Paris: Plus ça change…

The summer’s nearly up and you haven’t been abroad yet. Never fear, a city break is always on the cards. Even last minute there are deals to be found. Paris is one of the most accessible cities in the world. Read on for all there is to love about it. Or at least a small dégustation. Bon appetit!

Everyone’s been to Paris. Even people who haven’t been to Paris have been to Paris – so recognizable and familiar are its streets and sights. Your first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, may seem like your millionth. You might stroll down the Champs Elysée, take a picture with your index finger pointed onto the pyramid at the Louvre, take a boat down the Seine, lean back and gawp at Notre Dame, sip a café, smoke a Gaullois and feel like you’ve jumped into a massive cliché. So how do you make Paris feel new? How do you make Paris yours?

Probably the best advice is: don’t listen to anyone’s advice. Enjoy Paris. Dive into the cliché or avoid the cliché or do both. Hemmingway once called it a moveable feast, which nobody really understands, but which feels appropriate to mention right about now… And most importantly, if your feet get sore: sit. Relax. Paris will go on without you regardless. Have fun!

Still reading? Okay don’t listen to me, but here are some useless pointers. Ignore them religiously.

  • The only people who will speak French to you will not be French themselves. This is not to say you shouldn’t try speaking French, but remember, the only true way to look like a pro is to master the difference between ‘bonne journée’ and ‘bonne soirée’ to the millisecond.
  • The best way to see Paris is aboard a moped, driven by some suitor who pretends to know all the sights to impress you and who has a terrifying few seconds trying to navigate the roundabout at the Arc de Triomphe. Oh, and did he mention you’re not insured the minute you enter the roundabout because it’s so damn dangerous? Didn’t think so. Not speaking from personal experience here or anything…
  • If that all sounds a bit far fetched, try a Vélib, Paris’s version of a city bike scheme. It is surprisingly easy to use once you have a working credit or debit card. And there’s more to see up here than in the metro.
  • Try Montmartre at Dawn when no-one’s trying to sell you anything. It’s as beautiful as they try to convince you it is, and a really good vantage point.

Best nightlife

The Latin quarter. Or anywhere that seems like a ‘cave’ or a secret rave. Rue Mouffetard has its fair share of cheap bars and, as the night wears on, the Violon Dingue is a fun dive nearby. Pont Ephemère is also a good find, near Paris’s canals. But there’s always a selection of underground jazz and open mic nights waiting to be discovered. The weirder and more secret, the better.

Best food

There’s a lot of overpriced, underwhelming food in the touristy areas. And the supposedly fancy food is often disappointing too. For a good lunch, try a falafel in the Jewish quarter. And spare some time for the ‘vintage’ clothes stores nearby. Avoid multi-course deals – they’re usually reheated. In the 5th, Comptoir du Panthéon do good quality food, as do Chez Lena et Mimile. But the gold star goes to Chez Gladines – a basque cuisine hidden in Rue des 5 Diamants. They’re too busy, too cool and too delicious to take bookings. Get there early, brave the queue.

…all in all

…Paris is ever changing and ever ready to be rediscovered. There are plenty of field guides (like this one) claiming to debunk the city – dispel all the myths. Read: A Year in the Merde for one Englishman’s journey, a few useful tips and a few laughs. Watch: Paris je t’aime for a light but insightful look into the culture of each arrondissement. But don’t believe any of them. Or do. I don’t know if no one has the city cracked or everyone does. It doesn’t hurt to make like the Parisians and act like you know what you’re doing even if you don’t. If in doubt, wear all black with a splash of red. That’s probably all there is to it.

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2 thoughts on “Paris: Plus ça change…

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