Here’s a tip for all you rich folks who insist on driving your heart-attack machines into the center of Paris.
I’m sure you are aware that on-street parking is not an option in Paris. Politicians wanting to be re-elected like to boast about how many parking spaces they have eliminated. They exaggerate, of course — there never were as many parking spaces as they claim to have done away with — but still, your chances of finding a legal on-street parking space within twenty blocks of your restaurant or club are practically zero.
Like most motorists, you could simply head for the nearest parking garage, hoping it isn’t full (complet is the French word, and they often are), drive in and pay whatever they charge.
But you wouldn’t want to do that, because it would be undignified and unbefitting your status as a member of the financial elite. Also, you never know what sort of riff-raff you might encounter in a parking garage. Some garages even offer free bicycle parking, and you know what sort of disreputable characters ride around the city on bicycles.
The solution is to look for the sign reading “voiturier” outside your favorite club, restaurant or department store.
A “voiturier” is a man (in job advertisements they have to say they are seeking a “voiturier/voiturière”, but you know who will get the job) who will take over your car and park it in some mysterious place for you, and then return it to you promptly and discreetly when you are drunk at the end of the evening, a service known in the English speaking world as “valet car parking”.
And where does the “voiturier” park your precious vehicle? In the nearest parking garage, perhaps, if he has reserved enough places. Or in the establishment’s own garage, if they have such a thing. But it could very well happen that your car will be parked illegally, double or triple parked or on a sidewalk or bicycle lane. The police occasionally ticket these cars, but not often enough to discourage the practice.
By the way, a drink at the exclusive Esplanade (first photo) costs nearly double the price of the same drink at a normal pub a block or two away.
My photos in this post are from 2012 and 2013. I revised the text in 2018.
See also: The triumph of cars over people.