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Paris' Top Ten


To say I cannot wait for my trip to Paris in January is a gross understatement.  I am looking forward to being in the city I love and experience it with Bill and other teachers, but above all else, I am bubbling over with excitement to share it for the first time with my children. As I was engaged in one of my daydreams about Paris, I noticed an emerging pattern. I do think about Paris numerous times a day, but there are some parts of Paris that manage to nudge their way into my nostalgic, obsessive thoughts more than others. Of course I will share, for what is the purpose of this Blog if not to wax poetic about all things Paris?! So here is my gift to you - the top ten things I daydream about most when I am not in my beloved Paris:

  1. The Eiffel Tower. Or as pronounced by my nine-year-old, the “Ite-full Tower.” Yes, it is cliché, but I do adore the 1,063 foot-tall iron structure that has come to symbolize Paris. Each time I imagine my future Paris apartment, I walk onto the patio with une verre de vin rouge at sunset and soak in the perfect view of the Eiffel Tower. Très parfait.
  2. Baguettes. Nothing is quite like an authentic Parisian baguette. Sure you can go to your local grocery store and get a baguette. But, really, it is just not the same. My family used to call me crazy until I researched how to make the baguettes and found that the flour they use in France is, in fact, different than ours. One can compare it to growing the same type of grapes in different types of soil and getting two totally different flavors. I found French flour on King Arthur Flour’s website, but it is fairly pricey, so I only get it once in awhile. One of my favorite things to do is buy a demi-baguette, find a lovely park bench and people watch while I turn something as simple as eating bread into a sacred ritual. I begin by deeply smelling the heavenly warm scent that only fresh bread has. I tap the crispy outside, then bite through the perfectly crunchy golden crust, then let the soft, sweet, airy center melt on my tongue. No butter or jam needed – it is perfection as it is.
  3. The Slow Pace. Parisians know how to live. But this joie de vivre is not just a French thing…Europeans in general understand that there is just no need to rush. They take their time and enjoy their food, wine, and each other.  Even in the midst of a city (which in the US is synonymous with life in the fast lane), I never feel the sense of urgency or overwhelming noise that I do in say, New York City. People are quiet and keep to themselves (which Americans often misinterpret as Parisian snobbery). But Parisians are far from snobs. Their behavior has more to do with living at a slower, more quiet pace with which I deeply connect. I like relaxed and quiet, which is why I feel like Paris “gets me.”
  4. Walking Everywhere. Parisians are not afraid to walk, and Paris is very walker (and bicycler) friendly.  Sure, the Métro is great and to get to the other side of the city, it is most highly recommended. But walking around a general area, wandering in and out of shops, churches, and courtyards is so satisfying. It allows you to become more intimate with Paris and you see things you would not otherwise get to see. There is always the added benefit that walking everywhere helps work off the overabundance of #10 that I tend to eat while in my favorite city on earth...
  5. Cafés. Probably one of the things I look forward to most is sitting outdoors, enjoying my food, and watching Paris. It is a beautiful experience that matches well with the slow pace I discussed in #3. In the US, the restaurant staff is pretty much ready to boot you out the door as soon as you’re done. But not in Paris. It is expected that you will sit and chat or read, or daydream. No one pressures you to leave. In fact, you can even just order a coffee or wine and sit to your heart’s content. Wait staff don’t care because their salary is not based on tips (while you might leave some change, there is not formal tipping as in the US, so the pressure to get as many tables is absent. In fact, waiting tables is an art in Paris. One time a waiter recommended a wine to me and when I considered not taking his recommendation, he was hurt. I realized this is what he does for a living and it is respected there, much more so than here. I happily agreed to his recommendation – and for the record, he was totally right!
  6. The Seine. Simply put, I am mesmerized by this river. It is peaceful and lovely and the people of Paris seem to genuinely enjoy their river. At any hour of the day or night, Parisians and visitors can be found eating, drinking, walking, dancing, singing, or just sitting along the Seine. A ride on a Bateaux Mouches up and down the Seine is a must – especially at sunset. If you time your visit just right, you can watch the Eiffel Tower light up at 10 PM (in the summer, anyway!) right on the river. One of the most impressive sights I saw in Paris was from a Batteaux Mouches. It was a warm summer night and we passed an area alongside the Seine where dozens of couples were swing dancing to live music. Down a little further, another group was dancing to salsa. It was magical.
  7.  Shakespeare and Company. Best book store. Ever. It has such a wonderful history to it and is an American connection in the middle of Paris…so if you’re feeling homesick or just itching to speak English with someone, this is the place to go. They are super friendly and most welcoming (they worked with me to allow me to host a book club there!) The original Shakespeare and Company was founded by one of my personal heroes, Sylvia Beach. When her store closed after WWII, George Whitman opened this one in honor of Beach and her original store. Mr. Whitman kept alive the spirit and vision of Beach, and although he recently passed away, his daughter (named Sylvia!) carries on his work today.
  8. Music on the Métro. While it annoys my husband to no end, I am overjoyed when an accordion player or singing guitarist steps on board my Métro car.  I have always fancied my own soundtrack following me around to musically accompany my activities and moods, and this comes about as close as I probably will ever get. These delightful musical interludes are not, however, to be confused with the occasional crazy person (please forgive my political incorrectness on that term, but really, there is no other way to describe them) who boards the train and proceeds to scream in French about some bizarre government conspiracy and that we are all doomed (true story). 
  9. Open markets. Not only are they a feast for the eyes, but nothing beats buying fresh fruits and veggies from the local vendors. It makes me feel more Parisian to buy them, not to mention makes me long (even more than usual) to have a Parisian apartment to where I can take such purchases to prepare in a dinner.
  10. Pastries. Oh, the pastries…whether it is the famous French macarons at La Durée or a slice of Gâteau Opéra (my personal favorite) at a quaint corner patisserie. They not only taste like heaven, but they are true artistry in their appearance. If my incessant babbling about its wonders have not yet convinced you to visit Paris, let me assure you that the pastries alone are well worth the trip!
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Comments

Oui, madame. I share every single one of those loves. Just can't help it. If I am lucky, I will be there in January, too. And then again in March. There is no such thing as too much of a good thing, is there?
Wow, What a great blog. Came across it while researching our trip to Europe next year. Lots of great information, so I became a follower. I also write a blog if you care to see it. Www.gassawaysadventures.blogspot.com Check our old posts from spring of 2006 and 2010 for write ups about our previous trips to Europe. Our next trip will include a month in England, a week in an apartment in Paris and 2 weeks in Germany and Switzerland. Happy travels!
LaDolceVitaGirl said…
Such a nice blog...love the style. Wanted to mention that I love that you posted about Shakespeare & Co Bookstore! I had just learned about it this year while taking a Literary course and reading Hemingway, Stein, Fitzgerald and more. I have subscribed to their facebook page and actually entered their literary contest this year with a novella! I cannot wait to get there sometime (soon, I hope). I hope that you will post some pics of the store when yo return from your next trip! :) Thx!! Happy Blogging! Teri Nolan-Range

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