Lately there is a rumour that is causing me much concern – concerning the Paris Metro.
Ever since my first trip to Paris at the tender age of 14, I have associated the City of Light with the smell of the metro.
The Paris Metro smell isn’t easy to describe but here goes: eggy, garlic, bodies, feet, musty, drains, urine and ever so slightly piquant – like a particularly ripe Camembert.
I have always admired couples who are so romantically involved that they have managed to open their mouths long enough to glue their lips together and snog like their lives depended on it whilst waiting for a train. Personally I take a book to read, keep my mouth shut and breathe through my nose.
It seems though that some people are turning their noses up at the distinctive smell of the city’s underground transport system. There is fighting talk.
Pierre Mongin, CEO of the RATP (Paris Transport Authority) has been saying that he wants to clean up the trains and the underground and promising visible results at a cost of many millions of Euros. He is going to be bringing in inspectors of grime and dirt; they will seek out areas of odour and act as dirt detectives, bringing sparkling cleanliness to the metro.
I’m not sure that I like that too much. I simply can’t imagine being on a metro platform or a train without that distinctive smell being present.
There’s been a lot of clean talk going on in Paris in recent years. Last year there were posters everywhere portraying rude travellers as animals – my favourite was of a frog hopping over the ticket barriers without a ticket. There have been sculptures of cigarette butts and a rather odd used chewing gum statue – designed to make travellers pull up short and think about the effects of their filthy habits on others!
The Metro has undergone a bit of a spring clean on several occasions, over a decade ago chemically enhanced “perfumed air” was wafted about in some stations and ultra violet light used to “break down” smelly molecules in the air. Nothing so far has really achieved any meaningful results.
Paris means different things to different people, beautiful, iconic, historic, romantic and it is all of those things to me – it is also smelly and that too is part of its heritage as far as I am concerned though I appreciate it may not be too alluring for those who have to endure it every day!
Will this latest clean-up plan work? I’m not going to hold my breath (until I’m on the platform)…