Uh oh, I gulped.
A row of stern looking riot police glared directly at us. Their faces were stoic and joyless. Like a row of armour-plated goths on a sunny day.
I turned around to see a vortex of people with picket signs. I heard a raucous noise as they were chanting and screaming through megaphones. There was also a conga line, the leader herded her train of people through the medium of loud, annoying megaphone.
It turned out we had stumbled into the middle of a French protest for Labour Reforms. Their government were paying workers the same money, but making them do a lot more work for it. The French weren’t to keen on these employment changes – some protests were getting violent about the prospect about having to work more than a 35 hour work week
I scoffed. Having worked 37.5 hours a week for the past year, of which I have made minor complaints about.
This protest was pretty tame, the riot police felt like such an extravagant measure. The only thing illegal that was going on was the protesters’ dance moves.
Accidentally becoming part of a protest seemed like a fun idea, especially with so many colourful characters dancing around and making a cacophony of noise. However, my friend was striding off to go to the vegan cafe, not at all interested in the bubbling action that was going on.
I solemnly chased after her, my facial expression parallel to a kid whose been refused a dose of Disneyland. We arrived at the ‘Loving Hut,’ only to find it was being refurbished.
Oh well, said my meaty appetite !
We ended up instead at another sushi place. I furrowed my brow as I tried to translate the menu. The efforts of my French Teacher, Monsieur Doyle, many years ago, were in vain as I had forgotten pretty much everything. I ended up with copius amount of kebab (the nadir of the meat world) and a tasty mushroom soup.
With a full tum, we bounded into a mini Carre-Forre (Paris’s version of Tesco Metro, without the forthright Self-Service voice, tirade of gormless worker teens in blue shirts and Horse meat (this is France, who knows – Black Beauty is probably waiting in the nearby abattoir to be minced.))
Despite being rejuvenated with an ensemble of French snacks, my friend and I had descended into several arguments. She was seething at me for walking into a McDonalds, her Anti-Meat Radar on overdrive. There was a discussion about the mysterious love bite. I was excited about being in France and wanted to make conversation, she spent most of the trip in silence. And when she did speak, she was talking about another woman she wanted to set me up with. It was all going horribly wrong.
Besides certain hobbies, we realized there was little that we agreed on. Well almost…
I thought maybe we could have some fun courtesy of the more wild avenues of Paris. It turned out we were staying a mere 5 minutes away from the Moulin Rouge, which encompassed Paris’s very own Red Light District.
I just wished I’d check Trip Advisor beforehead. It could have saved me a lot of bother.
We had a curious nose around some shops, advertised as being ‘naughty’. When I think of the word ‘naughty,’ I think of taking 3 Jaffa Cakes when offered, instead of the moral amount of 1.
Frenchy ‘naughty’ was something else. Imagine Ann Summers without the cute teasy marketing and customer service. My memory is still scarred and my innocence corrupted by the hilarious and unusual filth for sale. There were pictures of grannies in latex. There were DVD covers with different species on integrating with our own. I felt I needed to cleanse my eyes with holy water to forget what I saw.
I also discovered what a bukkake is. It turns out it’s not a foreign cuisine.
At the back of the shop, there were several doors which led to enclosed dark, tiny rooms with TV units, headphones and seats. Whatever videos were played in these booths, it couldn’t be any worse than enduring the The One Show.
My friend had seen some 9 inch killer heels in the window, there colour an offensively bright pink, they were a staggering €90. She decided to try on several pairs and was busy galloping around the shop. She’s a short girl so it looked quite humorous.
The sales assistant’s eyes lit up like a cop spotting a spare donut. He remarked how beautiful she looked as she cat walked around the shop. He gawped lovingly, looking like he was about to drool a little. He helped her wiggle a foot into a ghastly tartan colored high heel.
As my friend continued took look at shoes that even a stripper would feel uncomfortable in, the assistant disappeared. I had a peruse at the till. There was a free blue chastity device with every €50 spent. I almost knocked over a dildo the size of a bowling pin.
I suddenly heard a jangle of a belt. The sales assistant walked toward us fastening up his trousers!
“Toilet,” he explained.
I just wanted a quick escape. My friend, completely unaware, was busy drunk on stiletto platform heels, so I almost had to drag her out.
Upon our exit, we turned a corner to find ourselves down a world of Strip Clubs. Knowing my friend is bisexual, and that she had recently worked at a Strip Club herself (at the bar, she claimed. Don’t ask.) I thought it would be quite a funny idea to have a look in one after a mad 40 hours.
We spotted the Le String Club.
As we walked through the doors, a woman, who was half attempting to look seductive, said to us, “You come in for ze dance? Just €10 each?”
Why not! We saw a mini-bar on the left.
“Which drink do you want – whisky or beer?” she asked.
We didn’t really fancy a drink. I’m an eat-out and drink tap water guy. We were then ushered inside a room behind a dusty maroon curtain. It was inhabited by about 20 chairs, yet we were the only ones there.
It was the pokiest, lamest strip club ever (contrary to popular belief, I’m not a regular to these places!) The dancer came in, and asked again us Whisky or Beer? We figured that the beverage offered came with her incoming dance, so we said Whisky. She returned, and plonked the two whiskeys on the table.
The dancer then slowly began to remove her clothes, to reveal a tangerine coloured bikini. She was swirling her backside from a pole and then prowling over to the left hand side of the room. She then began to wither her body in an attempt to entice and enchant us, but it looked like she was awkwardly making out with the wall. She looked a little bit like Beyonce, without the star quality. I couldn’t get over the sheer amount of orange she was almost wearing.
Some boob action was shown, the music suddenly stopped and then she sleeked away back to the entrance. Was I meant to clap? Offer her a place in the Semi-Finals? It was a bit awkward.
We thought the experience was over. We looked at each other, unsure what was going on. We drank the whisky, which was literally 10% whiskey mixed with water and ice. It had a very peculiar taste, was it even whisky though? Mr Jack Daniels would be disgusted.
Abruptly, an obese stripper appeared from the front and started to dance. I wasn’t sure what to look at, but I began to question my heterosexuality.
I’d never seen so much silicone in my life. She spoke to us, her eyes hungry for Euro’s.
“€350 to come downstairs.
You girlfriend and boyfriend?
You look maybe you can touch?
We have bottle of champagne to share.
You come downstairs yeah and you get ze private dance?”
We both said no. To be honest the novelty of seeing a Strip Club had long since simmered. In fact this whole experience in Pigalle now felt grotty and horrible. She asked again as she finished her special dance. We declined again, and she slithered out the front, hopefully not to upset about our rejection.
As were about to leave, a burly man that resembled an angry animal appeared in the doorway. “You buy drinks.”
Silly man, we don’t want anymore. I said, “We’re okay, we’ve had one already.”
We were perplexed where he had come from, as we had not seen him before in the World’s tiniest Strip Club. He then opened a menu and shone a torch on the drinks page. “You got whisky.”
On the menu it said €50. Each!
“100 Euro!” The bouncer demanded. He blocked the entrance door.
I had no money on me. We both were completely confused, the mood had suddenly turned Tangfastic…. sour. It turned out that the non-whiskies weren’t part of the entry fee.
“€100 for the two whisky,” he said, with the regimented look of a badly paid Algebra teacher. He flicking the torch over the menu again, like he’d uncovered buried treasure.
“Uhh…. Do you take card?”
“No, cash,” he said, menacingly.
My friend only had 80 Euros’s in her purse to pay for both of our escapes. Luckily they accepted this and let us leave with our bones intact. She asked me to buy her the awful pink shoes for my share of the rescue money.
I was really annoyed about this predicament. My friend simply retorted that they have to make a living somehow! My pride had gotton a walloping over losing money on the most expensive whisky ever. I felt like I needed more of it drown my sorrows, maybe I should’ve gone back in and spent my yearly income on another round of water whisky.
I found reviews on Trip Advisor which said that certain customers had been threatened with weapons and violence. Dancers would tell patrons that they were getting a drink, and the customer would be pretty oblivious.
Dancers would grab champagne from the bar, and start drinking whilst working. Later on the customer finds out he/she is to be charged for this, and a €400+ bill is produced. They’d end up being frogmarched to the cash point to pay up and possibly hit with a baseball bat.
Turns out the whole area is a bit of a tourist trap, and links to the Mafia and police corruption were rife. So we were remarkably lucky compared to other tourists who made it home penniless and passportless. They are a few horror stories in the one star section here…
As I solemnly arrived back at the hotel, the wind still out my sales. I managed to claw an hours sleep, which was all I was allowed due to an early morning flight. We stumbled into the opening hours of pre-sunrise France. It was quite nice to see the various different shops preparing for a busy day, with the smell of patisseries wafting into the crisp 5am air.
I couldn’t work out when the bus left from. We spent 20 minutes aimlessly wandering around in the dark, hoping to get the bus before it left. We even ended up running into the middle of the above Opera road, a scary experience for all. We finally found the bus stop and rode to the Airport in relief.
Sadly the French didn’t like the fact I had a tiny tube of Toothpaste and some Lynx Delta spray in my bag, and the hold-all was promptly searched by a no-nonsense checker. It was quite awkward to have my bag ransacked and probed, luckily I didn’t purchase anything from the shop we went to yesterday.
I wasn’t allowed to take my Lynx, and had to leave it at the airport. The plane ride was quite seamless, and I relished the chance to take my horrible shoes off, my toes and ankles were almost on the endangered species list.
I kissed my friend goodbye.
I got on the 3.5 hour National Express coach journey home. I had only received about 10 hours sleep over the previous 3 nights. I fell into a much needed slumber and dreamt about all my adventures in Paris. And my slightly bruised ego.
I never spoke to my travelling companion again. She didn’t respond to any messages, so i i sent her a letter saying goodbye.
A few day later, a girl appeared at the reception desk at my work. “This is for Rupert,” she said. She gave me a mysterious paper bag, full of stuff. It contained all the things were shared together, some furry handcuffs (don’t ask), a Valentine’s card I sent her, some coriander seeds from a date we went on at Coriander Bournemouth, as well as the pink stiletto platform heels.
As there were too big for me and damaged now anyway, I sold them on eBay. After zero bidding wars, I got £3.50 for them. The last time I saw this friend was in a nightclub, where she was kissing a tall blonde lady.
I will never, ever go to Paris again. I think I hate it there.
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I’m now on Youtube !