You know you’ve been in Paris long enough when some or all of the following are true for you:
1. You mentally pronounce new words that you come across, in a French accent and this is a completely involuntary reflex;
2. You are addicted to bread and find it hard to have a meal without it;
3. You have an unnatural tolerance for what others would call rancid-smelling cheeses.
Seeing as I can safely say I check all the boxes, I thought I would do a quick summary of my top loves and hates about the city of love and lights.
One of the things I love most about Paris is its seasonless beauty – it looks good no matter the weather because even nature keeps up with the hottest trends of the season! Cherry blossoms creep up on desolate churchyards in the spring. In the summer, the most ordinary of Parisian terraces is bursting with bright flowers. Yellow and bronze autumn leaves add stately elegance to the Haussmanian boulevards. Winter grants a glimpse of the artistically shaped lithe underwires of the trees that hold up the bright green bushels of leaves in the summer. Suffice it to say that the quintessential Parisian images of the banks of the Seine, Parisien roof-tops and the architectural delights are not over-rated.
I’m certainly not the first to attest to French cuisine and I certainly won’t be the last! My work-time meals underwent a substantial upgrade on my move from London to Paris. Meals in France are a ceremonial event and one must have a three course meal each time even if one is having a desk lunch. Ordinary, everyday desserts like financiers, tiramisu, apple pie and compotes from the little take-aways are often heavenly delicious. Coming from India, a food paradise, France was at least able to stop me from the food related whingeing I indulged in as a Londoner. However, I have to say I do wish people would eat less meat; the gory details of how fois gras is prepared doesn’t gel well with the otherwise sophisticated air of the place. Anyhow, this is the ‘loves’ section so moving on!
One of the things I adore about Paris is how interwoven art is, into the fabric of the city. There’s nothing as instantly uplifting as listening to a live melodic accordion while rushing down the steps of the underground metro. Walking the streets is in itself a crash-course in architecture. Paris’ many museums have something for everyone and once you’re done with the famous Louvre, Muse d’Orsay etc. there’s still so much more to discover (like the Dali museum or the l’Orangerie).
#1 Cabin fever
This is my biggest pet peeve about Paris. Everything is tiny – from people’s little pet dogs to the apartments to the restaurants. It’s no wonder Parisians appear to suffer from cabin fever and would rather spend their day sitting in roadside cafés (which I’ve always thought to be massively unhygienic by the way) or in parks. In most restaurants, you’ll spend the first and last 10 minutes of your visit squeezing in and out of the tight spots into which your table and chairs are tucked – if you’re lucky, you’ll avoid annoying the other clientele, if not, you’ll probably end up knocking their plates off the table!
#2 Too French
One of the best and worst things about Paris is that it is French. On a practical level, a foreigner can have serious trouble navigating around the city. My first few months in France were spent typing in information from product labels into Google translate to figure out everything from what I was eating to how to remove stains from the carpet. This language restriction naturally flows into all areas of life where everything from ordering food to making conversation at a dinner party constantly puts you in a linguistic spot. Paris is also much less cosmopolitan than London or New York and English-speaking expats can find life a wee-bit lonely.
Yes, it’s true. Parisian waiters are often rude and Parisians in general hold their noses at a slightly higher incline than normal. It is not unusual, after a few months in Paris, to find yourself asking why people can’t just be more down-to-earth and friendly. And that’s without even delving into the French admin hell where it can take weeks to get your internet running and several sleepless nights to get an apartment and should you not be au fait with the fine print of all French law, God help you! I’ll just say that I would have preferred not to have paid that EUR 800 tax fine but unfortunately, I wasn’t ‘au fait’ with all the post-office-informing formalities you have to fulfil when you move house which meant my tax payment was late by a few weeks…Oh and they still use cheques for several things in France and I will not even start on that one! Let’s just say if you’re moving from Singapore or London, you’ll want to double up on your meditation practice.
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