I Figured Out What Parisians Actually Use Parks For and It’s Awesome

Last week I was very proud of myself when I got over being a crazy American and worked out at Sacre Coeur, despite tons of people milling about, after my neighbor yelled at me for making too much noise when I exercised at our apartment (and I realized Paris does not have gyms so I better get used to working out outdoors). I found that the people, for the most part, didn’t seem to notice I was there. And I was happy about that. Yet I still asked a friend for recommendations of other, possibly more quiet, parks where I could get my workout on. Because…parks are everywhere here. I just needed to find one that wasn’t crawling with people.

I found exactly that…and learned so much more about how real Parisians really use parks. And it’s definitely not working out.

My friend’s recommendation: Square Alex-Biscarre, a cute, tiny park tucked away behind a hotel particulier near the St. Georges plaza in the 9th arrondissement. When I arrived on a Monday morning around 8 am, I was totally alone, save for a lonely park-keeper emptying the garbage bins. Perfect.

Square Alex-Biscarre park in Paris near st georges

St Georges Park Square Alex-Biscarre

I got started hopping around to my 30-minute BBG workout: squats with weights, a little jumprope, some burpees. I was totally alone and jamming.

Until. I met the Parisian park species #1: The prowler. A man, maybe in his mid-20s, entered the park and slowly started walking the perimeter. And decided to sit down at the bench RIGHT NEXT to where I was working out, five feet away, despite the fact that there were about 15 other benches he could have chosen. And proceeded to stare at me in a way that I have learned is prototype Parisian male. Unfailingly, not embarrassed that I ignored him, for the last full 10 minutes of my workout. Mind you, we’re still totally alone, the two of us, in this little park hidden away from the view of anyone, even the street.

When I finished I hoped he had his fill and would walk away. But he didn’t. Instead, as I was panting away on my bench, he approached. I had on my headphones and pretended not to hear him. I was a bit scared. He asked if he could borrow my jump rope. I said no. He approached closer. I started packing my bag frantically. He asked again, and again, begging, gesturing wildly with his hands at my jumprope. I kept saying no until emphatically I told him, in French: NO I’M LEAVING RIGHT NOW.

This is him dejectedly (angrily?) walking away:

creepy french guy at paris park

OK, mutilation scene averted. Though I spent most of my walk home that day looking over my shoulder. Ugh creep.

But the story isn’t over yet.

Friday rolls around, and I decide I want to give the park one more shot. After all, this dude can’t be prowling around the park every day, right?

He wasn’t. I got started on my same BBG workout, different exercises, with a mat spread out on the park floor.

gym equipment at the Paris park

This time, I ran into Parisian park species #2: the lovers. A couple in their late 20s arrived. These guys did not even notice I existed. They sat at a bench on the opposite end of the park. And within minutes, they were making out.

Not just like a couple of cute pecks. Like, he’s on top of her. She’s on top of him. He’s on top of her. She’s on top of him. Like…teenagers. I couldn’t stop sneaking glances. I’m fairly sure there was some touchy-feely going on, how couldn’t there be after that much time passed?? Mind you, it’s 8 IN THE MORNING on a Friday. I managed to discreetly snap a photo without them noticing and taking me for a perv:

couple making out in Paris park

This continued for a good 30 minutes, until I left the park. My husband, who is French, later commented: Me being there probably turned them on.

And that’s when I realized…my Montmartre workout was tourist play. THIS was what real Parisians used parks for. I look like a crazy American, because that’s what I am. This is a key example of the difference between Americans and French. Why would you go to a park to sweat and pant and exhaust yourself…when you could be sweating and panting making love?

I love Paris.

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