I can hardly say a bad word about Paris (and I try, I’m a very negative person). I’ve been twice, the first time I was pleasantly surprised and the second time I couldn’t believe I’d missed so much the first time.
Here are five of my favourite Parisian things.
The Loveable Stereotypes
A stereotype is something which - if you are a believe in benefit-of-the-doubt - presume to be untrue - generalisations made over time based on vaguely similar observations that different people make about the same thing. Paris, however, is a walking, living, breathing stereotype. In nothing but a wonderful way. But a stereotype all the same.
Fixed-gear bikes with cane baskets stop being double-take cute and start being didn’t-notice regular. If you want to feel like you're living in an beautiful watercolour painting, Paris will be exactly what you're after.
Fruit stalls shaded by candy-striped awnings and baskets of produce line the streets on either side of the traffic, filled with peaches, cherries and apples, all misshapen and delicious.
Fruit is something of a staple in European countries, with long days meaning enough sun to make them unlike anything you will taste from home, and Parisian stock is no exception. I would recommend anything from fruit stalls and farmers markets, and even the supermarket fruit leaves a fairly good taste in your mouth.
The timelessness of calf-length skirts in peach colours and neck scarves with a fun print are what you feel you should be wearing if you want people to see you as one of their own. Paris is a city happily tucked away in a time zone about seventy years behind, conservative clothing that fits properly and styles straight from patterns in your grandmother's sewing box. They’re living in what feels like a piece of history that is long gone from our own culture, and they’re grasping onto it for dear life.
The line between high-end fashion and a simplistic comfort differs on where you choose to spend time, but you’ll know a local by the way that they fit effortlessly into their backdrops in 30’s get-ups.
And not only the tower, but also the Lourve, the Arc, and probably every other tourist-drenched sight that is plastered on scrappy thin postcards and sepia-filtered eBay posters for $2.50. You risk tripping over the girls dress up for a single photo at every monument, their cherry-red skirts and matching beret's tediously frequent amongst the see of identical ladies behind them, sucking in their bellies and tucking away a pretend stray hair.
There’s nothing real about them until they relax and check the photograph, before insisting for one more. And, while I laugh at them from the gutter and pretend they’re ridiculous, I’m sure I’d do the same thing if there wasn’t an audience. But I would say do it. Because the relics aren’t something that you can see from a postcard and consider them to be nothing more than a tourist trap too exaggerated to be enjoyed. They’re monuments of identity unlike anything you can see anywhere but exactly where they are.
These people care for themselves, and it’s obvious. They seem to know that laziness and killer skin do not go hand in hand. Between Fashion Week and your average-Jean wandering around the Parisian streets, these folk know how to look (and smell, I’m not kidding), astonishing.
Skincare is treated as a religion, something that has been maintained from the wobbly-toddler age rather than ignored to the point of dry and flaky, resulting in a forty-years-too-late panic purchase of the most expensive face cream Artdeco sells. And, let me tell you, it shows. It shows in the older women who are soft as babies and dressed in clothing that was poured over every curve, and the younger, as precious and breakable as fine china.
All croissant-loving, chain-smoking, skirt-wearing nomads looking for a place to call temporary home, Paris is well and truly worth your time.