Customer Travel Story: Youri Menna Sings in Paris
Travel changes people. The person who leaves the hotel in the morning is rarely the same person who returns in the evening. The differences are slight, but they’re real. More than anything, travel changes how we view things.
One of our customers, Marty Muse, experienced exactly that on a recent trip to Paris. It was the second stop on a three city educational tour he was taking with his wife and daughter. After multiple days of sitting on buses and being shepherded en masse to the sights of London and Paris, he was looking forward to exploring one of the world’s most beautiful cities on his terms.
“The last day I told the tour guide, ‘I don’t care what you do, my wife and I are just going to walk into the city and I’ll see you at 11:00 tonight.’”
With a plan of escaping the familiar crowd they had been traveling with and immersing themselves in a crowd of unknown Parisians, they headed out.
After wandering around the Latin Quarter and poking around in various neighborhoods, they ended up in front of the famed Opera House. Marty had visions of sitting on the famous steps of a world landmark and letting Paris come to him. His wife, Amy, had visions of exploring Parisian shops and left him by himself in the heart of Paris. Shortly after settling in, Marty’s mood soured.
“The Opera House is where five or six streets merge and it’s this huge plaza. All the buildings are what you would daydream about Paris. It was a beautiful day and all of a sudden this guy gets out a car right in front.”
Marty watched with dread as the car began to disgorge its contents.
“He gets out a guitar and an amp.”
“He’s setting up his microphone and I was thinking, ‘Man… I was enjoying this.’”
Street musicians are part of any city landscape. Often, they can be terrible and become a distraction, especially on what could be a once-in-a-lifetime trip.
The one day Marty and his wife had to themselves appeared to be ruined. Worse yet, he couldn’t escape.
He had told his wife he would meet her on the steps and he had only a vague idea of when she would return. There are worse places to be trapped than in Paris, but at the same time, being in a destination with so much to see, yet confined to a place you’re no longer enjoying can be among the cruelest things in life.
“The guy sets up. He’s selling CDs and I’m like, ‘Oh man, this is going to stink.’”
Like many street musicians, he went right to the classics.
“He started singing Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You. Turns out, he could play classical guitar, Latin guitar, Rock guitar and he had this amazing Italian tenor voice."
“For the next two hours, me and about 500 other people sat on the steps of the Opera House and watched Youri sing.”
Youri Menna is a musician who offers more than 200 free outdoor concerts per year near the great sights of Europe. He often plays in front of the Opera in Paris, but his Facebook Page features photos of him at the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, as well as sights in Germany, Italy, Poland and other countries.
We asked Youri via email what drives him to perform at the great sights of Europe. “Crowds seem to be very attracted to my voice and show,” he said. “The audience in the street, made (up of) people from five continents, enables me to get … feedback about my singing and songwriting skills. They buy my CD, they leave traces of their presence and happiness on my website, (and) allow me to make … a good living and have a unique life.”
His repertoire ranges from original material to covers of Adele, The Eagles and Sinatra. His rendition of New York, New York made a believer out of Marty.
“I’m in Paris, listening to an Italian guy sing about New York. But then he flips the script and in the second verse he starts singing in French and replaces New York, New York with Paris Paris.
“Had I known of his talent before, I would have paid $50 or $100 to see this guy sing, and he comes and does this for free. I sat there and watched the sun set in Paris and listened. It was just really cool. Amy finally came back and we experienced it together for about 20 minutes.
“That mental image will always be burned in my mind.”
Moments like this happen every day all over the world. But when we’re traveling and more receptive to them, they stand out. If Youri was playing in your hometown, it’s possible you could have complained about the crowd making you late to wherever it was you were headed. But on a vacation, in a romantic city, the exact same performance becomes one of life’s moments, and a great travel story.