10 things in Paris… that remain mysteries to me…

After yesterday morning when I calmly stepped outside to cycle for half an hour, only to discover it was pouring with rain: where did that come from?

10. The positioning of cycle lanes. Who designed them? Completely at random, they may be on the left or the right of main traffic, on the pavement, separated by a barrier or not, going down the middle of the road, in what appears to be a tram lane… Or, more likely, a combination of the above, badly signposted and changing suddenly, leaving you wondering why everyone is getting really annoyed with you for being in the middle of the road…

9. The piles of croissants in bars. Where do they come from? (However early I get up, they’re always there first!) How do they stay balanced in that precarious pile? Who eats them all? How do you dunk one in an espresso? So many questions, so few answers…

8. Where do all of the Vélibs go? In the evening, it’s almost impossible to find a space to park in the 1er. At 9.30am, there are plenty. But before 9am there are none. How many times have I optimistically crossed the road to discover a sad specimen with flat tires, missing pedals, no saddle..? Too many.

7. How is the market not saturated with yoghurt? Surely there are too many identical products out there? I can’t tell the difference between twelve brands of natural yoghurt, and I don’t believe that the French can either.

6. How do roundabouts work? Surely if you work on the principal of right of way belonging to those entering, you could get a situation where no one can ever leave, and an infinitely long queue of people giving way to the right will just build up…

5. Why is it that roundabouts (eg. Concorde, Bastille, Trocadéro) appear round on a map, but turn into a labyrinth of horror and disorientatingly different exits not going in the direction you thought and people switching lanes in odd places and traffic lights in even odder places and one way streets and what’s that pedestrian doing there (etc.) as soon as you’re actually there trying to get somewhere?

4. What is the point in ambulances if it’s the fire brigade that you phone if someone collapses in the street? And are the fire brigade medically trained?

3. How many museums are there in this city? Is it physically possible to visit them all or will there always be another one lurking down a dark street somewhere, waiting to open?

2. Why are there two islands in the middle of the Seine? Are they natural or man-made? Do they serve any particular purpose? Can anyone tell the difference between them and either bank? Are people who live on them known as islanders?

1. How many exits does Chatelet Métro/ train station have, and where are they all?


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