Ah, Paris! The City of Light! The home of kings, emperors, and charming rat chefs alike. Home to artists, musicians, philosophers, and lovers of life writ large. Paris has been continuously inhabited for at least 2,300 years, with its advantageous location — spanning the river Seine and on the Île de la Cité in the middle of the river — ideal for commerce and defense alike. Today, Paris is inhabited by more than 2.2 million people in the city proper, with some 12 million people living in the greater metro area of this French capital. (Nearly 20 percent of the citizens of France live in the Paris metro area.)
Paris is also one of the most widely visited cities in the world, attracting tens of millions of tourists every year. With so many residents and such a bustling of tourists, it’s no surprise that this famed international city offers its fair share of ridiculous sights and scenes every day of the year. Fortunately, for those of us who don’t have the pleasure of frequenting Paris, those trusty Google Street View cars regularly trundle up the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, down the Rue du Louvre, and along the Boulevard Saint-Germain. Here are fifteen ridiculous images from Paris as captured by Google Street View. Vive le ridicule!
15. The Street Performer / Ghost
Paris is famous for its buskers, the street performers who wow crowds (often largely to distract them while an accomplice picks the pockets of hapless tourists clean) with acts ranging from juggling to music to comedy to dance. Here we see a man who appears to be a street performer, but there are a few questions raised. First, where is his hat, jar, or box used to collect cash? Second, what is his talent, sitting there wrapped in white from head to toe? And third, is this a street artist, or is it a very boring ghost who casually haunts a Parisian sidewalk?
14. Parisian Prostitutes
They say prostitution is the oldest profession in the world. It’s certainly one of the most universal lines of work; you can travel to any major city and many smaller towns around the globe and you will find plenty of people willing to take your money in exchange for sex. These hookers working a street in Paris just got an unexpected boost to their marketing initiatives thanks to the unblinking eye of the passing Google Street View car. Look them up next time you cruise down the Allée de la Reine Marguerite.
13. The Water Deliverin’ Fool
Sometimes a picture just makes you stop and ask… how? How did this man get into this situation? Did he really have his water delivery cart perched next to the pole and then reached around either side of it to begin moving the thing? Was that really the thought process? And how long did it take him to figure out the error? Perhaps the Street View car passed at just the right moment, or maybe this philosopher was standing like that for several minutes wondering why he was having trouble. Or maybe he saw the Google car coming and the joke is on us.
12. Lovers on the Grass
Paris has long been known as a romantic place, with its tree-lined streets and many parks that serve as favorite spots for lovers to sneak a kiss or two. In past years, however, your intimate moments tended to stay private unless a pesky plein air Impressionist artist dashed off a painting of your tryst. Today, passionate Parisians are subject to being immortalized in a different way: by the Google Street View car. Here a pair of lovers inadvertently share their moment with the world. How sweet.
11. Parking Fail and a Toilet
The first thing mosts people will notice about this random snap from the Google Street View car’s trip down a Parisian street (Avenue Victoria, for the record) is that this truck is terrible parked. It is backed halfway onto the sidewalk and juts out into the roadway. And while that’s not exactly cool, it’s also not all that interesting. Now look a bit to the left and note the toilet casually hanging out by that tree. Are the two related? Is the truck there to collect the commode? Or is it just another crazy day in Paris?
10. Just Taking an Adult Doll for a Walk
Now, to be fair, there is a decent chance that what we’re seeing here is a prank pulled at the expense of the Google Street View car, but regardless, this man spotted strolling along a Parisian sidewalk while carrying an inflatable sex doll was surely a surprise not only to the passing camera car but also to the passersby sharing the sidewalk with him and his… possession. And if it’s not a prank, then here is a man who is perfectly at ease with himself and his place in the world. While most of us would probably tuck this kind of thing into the trunk of a car or perhaps deflate it and put it in a bag, he hits the streets with gusto.
9. Arrest Captured on Google Street View
For most of us, save perhaps for the most hardened of criminals, an arrest is a frightening, embarrassing experience, and one that we’re not keen to relive later on in life. Most people also probably don’t like the idea of their arrest becoming a spectacle witnessed by others. Worse still is the idea of it being captured on camera and then shared online, where it will be potentially seen by millions of people. To that I have to say… well, you shouldn’t have gotten arrested, then. (And besides, for all we know this guy got off just fine, assuming he had no drugs or weapons on him and didn’t have outstanding warrants or a litany or priors.)
8. Oh Hi, Street View Car!
See, kids? There IS an alternative to flipping the bird when you spot the Google Street View car; you can just share a friendly wave and be recorded indefinitely as that friendly waving guy! This friendly waving guy just so happens to be walking across the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, one of the most famous streets in the world, and crossing a block or so in front of the Arc de Triomphe, the famous landmark erected at the direction of Napoleon (well, work started at his direction in the year 1806, but would not be completed until the 1830s, a number of years after his death).
7. Street View Image Becomes Street Art
Artist Paolo Cirio has an interesting approach to the visual arts. He finds images of people on Google Street View that catch his interest, and then creates a life-sized picture of the person in question. Then he applies this large picture in almost the exact same spot as the original image was captured. Here we see a man who was sitting on a stairway in Paris minding his own business only to later become a large print out adhered to the door behind where he sat when the Street View car rolled by. Not that, friends, is art imitating life. And sort of vice versa, too.
6. Skater Down! Skater Down!
There’s no shame in falling over, unless you don’t have the guts to get back up again. Or unless your fall is captured by the Google Street View car and posted on the internet for all the world to see. (And then featured in an article like this one… sorry, skater guy.) Here he we see a young man who was just trying to cruise along on Rue Debrousse, but instead ended up tumbling off his skateboard and down to his hands and knees just as passing Street View camera snapped a picture. At least his face is effectively blurred out, so his folly remains anonymous.
5. Notre-Dame de Paris Via Street View
There is nothing ridiculous about this image of Paris’s famed cathedral Notre-Dame in a pejorative sense, but rather it provides an opportunity for us to reflect on the amazing scope of human history. Construction of this cathedral first commenced in the year 1163 and would not be finished for more than 182 more years, with 1345 considered its year of completion. That is 672 years ago, for those of you who are keeping score. This building represents the better part of 1,000 years of human history, therefore, and here we see it rendered using on of the latest technological advancements of the past few years. Pretty cool when you think about it.
4. Up Close and Personal with the Eiffel Tower
I think the main reason I find this Google Street View picture of the iconic Eiffel Tower so funny is that it’s essentially useless in terms of the primary purpose of Street View. The original point of Street View was to help you locate a place by seeing it in the context of its surroundings. This picture looks almost straight up at the Eiffel Tower, basically saying: “HEY! HERE IT IS!” We can give it a pass though, because the Eiffel Tower is 984 feet tall, so you’ll probably be able to locate it with relative ease if you’re anywhere nearby.
3. Tourists, Tourists Everywhere
If there is one thing you will see a lot of in Paris on every day of the year, it is the tourist. A tourists is readily recognized based on his or her backpack, camera, map, and confused expression. Here we see two men both sporting backpacks and holding large cameras, while two other visitors sit beside the Seine, backpacks removed while apparently studying a map. And this is pretty much the first image a saw when I dropped the little orange Street View guy onto a random spot next to the river. They’re… everywhere….
2. Hey, F U, Street View!
Why is it that so many people immediately throw up their middle finger when the see a camera? Why can’t we all just smile and wave, or at least have the common courtesy to flash some skin? If you spend enough time scouring the streets of any major city on Google Street View, you will find countless people who spotted the camera car and then said to themselves: “Hey, I think I’ll flip that thing off!” Here we see a group of charming French youngsters doing just that. Poor Street View guy, he has feelings, you know?
1. Boulevard Poissonnière
At a quick glance, this rather looks like an image snapped by a Google Street View car on a rainy day in Paris, no? Well, it’s not. Your first clue are the horse drawn carriages, which are rare these days in France. Second clue is the lack of cars. Third is the clothing of the pedestrians. And your fourth clue is the fact that the people are clearly painted, not photogrtaohed. In fact this is the painting “Boulevard Poissonnière” by Jean Béraud (French, 1849-1936) with Google Map icons laid over the painting by contemporary artist and writer James Lileks.
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