Roiling social debates, pettifogging politics, surging unemployment and a grim outlook on.... well, everything. Ask the French how they are doing and one of the points above may factor squarely into their response. "La crise", as locals generally refer to the global economic crisis, still looms large and at times has the power to cloak the uplifting things around us.
Carin Olsson, a recent transplant from Sweden, offers a daily reminder of the talent and beauty right on our doorstep through her blog Paris in Four Months. Though she's well aware of the gloomier side to life in Paris, she chooses to focus on its assets - food, culture and architecture - and in doing so, makes longtime residents fall in love with their home city all over again. Having left family and friends behind to pursue the proverbial French life at such a young age, as I did, she shares a bit of what she's learned so far and what she loves most about her adopted home.
Something you've discovered about yourself by living here?
That I have absolutely no self control whatsoever!. There are so many new restaurants to try out, deliciously looking patisseries you have to pass by and so many gorgeous sweets in this city. No matter how hard I try I always end up walking away with a little bag containing a tarte aux framboises or something similar... I’ve tried to come up with several different “rules” to keep my sweet cravings under control but so far without success.
More seriously though, I've discovered that I love to be alone. Don't get me wrong, I love spending time with friends and having all these amazing people around me but I also value the time I have with just myself tremendously. There's nothing better than to pick up my camera and being able to go for a walk around the city with just myself as my company. Now, this has become something that I can’t live without, or well, something I don’t want to live without at least. During these moments by myself (and with my camera) I get the chance to relax, think about the things I see around me and to gather all my thoughts.
My must-do for any first timer in Paris is (perhaps a little bit boring, but trust me it will pay off in the end) your research! Believe it or not but everything isn’t amazing in Paris and you really get the most out of your experience here if you just read up on a few things before coming. There are so many restaurants, experiences and places in this city that are worth every single penny but there are just as many (if not more so) that aren’t. But I’m guessing if you’re reading this, you’re probably quite familiar with Lindsey’s blog already and have a few amazing places on your mental list that you need to go to due to her reviews!
As for the must-eat… Call me boring but I’ve found a few places here in Paris that I consider to be my favourites and once I find them I don’t mind returning over and over again since I know I’m guaranteed a fantastic meal. For any first time visitor I would suggest going to either LesCocottes or Café Constant for lunch or dinner. What I love about these places is that it doesn’t cost you a fortune, the food is amazing (which can be quite hard to find in Paris if you don’t know where you’re going) and the relaxed yet lively ambiance. Go to Café Constant for a more classic, but absolutely delicious, take on French cuisine and to Les Cocottes for a more modern feeling.
I haven’t been living in Paris for too long so I’m still trying to get comfortable in my closest neighbourhoods and areas, but I also want to discover more of Paris of course. Right now I adore strolling through the area around Odéon, continue around the Luxembourg garden, to Place Saint Sulpice and continue down towards Montparnasse (with a stop at Pâtisserie Sadaharu Aoki of course). I love to find small, and new to me, streets that look so unbelievably picture-perfect that it’s simply impossible not to grab on to my camera.
I also love to stroll from the Champ de Mars toward Rue du Bac and explore all those little streets in between. There are so many cute stores, cafés and boulangeries that just reminds me of why I love this city as much as I do.
Most amusing or frustrating interaction with the French?
From what I’ve understood so far it’s not always the easiest thing to be a vegetarian in a city like Paris, right? I’m not a vegetarian but I’ve had a couple of friends here that are. One day we decided to go for an unplanned lunch in the Marias neighbourhood and ended up at a simple but cosy little restaurant. When my friend kindly asked the waiter if they had any vegetarian options on the menu the waiter pointed to a dish that read poulet. My friend looked confused and asked the waiter if he had understood the menu correctly: “But that’s chicken, no?”, the waiter looked at him and nodded his head. “I don’t eat meat” my friend tried to explain to the waiter. The waiter then looked like he had connected the two dots and said “Ah, sorry! We have fish of course!”. I couldn’t help but laugh!