The bus slams to a stop and I quickly direct my attention out the window. I feel stunned. As usually the location is nothing I have seen before. Seconds later Sophie the tour guide stands up and gives us the afternoon run through. She says, “Okay friends we are now in Montmartre Paris, you have the rest of this beautiful afternoon to explore the area and we will meet at The Sacré-Coeur at 5 o’clock sharp.” Excited and nervous I exit the bus. Immediately I realize that this area is not like the Paris we explored earlier today, that had the city beat and smelly scent. I take a quick look around and soaked up the atmosphere. I can’t help but be mesmerised by the beautiful old stone buildings, the narrow stone streets, steep staircase and ivory covered buildings. I decide not to waste any time so me and some friends head off to explore.
As I approached the market like street, I see miles and mile of art. It is almost like a farmer’s market for art, there are artist aligned down both sides of the street. Some of the artist are just displaying paints to sell, some offer live paints that you can watch them create, also there a few musicians preforming. The big market experience is a bit overwhelming for a farm girl like me. An artist yells out “young lady come let me draw you.” I think there’s no way he’s talking to me, so I don’t respond. However, I am confronted by him, he asks, “I would love to sell you a self-portrait of yourself just come sit over here it will be quick.” I feel pressured to do it, but I decide to nicely refuse. I continue to walk along, and many artists try to call me or my friends over. I am beginning to feel annoyed.
We continue along down and enter a small tourist shop. I decide to buy a small pendent with “MONTMARTRE”, I am excited about this gift because it will remind her of her hometown Montmartre Saskatchewan. I leave the souvenir shop and a small café “le Consulat” just across the street catches my eye. It seems to be rather busy which indicates it must be good, so we head on in the café. The café is buzzing with tourist just like myself, once I get to the big red counter, I order a strawberry banana crepe. My crêpe comes in just a few minutes and then I head back outside to sit at one of the cute metal red tables on the patio.
The table conversation is minimal, which gives me a good chance to sit in the sun and reflect on my day. I can’t help but feel privileged. I am on a trip in Europe exploring new places with my friends. My thought is interrupted by my friend Taylor. “Guys maybe we should start to head back its 4:30, and it may take a while to find our way”
I said to the girls “Let’s go this way it looks like a more direct path”. So, we headed down a new street. The streets tempo is a lot different. We aren’t even 2 minutes down the alley when I begin to feel uncomfortable. On the sidewalks I notice lots of homeless people, and homeless families. I see a family sit on an old beat up blanket. The father is holding sign saying that reads, “This sidewalk is all I can provide for my family, my children haven’t eaten in two days.” This tugs on my heart string and makes me feel a sense of humbleness. But the overwhelming sense of fear overrules. We begin to pick up the pace and walk a bit faster it is obvious the other girls are also feeling anxious. We continue to speed walk along the cobble stone street. I’m astonished by the amount of homeless people.
Finally, we arrive at the meeting spot and I am revealed. We wait around for a few minutes before everyone arrives. Sophie says “ I hope you enjoyed you day today, this day was likely very different for each and every one of you, I hope you all got to enjoy a new experience” I think to myself, ya a new experience for sure. I am puzzled as to why this experience is so shocking. I see that my social class is evident, but I don’t know how to respond or react to it. This makes my head hurt so I push these questions away and load the bus home.