1. The Fashion.
Of course, Paris is known to be the fashion capital of the world, and it doesn’t disappoint. Everywhere you look there’s a willowy, model-like silhouette of a woman dressed like she’s popped off the catwalk for an espresso and Marlboro light. You won’t ever see a jogger in a rumpled Nike hoodie with hair matted to their forehead with sweat. In fact, joggers here don’t even seem to sweat. It’s a disgusting fact that the French are born oozing elegance and have a knack of making you feel like you’ve picked up your most elegant outfit from a thrift store. And I don’t mean a cool Parisian thrift store, but somewhere your Grandma would buy her thermals. Somehow, the French know how to dress casually yet perfectly, thus making the rest mortals of us feel slightly less superior. However, for those naturally gifted at dressing well, or those who are undeterred, there are endless opportunities to buy, or browse, the latest fashions. The Champs-Elysées is the most obvious and most famous example, with its designer shops and boutique malls. But for those after a more original find you can take a stroll around Le Marais in the 3rd and 4th arrondissements wherein many of the aforementioned vintage stores that sell most items of clothing for only 5-10€.
2. The Food.
An obvious choice. Who can say they have been to Paris and not spent a large part of their monthly salary on food? It’s impossible. I come from a country that survives on packaged bread and there is a distinct possibility that I have eaten more bread in the past three months than I have in the past twenty-something years living in England. In addition to bread, the French have a thing about chocolat chaud. Forget everything you once knew about hot chocolate and head to Angelina’s on rue de Rivoli in the 1st arrondissement. Their l’africain is their most famous choice of beverage for good reason. Chocolate in Paris is a luxury, but not for the faint hearted (or those counting calories), as it is usually thick and gooey and oh-so-slightly sickly. Also, the eating habits are much different – these people eat three course meals for every meal. And who can blame them when so many amazing dishes are on offer? Expect to eat a lot and eat well. And also expect to gain a few pounds.
3. The Adventure.
Like with all big cities there is always something to do, somewhere there is always a good time to be had. But Paris is in its own league with this one. They say New York is the city that never sleeps; well Paris is the city that never rests. Countless times I have planned activities for the day, only to step off the metro and find something much more exciting happening: a flash mob in the Champ de Mars, a modern art installation in the Jardin des Tuileries, a big Ferris wheel at Place de la Concorde… Even the most organised individual will end up being swept along with Paris’ never ending parade of events. As for the more permanent activities, there is something for everyone – dinner parties in somebody’s living room, sewing machine cafes (Sweatshop Café in the 10th), readings at Shakespeare and Company in the 5th, and so on. There truly is something for everyone in Paris. However with the million and one things to do in Paris time here seems to evaporate. Don’t get lost in the crowd of tourists climbing over one another to get that perfect picture of the Eiffel Tower. Make your time about you and Paris will accommodate your every need.
4. The Sights.
Everyone knows Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and thousands of tourists flock here every year to see for themselves. You can climb the Eiffel Tower or L’Arc de Triomphe or the towers of Notre Dame to see the impressive city skyline but my favourite spot is the Sacré-Coeur in Montmartre, the highest point in the city. The church itself is impressive, but it is the view that is the main attraction. Take a bottle of wine and a friend or two to sit on the steps outside and watch over Paris during a summer evening. There is nothing quite like it, so don’t forget to take a camera! For the daytime, a walk along the Seine (or a boat trip is a popular choice) through central Paris taking in the sights can lead you to discover unexpected surprises. Why not sign up for an historical walk around the city to the tale of a French servant from the 19th century or find your own way around historical streets such as rue Saint-Denis (expands over the 1st and 2nd) or rue Cler in the 7th. However beautiful, it is easy to forget it is a working city when visiting. When living here the magic wears off a little when the nine to five working arrangements begin to get tiresome and there are snap happy tourists lurking around every corner. You find yourself becoming less tolerable and more discourteous each time you have to wait for a photograph to be taken before you can continue on your way.
5. The Community.
Being an expat myself I have spent much time seeking out the best places that replace that feeling of home that we all crave now and again. In the 7th arrondissement is the American University of Paris and to accommodate for the number of foreigners there are endless American food stores that sell a variety of foods to settle even the most homesick of stomachs. My favourite is Real McCoy on Rue de Grenelle. The stock comes with a hefty price tag but there are times when a can of Heinz chicken soup is, well, priceless. You can find hundreds of bars and cafes that have an English menu in central Paris but nothing beats an international bar. My favourite being WOS bar in the 5th, it is difficult to find but well worth the search. The staff speak English and the clientele are usually American (they play college football games regularly) and feels very much like a student bar. They hold theme nights every week and have an extremely relaxed attitude towards customers. There isn’t much to hate about this one, aside from it can get a little too comfortable hanging out in places specifically designed to make you feel as though you’re not in Paris. Take comfort in these places if you need to but don’t forget to enjoy the city!
Address: 226 rue de Rivoli, 75001
Tél: +33 1 42 60 82 00
Hours: 9am – 7pm daily
The Sweat Shop
Address: 13 rue Lucien Sampaix, 75010
Métro: Gare de l’Est
Hours: 1pm – 9pm Tuesday to Friday
Shakespeare and Company
Address: 37 rue de la Bûcherie, 75005
Hours: 9am – 6pm daily
Basilique du Sacré-Coeur
Address: 35 Rue du Chevalier de La Barre, 75018
Hours: Daily 6am – 10.30pm
Address: 194 Rue de Grenelle, 75007
Métro: La Tour-Maubourg
Hours: Mon-Sat 9am – 6pm
Address: 184 rue Saint Jacques, 75005
Métro: Cluny – la Sorbonne
Tél: +33 143 54 30 48
Hours: Open weekdays until 2am, weekends until 5am