5 things about Paris even the Parisians don’t know

Written by admin on August 19, 2008 – 3:11 pm -

People who live in a city are sometimes the last to know what’s happening there. But this August, I’ve made it my mission to see what’s hot and new in Paris.

Here’s what I discovered.

1. Paris means business. It’s mid-August and there are more stores and restaurants open this year than ever. Guess President Nicolas Sarkozy’s mandate that French workers had better work harder and longer hours has been taken to heart — or the French have taken to reading economic news and it’s not so hot.

Even though the French government stipulates two yearly sales periods for retail stores, shoppers can score big discounts if they go into boutiques where the sales people are happy to deeply discount the summer stock. The sale signs may not be posted in the store’s window (and yet they may), but don’t hesitate to ask to see if there’s a cache of goodies in the back. Perhaps it’s not in the best of taste, but people have been known to bargain. Something off something on last year’s dress is better than a lot off nothing.

Places that do tend to be closed are bakeries and some small markets in residential areas. But, if you’re in a pinch (and even if you’re not), don’t despair. Just head to Picard Surgelés, a chain selling amazingly good frozen foods. If you need a dessert, it’s hard to beat their sinfully delicious chocolate cake or lemon tart. Their frozen foods can make any person a gourmet cook, and no one is any the wiser. This is a not-to-be-missed store when you’re in France.

2. In a word, EXKi. If you’re craving the freshest of the fresh organic meals, or want carry-out for a picnic or simply to eat in your room, EXKi is definitely for you. The food is good and light, and the price is right. There’s currently only one store in Paris, not far from the Opéra, but the group is in expansion mode. After the rentrée, there will be a second store on the Left Bank’s Boulevard du Montparnasse. Its slogan is “natural, fresh and ready”—interestingly enough, in English. If I were a betting person, I’d wager you’ll see many more of their restaurants mushrooming up in the City of Light.

3. It’s a driving city. No, really. I rented a tiny Mercedes for two from Mobizen. Not everyone is terrified of driving in Paris (most especially in August or on weekends when there’s actually space between cars on the streets) and we managed a fast tour and were able to pick up a few necessities.

4. Where are all the Americans? It’s reputed that there are many fewer Americans in Paris this summer, but it’s really hard to tell. You hear American English everywhere. Just head to the fountain on the Place St. Michel (at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 4 p.m. and there’s a free three-and-a-half hour English-language walking tour that covers a whole lot of Paris. Don’t wear anything other than super comfortable shoes or you’ll live to regret having joined the group. There’s no charge, but the tour guides work for tips—and, believe me, it’s worth four or five euros.

5. Do the pub crawl. And if you’re not convinced there are a lot of Americans currently here, for 12 Euros, you can meet up at the fountain and embark on a pub-crawl. The students I’ve met have loved the evening, and thank goodness they’re not driving after their foray of seeing French bars and expat pubs and having a great time. Ah, to be in my twenties again.

But, ah to be in Paris now finding wonderful new things to do.

Karen Fawcett publishes the site Bonjour Paris.

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