7 Ways to Experience the Parisian Lifestyle
This is one of my favorite post-trip perspectives to write. Anyone can find expensive things to do, and sometimes those things are worth it, but there's extra satisfaction in finding the things that you would do around home for less, if Paris was your home.
Like the Parisians do them.
1. Promenade Plantée
PL: Coulée verte René-Dumont
Somewhere toward the end of our week I remembered with start that I had read about a raised railway that had been turned into a park. A quick Google search yielded this place with green arches and plenty of places to sit. Eh. Who are we kidding? This is Paris, where Places to Sit in Shady Green Areas abound. Still, this was one of my favorite places to walk.
If one lived or worked close to here it would be short climb up to the top, where this....
Leads to this.
Search for "Promenade Plantée" and the general location will pop up, or click on the map below. There are steps leading up to it at various intervals once you get to the brick wall that lets you know you've arrived. It's not a long walk, but refreshing.
2. Walk along the Seine
The Seine. We didn't do a river tour, but instead walked sections of it throughout the week. By far one of the stretches I enjoyed most was the area from Notre Dame up through the Jardin des Tuileries. Up top is where the tourists mostly congregate, but if you climb down the steps that lead to the lower banks of the Seine you'll find it is more of a local hang out than anything else. Couples walk there, friends congregate in groups to chat over beers or wine, and businessmen and women are often seen taking a break nearby.
This bottom photo belongs to one of the most beautiful evenings I've seen, rivaled only by an autumn picnic on Table Rock in NC, a Swedish walk, and a soft twilight in Rome. The sky was blue, blue! The colors clear and soft at the same time, and the setting sun lit the Seine as I sat there, feeling like the luckiest girl in the world.
3. Picnic by the Eiffel Tower
Granted, this is highly touristy, but I can't help but make the case that if so many people find something gratifying, interesting, or beautiful there must be something to it. Turns out, even the locals do this one.
Here is what you must do:
- Stop by a bread shop to get a baguette. Oui oui.
- Buy fruit. Strawberries and pears were some of the most delicious fruits we had while there, but keep in mind this was late April and they import from Italy, so you could get just about anything and it would be good.
- Select a cheese. A Camembert will reek to high heaven if left to the next day, but it sure is amazing just out of refrigeration.
- Wine, duh.
- Stop by Ladurée Paris for macarons, if possible. There's a gorgeous location on Champs Elysées; the only shopping we did there. Particularly get the passion fruit and violet flavors.
- Fig jam, with violets, for another exotic item.
- For the love of all things crunchy and fresh do get some tomatoes or cucumbers at a street shop. You won't find those by the Eiffel, but there are some amazing ones on Rue Montorgueil.
4. PRINTEMPS STORE ON HAUSSMAN
For a roof top view toward the Eiffel, go to the men's department of Printemps, pass by the crocheted ties to the lift, and ride it all the way to the top. Off to the south side you will see a restaurant, and outdoor seating on a balcony. Catch the waiters eye, or don't, and make your way to a table to order some refreshments.
We ordered coffee with cream, which is basically like our lattes here, only different. Then we basked in the view.
Disclaimer: have fun figuring out which floor is the ground level in Parisian lifts. We rode to many different floors trying to find out way back out again finally to discover that they start floor numbering from 0, or sometimes it seemed -0. Confusing.
5. SIT AT SIDEWALK CAFES
As one Parisian I follow on Instagram said, it's hard to keep the French off terraces and outdoor cafes. I capitulate to the charm of it as well but can't help wryly remarking that perhaps they love them so much because it's acceptable to smoke outside, and they smoke all the time.
Either way, there's nothing quite like an espresso and pastry on a fresh morning.
One thing I particularly enjoyed was how friends of one gender are able to sit closely without immediately invoking a gay label. Sure, some of them may have been, but by and large their personal space bubbles simple weren't as large between friends and colleagues.
Call us frivolous, but we had our nails done for such a time as this.
6. SPEND TIME IN GARDENS
It's difficult to say just when the French work, because there are almost always people in the gardens spread throughout the city. Much like Parisians, the gardens are formal, yet with a sort of careless nonchalance that spreads gravel for pavement or tile and whips clouds of dust onto unsuspecting tourists. The French take it in stride, being used to it I imagine.
It's hard to have this much beauty at one's disposal every day.
Two schoolgirls practice back flips and handstands.
7. VISIT A BOOKSHOP
Bookstores dot the city and are obviously loved, judging by the number of people sitting and reading in nearly every place. I had taken my Kindle to begin reading "Peter Ibbotson" and with delight discovered it was partially set in Paris. Let me recommend reading a novel about the place you are visiting; the pleasure of the story is twice as much.
If you seek English books the Shakespeare Book & Co is lovely. It has a plethora of tiny rooms, culminating in a reading room upstairs where one can sit to read. Silence is requested there, and no photos through out the rest of the shop. Naturally I snuck one or two. Below is of the window in the reading room, looking in the direction of Notre Dame.
My favorite evening in the city was spent reading and writing a letter (to tuck in a book) in this very corner.
8. EXTRA: LET YOUR HAIR DOWN, WOMAN
I've never been in a place with more elegant, yet relaxed fashion. They probably do their share of hair-straightening, full-face makeup routines, but by and large many people are content with their straight, curly, wavy, frizzy, normal hair. Many wear minimal makeup. Someone better versed with French culture may correct me, but they place more emphasis on foundations of beauty: good skin care, exercise, and solid wardrobes before branching into extras. It was fun to go there and wear what we liked, without feeling obliged to spend two hours getting ready each morning.
It's why they call French style effortless, because it is.
HOW TO BRING THE LIFESTYLE HOME
Savor the moments. Sit at a sidewalk bistro with a friend and put your phone away and engage with them wholeheartedly. Leave the cigarettes in the store, and don't do as the French do in that. Eat a croissant tomorrow morning. Put time and effort into your health and exercise, and treat your skin and hair well. Read, read, read. Take the walk just to saunter along and see the lilacs on 12th street. Sit somewhere just to relax and forget all the things you won't care about at 80. Cook good food, and accompany it with a good glass of wine, but go easy on the hard alcohol. Take your kids to the park. After all:
Now is the time of your life.