Home > Driving, Paris > Can I parallel park? Bien sur!

Can I parallel park? Bien sur!

One of the most interesting things about driving in Paris is the parking.  It is hard to find places to park on the street.  You can usually find a parking garage, (“un parking” in French) but what fun is it to pay a bunch to park?  No, the challenge was to circle the block for an open spot. It is cheaper (or free) and you get to hone your parallel parking skills.

Now, here in the good old US of A, many spots are marked out for you.  Whether you have a big car or a small one, you get the same size spot.  Not so in Paris.  If you can fit your car in the spot, you can park there (one of the reasons that Smart cars are so popular…you can park them anywhere).  So, your parallel parking skills are really put to the test.  But on the flip side,  you can be aggressive in your parking.  What?  That doesn’t make sense!   Oh yes it does.  You can totally bump into the cars in front and in back of you.  So the spot only needs to be a few inches bigger than your car in order to fit into it. 

One time I had to take a friend to pay a bill at a hospital.  I saw a spot and told him I would wait for him there.  This was going to be tight, but I managed to park in a tiny spot, on a hill no less.  While I was sitting there playing games on my lame cell phone, I felt the whole car rocking and shaking.  I looked around to see what hit me when I realized that it was just a car parking behind me.  It felt like bumper cars, but that is just how they park!

Most Friday nights, my wife and I would drive in from the suburbs to our pastor’s apartment a few blocks from Trocadero for a Bible study.  This is when the fun would begin.  We drove two different station wagons while we were in France, first an Opel Brake and then a Volvo V40.  Both of them were small by American standards, but in Paris, they felt like trying to park a Humvee!   Our plan was to circle the block (or about four of them) and find a spot to park.  Then the fun ensued!

I would determine that our car would fit into the spot, then I would begin my 15 point parking process.  Now, if you have plenty of room, you can parallel park with a three point process (which would have been nice to be able to do on my driving test, but that is a completely different story).  But when you are trying to get in a spot with much less than a foot on either side, you can’t do it in a few moves.  In order to maximize every inch, it is acceptable to touch the bumpers on the cars on either side.  This allows you to get into much smaller spaces than you could ever imagine.  It is a fun challenge!

I came back with the ability to parallel park like a pro.  But, often I lament to Jen that I really miss my bumper car parallel parking.  But I try to be good and not touch anyone’s bumper.  Look at me, not being aggressive.  (If you haven’t read my blog about driving in Paris, check it out here.)

It is possible to be too aggressive.  Here is not how you park in Paris (at the end, listen to the people who are watching yell at the guy).

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