A loving couple queues in front of a Parisian cafe. “For the brunch, I’ve got one table at 6pm”, a waiter tells them.
That scene is depicted in one of 48 posters put up across the French capital in an outdoor exhibition that casts a tender and amused eye on the quirks of Paris and its inhabitants, whose reputation as grumpy complainers has almost become a badge of honour.
A woman on the phone running to her meditation class, a never-ending queue to get in a restaurant, a chock-a-block cafe terrace as a ray of sunshine appears… All these feature in the exhibition that ends on August 28.
“Yes, that’s Parisian life”, laughs Iverlene Worrell, a British tourist staring at a poster on the Champs-Elysees depicting the queueing couple.
“It gives a light, friendly kind of vibe,” adds her friend Nicole Broomes, who is discovering Paris for the first time.
The illustrator of the posters is Kanako, a Parisian by adoption who has for years been drawing for mylittleparis.com, a popular blog that reveals all the latest trendy happenings in the capital.
Far from targeting just Parisians, the posters are translated into English so that tourists too can have a little chuckle at the expense of the French capital’s inhabitants.
Dee Hyde, an American teacher, stares at one drawing that depicts a man standing in front of a gigantic stall full of bread of every shape and size. “Would you have any squash-sesame-coconut country bread left?” the man asks the baker.
“She (the baker) looks a little mad. She doesn’t look so happy. If I was speaking English to her, she might look like that,” Hyde says.
Paris has long been a subject of endless fascination for foreigners, who view it as a city full of beautiful, elegant women, delicious eateries and quaint cafes.
As such, the French capital — the most visited city in the world — has been a source of inspiration for many authors.
“Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris” and “The Sweet Life in Paris” are just some of the books available on the capital.
But the city has also gained a reputation for unfriendliness and rudeness — so much so that tourists are often taken aback and sometimes even need psychological help.
One Japanese psychiatrist practising in the French capital has coined a condition called the “Paris syndrome” for compatriots new to the city who arrive with a romantic, overblown image out of sync with reality — and suffer.
“Many Parisians take themselves a little too seriously,” says a suited-up Frenchman, gazing at one of the posters that depicts a crowd massed around an incomprehensible work of art.
“A bit of self-mockery does no harm.”
The exhibition is organised by the Paris city hall and the drawings have been put up on advertising billboards at a time when most of the capital — and its businesses — is on holiday.
“It’s a display that has no aim, other than to make people smile,” said Lionel Bordeaux, a spokesman for Paris city hall.
“It’s nice to be able to have some lightness, an amused and critical look at the lives we lead.”
[Image via Agence France-Presse]