Mimes roller blading on the Quai of the Seine
Statue of Liberty
Jardin des Plantes
Canal St Martin
When clothing stores start taking over boulangeries.
Le Jardin du Luxembourg
This past week my sister was in Paris to visit and explore the city. It was the first time she was in Europe, let alone Paris, and so it was an exciting time showing her all the food I have come to know and love during my stay here. So here is a basic list of things I think are must-buys if you find yourself in Paris at some point in the near future:
1. A delicious croissant
You’re in Paris and you’re surrounded by viennoiseries and patisseries, so getting a taste of the flaky goodness that is synonymous with Paris is a must. Keep in mind though that all croissants are not made equal. While even the worst croissant is better than an average croissant back home, you don’t want to waste a single calorie or euro on a subpar croissant while in Paris. There’s no need. Just do a little research- every arrondissement bosats at least one or two viennoiseries serving croissants au beurre that probably have won some prize.
2. Hot chocolate or coffee
There’s one name that comes to mind when you think of hot chocolate in Pairs, and while I don’t particularly advocate going there for the [overpriced] hot chocolate, I think a visit to Paris merits a cup of chocolatey goodness. I would avoid getting hot chocolate in touristy cafés as they tend to be overly sugary. But a quick google search can lead you to a good, small café serving hot chocolate for less than 4 euros. For coffee, check out the new “hipster” cafés in Paris normally run by expats from Australia, Brazil, Italy, ..well anywhere but France.
3. Gelato / ice cream /sorbet. There’s the classic, Berthillon founded in 1954, as well as plenty of other newer spots. Check out Grom or Pozzetto.
4. Buy a book at Shakespeare & Co. and get it stamped at the register. I haven’t done it yet, but I plan on it!
5. Tea from Mariage Frères. Honey or confiture. A jar of caramel beurre salé to recreate the crepe experience back home.
6. Be adventures: Try some escargot, foie gras, oysters or lamb!
7. Explore the yogurt aisle at any supermarket (especially the one at Le Grand Epicerie). The name ‘Yogurt’ doesn’t give it justice. The French have transformed this once plain and boring breakfast sub-category into a food that could easily become a substitue for a guilt-free dessert.
8. Eat real dessert and try macarons from Pierre Hermé, a chausson aux cassis et violet or aux pommes (sort of a knish-shaped pastry filled with a fruit flavoring), or Opera cake for example.
9. Sandwiches are a great option to sample some of the best French products: bread, cheese, meat, spreads, butter, pickles…. all for under 5 euros. If you love cheese, make it your mission to try as many different varieties as you can every time you order a salad, sandwich, crepe or quiche.
10. Buy some Roger & Gallet products for yourself or as gifts. My favorites are the rose and the green tea scented lotions.
11. Buy a Nespresso machine. Because all the French people have them. Throw in some Repetto ballet flats and some fur for the full effect.
The weather in Paris for the past week has been cold but full of sunshine and has given me false hope that warmer spring weather is just around the corner.(EDIT: As I post this, we just got over a few days of snowy, freezing weather and are now experiencing yet another rise in temperature.. 61 and sunny this Tuesday! ) It will probably be some time before I can leave the house wearing a single or even double layer of clothing but that hasn’t stopped me from trying to profit from the absence of gray skies that has plagued Paris everyday since the beginning of winter. I am almost positive I’ve developed some sort of allergy to my wool scarf.
The seasons have always had a rather measurable affect on my mood. And it’s sad to admit that living in Paris has done little to free me from this this tendency. I can’t even remember a time before this week when I didn’t wake up and bury myself deeper into the covers at the thought of leaving my apartment. I would of course to go to class and go to lunch, but the fact that I’ve watched five seasons of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, 3 seasons of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and 4 seasons of the Real Housewives of New York City since I’ve been back from Christmas vacation speaks for itself.
I definitely felt and still do feel guilty thinking of all those hours I could have been out and exploring but all I can promise myself now is that I spend every agreeable weathered day from now until the end of May walking aimlessly, walking to explore walking to take photos and walking to lunch spots.
My newly discovered favorite is a cafe on Ile St. Louis. It faces the Notre Dame, close enough to the Pont(bridge) St. Louis to enjoy the music of what is the Parisian version of troubadours as they play their accordions or celli, busy with tourists and natives walking about but it still maintains a certain calmness that you can’t find sitting at the terrasse of one of the famous cafes on st Germain.
You’re welcome to stay as long as you want and if you orderes one of the overpriced veverages (a cappuccino will run you 5€70 or $7.40!!) you really should stay there for an hour or two. Before the sunlight reached our tables and tanned our faces we were kept warm by the overhead heaters- a staple of almost all parisian cafes. And if that’s not enough you could always grab one if the fleece blankets offered by the cafe, which is cute concept but just about as appealing as wearing a sweater that 100 strangers have worn before you and has never been washed.
The day before Valentine’s day I celebrated my 21st birthday in Paris. During the week I had been searching for a French restaurant that offered great quality food but wasn’t incredibly expensive. I found two restaurants in Paris that looked very promising menu wise, but were both unfortunately no gos- one restaurant had thoughtfully closed during Valentines day week for renovations and the other restaurant’s days of ouverture conflicted with when I would want to have my birthday dinner- Wednesday night.
The night before my brithday I had finally found the perfect dining location: Cafe Constant. This restaurant is one component of the trifecta owned by Chef Christian Constant located in the 7th and a five minute walk from the Eiffel Tower. The menu was full of French-inspired innovated dishes and it would actually be open on Wednesday. When I arrived there that night I found that Cafe Constant was closed for renovations!
Luckily the night was not spoiled. My dinner companion and I wasted little time finding a substitute: Les Cocottes– the second of Chonstant’s restaurants on Rue Saint Dominique whose price range falls right in between Cafe Constant and his 3rd and most ritzy restaurant Le Vilolon d’Ingres.
One thing that I spend little time worrying about when living in New York is the opening and closing hours of stores. While chain stores are virtually always open, even smaller shops are usually open 7, maybe 6 days a week, and if so the day of rest for businesses is usually on Sunday. In Paris, the ‘day of rest’ can equally affect business Saturday, Sunday, Monday or Wednesdays. Good luck trying to find a lunch spot that’s open after 2 :30 and before 6 :30pm in case you’re in need of a late lunch- that’s when the workers are taking their break and preparing for dinner. In additional to that there are always fermeteures exceptionelles that you won’t know about until you arrive at the store front.
Moral of the story. If you’re in Paris and plan to go to a specific museum restaurant or store Always have a plan b
After spending two and a half weeks in NYC for Christmas vacation and another 2 weeks in Paris pre-Spring semester, this Monday marked la rentrée: the commencement of school in France.
Flying back into Paris in 2013 and settling in again in my room and old routines reminded me of how different this period will be compared to Fall Semester. Being in New York reenergized me and made me approach my experience in Paris differently. I’m not in need of an adjustment period, other than the first few days spent to get over le décalage horaire. And instead of conforming to every social expectation and custom that is typified as the French way to do things, I will be less apologetic about doing the things that I enjoy though not considered ‘normale’.
I’ve been somewhat disappointed with the way Parisiennes dress. I appreciate that the Parisian uniform dictates a clean, well-fitted style and that, contrary to the overwhelming abundance of borough folk I saw in NYC, no one is wearing pajama pants, sportswear, or carpenter jeans. I’m conscious of respecting people’s style even if I don’t agree with it or find it boring (the more I disagree with your outfit, the more diversity there is!) but the fact that there is such a limited variety in what Parisiennes wear is a bit frustrating knowing that this city is supposed to be one of the fashion capitals. There’s little room for daily creativity or innovation when you’re in a society, especially as a foreigner, where people generally feel it’s their duty to correct you if your appearance or behavior is ‘abnormal’.
The main categories of style as worn by women in Paris seem to be of three camps:
A: The young Parisienne rebels with blank, unsmiling faces
B: The young to middle aged ‘professional’ women usually toting a novel, a shopping bag from Le Bon Marché or a child while coming home on the metro.
and the most daring of them all!
C: The 60+ ladies who will not be slaves to your fashion humdrum!
Camp A: They shop at Zadig et Voltaire, Sandro, H&M and Zara. They wear the same exact styles, in approved colors (black, brown, gray, olive or eggplant), and can’t say no to apparel that is studded. They own a pair of black motorcycle boots with studs, sneaker wedges, skinny jeans and cotton fingerless gloves so their hands are always free to text or light up a cigarette. Leather jackets or large fur coats are what she prefers to complement her chunky infinity scarf. And she usually sports long, wavy hair and black eyeliner. She loves a good leather bag with some studs or zippers or the infamous Vanessa Bruno bag with all those sparkles. She broke curfew once two years ago and since that night she has been using fashion as her way to rebel.
Camp B: She’s a newly graduated woman searching for work or a middle aged professional who keeps Americans begging the question ‘How can I attain that classic, Parisian je ne sais quoi?’ The answer does not lie within Chanel number five or grandmother’s Hermes vintage scarf (although it could), but Repetto ballet flats or heels no taller than 2 inches (I can attest that footwear higher than 2 inches will cause too much of a rio), opaque tights paired with a pencil skirt, and poncho-styled wool coat. She generally abides to the neutral-colors-and-black-only rule but may surprise you with a flash of blue, red or pink with her cashmere scarf. Her bag of choice comes from Tod’s, Lancel, Hexagona, Longchamp or Chanel. Makeup is minimal and confidence is foremost; never look up from your phone or book while on the metro unless you want to surrender your expression of indifference.
Camp C: My favorite group of Parisian woman who inspire me and make me feel like maybe it’s okay to stand out. While not all older woman dress super stylishly, most of the time the most daring outfit and the boldest of colors are worn by a woman above the age of sixty. While modest in her choice of skirt lengths and necklines, she is the true rebel when it comes form deviating from fashion norms by wearing prints, colors and flashy accessories. She has the advantage of a stockpile of clothing from different eras including at least 3 different designer bags from each decade and no one can critique her look. She’s got moxie and she doesn’t think twice about smiling in public. She prefers her hair in a bun and who knows she may even be in your ballet class. (Yes, really!)
This was all in good fun and I hope this doesn’t come off as offensive to anyone! I don’t think that I dress so incredibly different from the rest of the crowd, but I was definitely more concerned about fitting in with the Parisiennes during the fall than I am now. I have always been one to take some risks even if they were huge mistakes and I am here in Paris to continue said lifestyle.
Maybe I am not really going to be Stacey: La Parisienne and more like Stacey: Hey, I once lived in Paris, can you tell?
Paris has got me down. This week has been highly unproductive, comparatively as well as on absolute terms. And instead of studying for tomorrow’s exams, I am going to add to my low productivity and write this post. But I think it’s important I take the time to remind myself of how crappy Paris can treat its inhabitants (as well as let you all know that not everyday is full of buttery croissants and picnics under the Eiffel Tower.)
Monday arrived, passed and was relatively pleasant: I went to Pere LaChaise cemetery and wondered around, had some meetings at school, made small talk with a French woman on the street whom I had asked directions for a certain patisserie, had a marvelous croissant experience at said patisserie, I also tried the famous Berthillion ice cream (I chose two flavors that were recommended to me, chocolate and caramel, and not the ones I knew I would love so I can’t really rave about the ice cream yet..) and wandered around my neighborhood. To top it off I had an amazing dinner of mussels in a curry sauce (my favorite over rice.
Then Tuesday arrived and, garçon, what a contrast. Not only was it grey and rainy, but I accomplished nothing that day. I tried twice, one two seprarate occasions, to find my Paris university with no luck (The directions which I found online and double checked were wrong.. somehow..?). I then tried to go to the Musée d’Orsay but the line was enormous and even went across the street and down the block. I only realized why after I arrived at the Louvre: The Louvre is closed on Tuesdays so every tourist, student and their mother went to d’Orsay on Tuesday.
Wednesday I tried to register for my classes at the Paris University, that is, in person like it’s 1995. After 4 hours of being confused, babbling like a moron, getting lost and having to wait for the workers’ 2 hours lunch break to be over with, I only successfully registered for 1 out of 2 of my classes.
Today, I am successfully enrolled in my classes (5 in total: 2 at Paris VII and 3 at my college in Paris) and was feeling like things were finally in place. I then rewarded myself with a trip to the Musee d’Orsay where I only had to wait 5 minutes in line before getting in and got to see some superb paintings. After that, I was on a roll and headed over across the bridge to Les Arts Décoratifs to see, once more, the Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs exhibition. Lastly, I decided to head over to the Marais and search for a crêperie so I could eat my first crepe in Paris.
It took quite a few hours to find the perfect crêperie if you can believe it. And just 30 minutes before my reservation I went to the ATM only to find out that I wasn’t able to withdraw money from my account. I can’t tell you the reason at the moment as I haven’t a clue why but I know that it isn’t my fault and that someone in their bureau made the mistake of freezing (?) my account.
Luckily I was with a friend who spotted me some cash so I was still able to enjoy one of the best crepes I’ve ever had (the one it rivals is a crepe i had on one of my last days in New York).
Hopefully next time I write I will not only have good news but more interesting stories to tell. For now, I’m trying to see howI can spread 5 euros to last me nine months.