It smells. Horribly. At first, I thought it was just the metro stations. As anyone that has been to New York City knows, metro stations smell badly pretty much everywhere you go. Homeless people hunker down to stay out of the elements, drunk party goers that cannot make it back to their apartments, or the nearest public restroom, relieve themselves with abandon. Rotted food, garbage that doesn't get take out as often as it should, all add up to something that does not smell great. But, let me repeat, this is not a problem that is unique to France. I think every subway in the world has that weird smell that attacks your olfactories as soon as you start going down the stairs. It is slightly compounded here by the number of fruit vendors in the subway stations -- occasionally the mix of the bad smell and the fresh produce is just awful.
However, in Paris, that smell permeates most of the city. Everywhere you go, there is a distinct bathroom-odor. Not just in the city center, not just in the tourist areas, but in all corners of the city. The execption might be if you are standing directly outside of a bakery. Bakeries smell wonderful. Everything else smells terrible.
Sunday, Mike and I were walking to the flea market in a nearby neighborhood and we were amazed to see a young man (maybe 25), open up his fly and start urinating on a car parked on the street. In the middle of the day. Across the street from a church and park. There were so many things wrong that we almost could not comprehend what was going on. Let me repeat -- young guy, hanging out on the sidewalk, having some drinks with his buddies on a Sunday morning (part of me thinks this is where he started going wrong -- when you start drinking at 11am, great things are not likely to happen). He made the brilliant decision that rather than go inside to use the bathroom, or go to the public restroom across the street in the park, he would rather open up his pants and pee on a car. I am going to bet that it was not his car, because who would pee on their own car? Granted, this is not the only question that one should be asking... but it is a good place to start.
And this, my friends, I have decided is why Paris smells weirdly like a bathroom everywhere you go. There are no real mysteries, it is just a matter of dudes peeing on cars (yes, I am stereotyping, but I do not think women do this with any frequency).