When you hear the name Paris, you sure to be flooded with an array of dreamy images. Undeniably the Eiffel Tower, The Seine, freshly baked baguettes and colourful desserts. You see a perfect Instragram version of yourself sipping on a creamy latte, eating a warm chocolate croissant all whilst watching the street life from a picturesque sidewalk café. That feeling of dazed bliss at the thought of being surrounded by the beautiful French language. And French Men. You need only look at any Instagram account featuring Paris to see that it all pretty much tells exactly the same story. I too travelled to Paris with these identical beautifully framed pictures in my mind. I was SO ready to capture it all and well you know…share it on my Instagram.
Well, my story is not about any of these. It is, however, about how once I looked past the obvious beauty of Paris, I found myself desperately yearning to see a different side of the golden city and instead it’s colourful inner beat. Having always been fascinated by Spoken Poetry, or Slam Poetry, as it is also known, I wonderfully stumbled upon an open mike session in the basement of a lively bar, called Le Chat Noir. Sitting together on a mix of worn wooden benches and old stools in a small dark and somewhat intimate space, added to the magic of what was to unfold that evening. The poetry was captivating, inspirational and wonderfully enlightening. Now, here is where this story gets really interesting; As I was leaving, an offbeat, eclectic looking man adorned in a top hat hands me a small piece of paper. On it was a detailed hand-drawn map to a secret adventure at the edge of Paris. Trying not too sound at the risk of being called “cheesy”, but this man knew, he knew I needed this.
Intrigued and wildly curious, my boyfriend and I set off on what we deemed as the Amazing Race Adventure to a Treasure. We did the sane thing; packed snacks, drinks and jumped onto the closest metro. We smiled secretly to one another and clutched onto our treasure map dearly as if it was a winning lottery ticket. It took us three metro rides, and only a few moments of lost confusion following the map, to the edge of Paris. We arrived at a suburban area, which was a much more quieter and leafier area than we were used to seeing. Although what really blew our minds, was that we found ourselves being led to an abandoned railway road. We carried on walking for what seemed like forever along the rusting train track. We were in awe of the stillness and secrecy of the lonesome track. Occasionally, we passed a few people sitting on the overgrown grass patch that ran along the side, reading or just hanging out. We were both so excited each time we passed them, we stupidly giggled to each other and wondered out loud if they too were in on “it”. There was a brief moment of uncertainty as I wondered if we might have gone too far or worse yet-been misled.
As we neared closer to an intensely colourful graffitied abandoned station, we both looked at each other and instinctively knew we had found what we had set out for. Here, we stumbled upon a lively and boisterous group singing, laughing and chatting with one another. The group consisted of an eclectic mix of poets, performers, dreamers, and shakers, all gathered to share their stories. The old station’s platform served as the perfect stage and backdrop for anyone who wished to have their voices heard. Everything about that day seemed whimsical. The sun had that dreamy golden glow, which shone beautifully against the grunginess and vibrant colours of the graffiti. The afternoon was filled with poetry beatboxing, bass guitar jams, introspective retelling and random outbursts of song and dance. It was magical, inspiring and just plain cool.
When every song and poem had been sung and read with a passionate equivalent to the final act of a theatre performance, we quite literally pulled ourselves together and left with wide-brimmed smiles. Not only did I never expect to find such a place, nor even had the faintest idea it even existed, it was a side of Paris I were hoping to find. I was completely overwhelmed and fascinated by what we had discovered. As silly as it may sound it felt like a gift, and it reminded me of the importance of spontaneity and the joy it brings when traveling. When you immerse yourself completely and open yourself to new and wonderful experiences and people, everything seems impossible.
I still look back at this memory with great fondness and wonder. It felt like I had won a prize that day. For you see, Paris boldly reminded me that, it is not all baguettes and lattes.