It’s been four years since I left living in Paris. There was a time I would dread going back to Paris after trips abroad. I loved the city, I hated working with the French (at least when you’re working for a company in the middle of a merger). I loved all the sinful sweet goodies, butters and baguettes that went straight to my hips. I still hated working with the French. My boss would always say that the only way to survive working in Paris as a foreigner was to keep drinking. I used to think there was some truth to his statement.
I would be surrounded by tourists expressing their love for Paris, give people the evil eye whenever they would exclaim “oh how lucky you live in Paris!”, I would want to puke when I heard “we got engaged in Paris, oh the City of Love” and question people when they would say “my dream is to visit Paris” wondering why?
To me it was the city of shops closing early, running around to get dry cleaning before it closed, avoiding dog poop on the way to work (I still swear it was a horse that pooped every god damned morning on the sidewalk), more and more Rick Steve followers crowding my charming little rue Cler in the 7th arrondissement and wondering why the French ate so much carrots (they claim it gives them a glow and softer buttoms?).
And although I would explore the city in my free time, play tourguide to my many visitors, climb the Eiffel Tower one too many times and eat at some of the best restaurants, I continued to have a love-hate relationship with Paris even after I left.
Fast forward four years with annual visits to a city I know so well has had me thinking – am I in finally willing to admit I’m in love with Paris? As I took the Eurostar across from London and excitement built up as we neared Paris I started thinking that the work demons to scar my view of Paris might just be officially behind me.
It’s not about the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Sacre Coeur or Louvre anymore. It’s about showing up in the familiar, feeling comfortable being surrounded with the old and exploring what’s new. It’s about channelling the Parisian in me, yes I admit to having one.
Paris may have become more commercial since I left, but favourites will always be the latest exhibition at some of the best museums, Galleries Lafeyette for the upside down Christmas Tree and free rooftop view of Paris, Maison Angelina for amazing hot chocolate, people watching and walking past favourite monuments without a camera.
So what’s there to do in Paris when you know the city well?
Visit your favourite patisserie is a must! After many croissant tastings over the years, I’ve settled on Ble Sucre on rue Antoine Vollon in the 12th as my absolute favourite pain au chocolate and croissant – the most delicate and buttery in the world I swear!
Choose an arrondissement, have no plan and wander around allowing yourself to be surprised by the beauty that is French architecture. I tend to always go back to Avenue Rapp in the 7th arrondissement and gawk at this amazing doorway, the ornate details stun me every time.
Shopping! Yes there are the famous Champs Élysées, rue de Faubourg Saint-Honore, Avenue Montaigne and surrounding streets where every flagship store is crowded with tourists, but I quite enjoy the quietness of the same stores in the 6th. Which always includes a quick pitstop at gourmet patisserie Pierre Herme on rue Bonaparte for melt-in-your-mouth macaroons and their sinful raspberry and cream croissant. Standing in line from outside the small store, waiting on your turn to be served has become tradition.
Late November is a perfect time to explore the Christmas Markets. From the Champs Élysées to La Défense, I always found the Christmas Markets in Paris magical yet amused that their music of choice was American Christmas songs.
Living in France has forever changed my taste for cheeses, butters and mustards…yes mustard! A visit to Boutique Maille, my mustard store, at Place de la Madeline to fill up on mustard is always a must. With flavours like truffle, blue cheese, cognac and white wine Dijon mustard on tap, I’ll gladly take this souvenir home and savour till my next visit.
As for creamy butters, the selection at Le Bon Mâché on rue de Sevre, once discovered, has been a frequent visit perhaps more than the Eiffel Tower. From flavours such as algae, French herbs and curry…there will never be any “I Can’t Believe It’s not Butter” again for this lass, I believe and the real is best!
Speaking of the Eiffel Tower, it’s worth standing under it and staring up remembering what it looks like sans construction the last two years. So that’s what the recently revealed walking glass looks like…are you daring enough to walk on it?
Ah wine tasting! A perfect way to wind up a week visit was a proper wine tasting by Geraldine de Kersaint-Gilly of Wine Dominus in her beautiful home in the historic 16th arrondissement. She took our small dinner party on a tour of wines from the Loire Valley, all with a four course meal specially prepared by her. It never felt like class but rather the sharing of a quality wine tasting experience in an enjoyable, educational yet social setting.
Paris will always look stunning through lenses, but when you’re in front of the real thing looking with your own eyes and no camera, it stirs something within. So yes, I’ll finally admit to being in love with Paris. I’ve found my favourites and made it my personal tour around the city.
I say this as I sit in front of my favourite monument of this trip Church of Saint-Sulpice, with the sun setting and reflecting on it while I eat my double chocolate macaroon from Pierre Herme watching the Christmas Market being set up, golden leaves of Autumn fall around me and the French walk around me smoking. Ah Paris…you’ve become home after I’ve left!