me, especially if he wears them well.
We put forth our best faces and best French and asked for a table. He sniffed and pretended not to hear. We asked again. This time he nodded towards the back and asked in slow, over-exaggerated English, “DREEENKS ORE DEEN-NER?”
I blinked. Husband replied in smooth French. Again the waiter sniffed and turned on his heels.
“That was weird,” Husband said as we maneuvered alone towards a table. Everyone else we had attempted French with seemed appreciative, encouraging even.
“Maybe he wants to practice his English.” I offered feebly.
The rest of the meal was a test of wills, with our waiter speaking indulgent English and Husband talking back in increasingly aggressive French. When Husband finally asked for “l’addition, s’il vous plait,” our apathetic server just rolled his eyes and said a cartoonish “SOOO-PER.” And then we waited 15 minutes for our bill.
Merde, I tell ya. It’s everywhere.
But don’t get me wrong- I find something oddly reassuring in that universal truth. You can feel at home almost anywhere knowing that without fail, people are people and dogs are dogs. Besides, what would this city be without dog doo and shitty waiters? It would be Disney Land. A movie set. A slice of perfection so bland you could hardly enjoy it. And dahling, if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past few months, it’s that Parisians just don’t do bland.