This Is Why I Love Paris.

I’ve been meaning to write a post about Paris for some time. It’s always seemed like too great a task, though. How could I possibly describe my love for that great, gorgeous city? When Anna at Slightly Astray prompted me to enter Accor Hotels’ ‘A Tale of Three Cities‘ competition, however, I couldn’t resist. The mission: write on “three things I love about my favourite city”.

Paris, your time has come.  

Bon Appétit  

Paris is a dream for foodies, as you most certainly already know. It’s more than snails and stuffy restaurants though; far greater than macarons and Michelin stars. My best advice? Find at least one great little place and make it your ‘regular’. The very first thing Mat and I did upon arrival in the City of Lights was collapse upon a table for two at 5e Cru, a wonderful little wine bar near our accommodation in the 5th district. It was small and intimate, the atmosphere casual but unmistakably Parisian. We connected immediately with our waiter (a mixture of unbridled enthusiasm and monolingual awkwardness on our part), who guided us through divine wine and the best charcuterie platter I’ve had the fortune of devouring. That is, of course, on par with the charcuterie platters we devoured on two return visits. By our second sojourn to 5e Cru, our waiter was taking painstaking lengths to make sure our red wine was at the perfect temperature, whilst the third saw us favoured with a generous amount of the night’s almost-emptied wine bottles on the house. 

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And then there was beef bourguignon at La Petite Rose des Sables, tasty indeed, but outshone by the incredible hospitality of eccentric Madame Zouzou and her silent sidekick, Big Boss. The most gorgeous éclairs laid out like jewels at L’Éclair de Génie. Schwartz’s, a New York style deli tucked away in the Jewish Quarter where the delicious, juicy burgers go almost insistently hand in hand with a glass of French red. The most incredible steak I’ve ever sunk my teeth into at Cueva del Diablo, a little Argentinean restaurant in the Latin Quarter, and a hot plate of sliced potato gloriously smothered in blue cheese at nearby Bistro Gladines on Boulevard Saint-Germain. Bon appétit indeed. 

Flânerie

“For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world – impartial natures which the tongue can but clumsily define.”
     – Charles Baudelaire, The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays

Admittedly, my knowledge of the 19th century Parisian flâneur comes from a mere tutorial or two nested somewhere in my Creative Arts degree – but I’ve always loved that image of the urban wanderer. Yes, Baudelaire’s flâneur was exclusively male and upper class, but I think we’re at liberty to expand that these days.

Once you’re in Paris, the concept of flânerie is palpable. It is a city made for wandering. On a sweltering summer’s eve, a stroll along the Seine from Notre-Dame to Eiffel Tower reveals half the city emptied along the left bank, picnicking and partaking in an extraordinary amount of glistening rosé. On the following Sunday morning (now grey and drizzly), the Georges Pompidou expressway along the Seine’s right bank closes to motor vehicles; the normally frantic stretch is quiet and poised, cyclists and joggers and fisherman slipping through in a hushed truce with the traffic. 

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Explorations of the cosy, cobbled streets of the Marais district give a rare glimpse into medieval Paris before Napoleon came along with his sweeping squares and boulevards. And oh, the delight in being swallowed up by the Art Nouveau entrances of the Métro, where a whole other Paris shines in fluorescent! Or simply take up residence at a little table on a cafe terrace, café au lait in hand, and watch the world go by (prepare for anything – Mat and I watched in awe one day as an unattended dog took take an absurdly large amount of poops all along Boulevard Saint Germain. He truly looked like he was having the best day of his life).

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Vive la Différence

Paris, I’ve learnt, is most rewarding when you simply make it your own. I hear a lot of people say that they were disappointed by Paris, which naturally makes me sad because I think it’s so wonderful. I think a lot of people must find it overwhelming; the city is so heavy with history and culture, and the mad dash to tick off Eiffel Tower and Louvre and Notre-Dame and Sacré-Cœur and everything else in between is exhausting. It is entirely okay if you don’t see those things. Polishing off a fresh croissant in bed at ten in the morning because you’re quite content gazing out over the sea of grey-blue rooftops can be just as rewarding.

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Eating Argentinean steaks and New York style burgers in Paris might sound like treason, but they made up some of the best experiences Mat and I had in Paris. We didn’t make the trek out to Versailles (we traded for Disneyland Paris) nor even Montmartre (we had daily dalliances with Notre-Dame instead). Our Paris was eating and wandering and giving ourselves permission to simply do what we love. Your own Paris might be quite different. And it’s definitely there waiting for you. x

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  • http://www.slightlyastray.com Anna

    I love this Terri! I love that you met such friendly waiters while there! We do the same thing too almost everywhere we go… find a place we like and go back over and over. I really like that quote about the flâneur too. I’ve never heard that word before, but I love it!

    I must admit that I’m one of those people who didn’t like Paris so much when I went. Our days were spent dashing from one site to another, which isn’t how I like to travel. I felt a little sad that I didn’t see the amazing city that everyone else sees. I would like to go back and discover the Paris that you did!

    And p.s. I would trade Disneyland for Versailles too!

    • http://www.littlewanderings.com Terri

      Thanks Anna! I can’t thank you enough for prompting me to do this. I had the best time writing it (and now want to go back to Paris more than ever, haha!). I hope you get the chance to rediscover Paris in your own way someday too x

  • http://www.youtube.com/phampants phampants

    <333

    This post is spot on. Paris is your own city, however you want to make it. That's why it's the city of love because it will be what you need it to be.

    • http://www.littlewanderings.com Terri

      Thanks John – I’m glad you get it too! I’m so glad I took the time to put this city into my own words. Pining to go back, big time!

  • http://ordinarygirlextraordinarydreamer.wordpress.com Jess Carey

    “Paris, I’ve learnt, is most rewarding when you simply make it your own.”
    Could not agree more, absolutely spot on! That’s why I’d like to go back and give it another go! That, and the wine… and the cheese… and the pastries…

    • http://www.littlewanderings.com Terri

      I’m glad you agree, Jess! I can’t wait to go back again. I think it’d be amazing to spend like, a whole month just there. Just wander and eat and write. What a dream!

  • http://wanderful-world.com Lizzie

    I love, love, LOVE Paris and I fall for it a little bit more each time I visit. I just think there’s something magical that hangs around in the air – plus, you’re right – the food is great! Although I think I pretty much ate cheese fondue for breakfast, lunch, and dinner the last time I was there!

    • http://www.littlewanderings.com/ Terri @ Little Wanderings

      There’s definitely something magical about the place, Lizzie. I can’t wait to make it back again as soon as possible!

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