It is no accident that more songs, movies and stories have been written about Paris than any other city in history. Upon arriving on the city’s dazzling doorstep, you immediately begin to feel the omnipresent ‘joie de vivre’ (cheerful enjoyment of life) invading your psyche. Charles Dickens once said, “There are only two places in the world where we can live happy; at home and in Paris.” Alluring passions flutter beneath its effortlessly sophisticated, urbane face, undoubtedly contributing to its notable reputation as the city of love.
I’ve visited Paris three times. The first time I was 13 and I snuck up to the attic of my hotel with two friends to spy on the apartment across the lane where they were throwing an extravagant dinner party. We sat there, in awe, for what seemed like hours, watching a real-life Hollywood film unfold before our very eyes. That night was the first time I fell in love, and it just happened to be with Paris. The second time I visited, I went alone and got joyfully lost amongst its streets. But solitude in Paris can be a luxury, especially when you are surrounded by that many shoe stores. The last time I went to Paris I was married to the love of my life, who danced along the Seine with me and kissed me under the Eiffel Tower.
Paris gets in your skin. I lead a rather healthy lifestyle but after about five hours in Paris I started wondering if maybe I should take up smoking. Most Parisian women smoke, but in an intriguingly polished, Audrey Hepburn sort of way. Smoking a Parisian cigarette must be the equivalent of taking a shot of wheatgrass in other countries because I couldn’t find a wrinkle anywhere. They seem to cultivate themselves the same way they likely care for the herbs growing on their balcony, with ease, curiosity and love.
Feminism is alive and well in France, as is the principle of laïcité or ‘freedom of conscience’, which both have their origins in the French Revolution. Women in Paris began to freely adopt new lifestyles long before the rest of the world caught up and they are still cultivating this today, with an undeniable sultry, Parisian flare. Let’s face it… if a beautiful woman wearing a thin Chanel blouse with no bra and smoking one of her hand rolled cigarettes confronted any man about… anything really… be it how his staring is inappropriate or a simple chat with him about her feminist philosophy, which Karl Marx coined the, “dictatorship of the proletariat’, she would likely walk away haven gotten the attention she demanded. He might even follow her home and ask her to marry him. Feminism…with a French twist.
Food in Paris is tasty, yet expensive. It has 70 Michelin-starred restaurants, including ten with 3 stars. If you are into chic fine dining, this is the place to experience it. However, if you are more into the $5-10 fine dining experience, there are a few delectable items you can still count on just about anywhere in Paris: crepes, baguettes and cheese. These are the true Parisian crème de la crème and every shop serving them deserves their own Michelin star. As part of my culinary repertoire I don’t eat dairy, but by day two of my last trip there I was carrying my own mixed stash of cheeses and regularly restocking.
Walking through Paris is a true luxury. I am a firm believer that cities themselves are the best museum and Paris is no exception. New York has dynamism but Paris has an unchanging elegance and architectural permanence that is worth discovering. Public transportation in Paris is incredible, but the urban fabric of the city is renowned, so unless you are unable to comfortably walk, I strongly suggest bringing a good pair of shoes and traveling by foot. With that said, you will likely be passed by women in heels, floating upon the cobblestones in an effortless dance with the city, wearing see-through blouses and smoking hand-rolled cigarettes, undoubtedly with a captivated man in tow. Molière said, “The whole of Paris is a vast university of art, literature and music… it is worth anyone’s while to dally here for years. Paris is a seminar, a post-graduate course in everything.” If you get tired along the way, you can either refill your water bottle for free at one of their sparkling water fountains or opt instead for a glass of incredible wine at one of their 50,000 cafes.
In the end, Paris is always a good idea and I firmly believe everyone should experience the Parisian lifestyle at least once in his or her life. To help you get started on your journey, click on my LIST OF ATTRACTIONS for my suggestions on where to go get lost in this dapper city.
The coolest Arrondissements in Paris to stay in are:
My Reading List for Paris
The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue des Martyrs by Elaine Sciolino
In Montmartre: Picasso, Matisse and Modernism in Paris 1900-1910 by Sue Roe