Being a Tourist in Paris

Written by admin on April 15, 2011 – 11:18 am -

If you read Bonjour Paris, you know we’re all for people visiting Paris as well as La Belle France. There’s so much to see and to do and if someone is bored, well…it’s his or her own fault.

Having proclaimed that, I must admit I “discovered” parts of Paris this past week. The catalysts were houseguests, who were kind enough to drag me to other neighborhoods. They are from the outskirts of London and weren’t going to allow any grass to grow under their feet during their long weekend here. They were scheduled up and down, inside and out, and were catching up with what seemed like, and was, a multitude of friends.

Parisians tend essentially to stay where they live or work. Since I work and live in the same place (which is both good and bad news), a walk to the Luxembourg Garden, the neighborhood grocery store and one of my favorite cafés on Blvd. du Montparnasse qualifies as an outing. There are so many movie theaters within a six-block radius I could be movied out and never see the light of day if that were my addiction.

Not having a car means my must-do’s are confined to the immediate area surrounding my digs. I can take the métro or bus to the Opera Garnier or the Bastille and hightail it to see some of the events that take place in Paris—so my cultural life isn’t a void.

But, to be honest, I’m lazy. My apartment is my haven and inviting people here gives me real pleasure. It’s so easy to cook a simple meal and does anyone care that a Kir Royale isn’t made with vintage champagne? As a matter of fact, using something much more than a good sparkling Vouvray is a waste when you’re adding cassis, which actually makes a very good jam. Plus, when you live in a place, you don’t go out to dinner every night unless you’re among the rich and famous and have a debit card that doesn’t ding.

So, a foray to Jacques Melac in the 11e provoked some culture shock. I’d eaten at this wine bar before, but since my previous visit, the picturesque owner has added real food to the menu. I remembered it as a place to go and sample wine and have a large plate of cheese or meat. It was fun, but it wasn’t high on my must-go-there restaurant list because it wasn’t within walking distance. We arrived at night, but it wasn’t hard to see that the neighborhood had lost its seedy look and feel. It was hopping and trendy.

Even though when I first moved to Paris I’d lived on the Place des Vosges near the Bastille and not that far from where I had dinner, it’s no longer my stomping ground. When you move from one side of the Seine to another, things change—and such is life or, anyway, mine.

I had another revelation. When you find a permanent apartment and are settled (hopefully happily ever after), you stop looking at real estate. When friends of mine started moving to the Pigalle area, they were pioneers. The other night, I went to dinner at Le Pantruche in the 9e and was surprised to find myself walking by some very trendy bars and others where there were (I assume and without any surprise at all) working girls waiting for clients. Some things never change.  I was eager to get home after a wonderful meal. On the way to the taxi stand I saw some glorious-looking buildings and a few courtyards behind gates including one where the fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier lives.

After climbing into the taxi, we sped by the Moulin Rouge and I realized i hadn’t been there for nearly 20 years! The driver (who lives in the 14e) and I discussed how much that area of Paris has changed. Some French drivers love acting as tour guides and he said he was surprised by how well lit and clean the area appeared. He’s also a Left-Bank aficionado and suggested we return to explore the area. I might have thought he was looking for a date if he hadn’t shown me photos of his family—four generations, no less—yet he talked non-stop about how Paris has gone upscale during the 30 years he’s been driving a cab.

The conclusion I came to after last weekend is that I need to resume doing what I initially did when I moved to Paris. I’d hop on the métro and walk neighborhoods until I felt I had begun to understand them, and that made them more my own.

After all, they’ve changed as have I during the past 22 years. Perhaps it time for a “stay-vacation” and getting to know my city as well as I know ones in faraway places. Just think about the money I’d save! And I wouldn’t have to go through airport security, wait for delayed flights or worry about the weather.

(c) Paris New Media, LLC


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