Two worlds: out and about in Paris

A dark blanket lurks, closing in on the edges of the twinkling city, while the bustle and chatter, buoyant, rises unafraid, to meet it.

My new shoes meet historic paths, carrying me past towering structures now bursting with the latest trends.

Delicate patisseries intertwined between the giants of Paris relieve the timeless streets and bustle, as I continue to wander, in what seems a dream.

The lights of carousels dance ... around and around and around to the music of the hurdy-gurdy ... carrying children out past their bedtimes, while parents chatter with a steamy drink in hand.

Pressing my hands deeper into the warmth of fur-lined pockets, I cross the road towards the hunched, elderly man I'd seen yesterday and the day before, again wrapped up in his green plaid coat, as gentle as clockwork, he closed up his lottery stand.

The easy elegance of women darting between cars, crossing streets, makes me pause in admiration, all who have places to be and people to see; the sophisticated detail of their coats and hats revealed as they step into warm lights gracing entrances of restaurants and galleries; familiar faces await them.

Wintry air continues to prickle my nose and cheeks, followed by a cloud of air drenched in warmth and scents from the cafe ahead ... a hot drink beckons.

Three euros and ''Un chocolat chaud, s'il vous plait'' later, my insides are heated by the thickest and most sumptuous, hot chocolate I have ever tasted.

Wrapped in the night's deepening blanket, I am carried through the cold dry air soaked in rich, newly risen pastries, confused with smoke and perfume that float, suspended.

My feet come to a halt ... the black hole ... an entrance unlike those with sparkling windows and lights that I was now accustomed to seeing . . . intimidated . . .

The screeching metal and yells up the tunnel-like entrance I am now faced with, followed by the echoing of a more flustered, chaotic chatter than I had previously been surrounded by; beggars, and those in a rush to get to the admittedly undersized doors allowing the certainty of transport.

Plucking up my courage, abandoned by the comfort of my now empty cup, my shoes step down, down, down the unkempt stairs leading to limitless destinations.

Lost souls of the Parisian metro find themselves level with the soles of my shoes ... hunched and cross-legged; a cold, rusty tin inviting loose change.

Tired, gloomy eyes peer up at me, yet glimmer, at the sight of the shiny coin nearing them; leftovers from the steamy drink I'd earlier devoured.

I can't help but wonder at the masses passing; head high, leather satchel snug in the crook of their arm, somehow oblivious to the forgotten whose gaze rarely rises above the rush of shoes, squeezing in and out of metro doors.

A two-levelled city ... with two different worlds.


• By Polly Tenci, Year 12, St Hilda's Collegiate School



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