Paris is one of the most exciting and beautiful city's in the world. However, every tourist who comes here chooses to climb up the Eiffel Tower or see the Mona Lisa or try (and never eat again) frogs legs and while these things are all well and great, Parisian culture does not lie in these places. After 3 months of living in this beautiful city have come to an end, here is my definitive guide on how to get the full Parisian experience:
1) Be a Flâneur
Possibly, the most french thing you could do while in France is to go on a flânerie. That is, to pick a spot on the map and walk around there and explore the area. Walk around the exciting Montmartre area that goes from the intricately designed, holy Sacre Coeur to sex shops and the Moulin Rouge within a few minutes; walk through the beautiful Latin Quarter and its tall, narrow streets; go through the aisles between the famous graves of the likes of Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison in Père Lachaise Cemetery or explore the side streets of the, once Jewish, once LGBT, now very capitalised, hub that is Le Marais. Though the main streets are filled with big brand high street fashion and chain coffee shops, the side streets hold old synagogues, amazing falafel and LGBT bookshops and cafes.
Overall, if you can, walk places. While the metro is amazing at getting you from one side of the city to the other in minutes, you miss out on seeing the little things that makes Paris so stunning. My favourite thing to do while there was street art spotting and looking for the amazing murals that you randomly stumble upon amongst the city. They are massive and beautiful and, in my controversial opinion, ten times more interesting than the Mona Lisa (more on that later).
2) Sit on a Cafe Terrace and drink Coffee or Wine
It sounds so cliche but sitting on a cafe terrace with your friends for hours drinking wine or coffee and having a smoke is seriously french. There are many cafe's in which you can do this throughout the city and it's normal to sit in a cafe drinking coffee for hours upon end. Don't think that you need to leave because of the standoff-ish waiter, (he's just annoyed because he can't seem to keep jobs in Canada).
My advice would be to pick ones away from famous attractions too make it less expensive. Otherwise, La Rotonde, while expensive, is the cafe that Picasso, Braque, Appolinaire, Gertrude Stein and other literary and art greats used to go and chat.
However, it is important to note that if you have recently quit smoking you will need the strength of 2007 Britney Spears to get through this because practically everyone smokes in Paris and they smoke a lot.
3) Eat Anything But Frogs Legs and Snails
Whenever anyone asked me about my experiences in Paris, two questions always came up: 'Have you tried Frogs Legs?' and 'Have you tried Snails?'. To which the answers are yes and no respectively. Frogs legs do taste like chicken, like people say, but chicken that's a few days out of date. As a person who isn't in to muscles i didn't even try snails. When the Waiter came to collect our plates after our Frogs legs tasting experience, my friend asked him if many people order it to which he replied "No, only tourists who want to try it but they don't eat anything more than the first bite." French people don't eat Frogs legs.
While in France go to a patisserie for their pastries and a boulangerie for their baguettes. that's a must. Additionally, a great and not too expensive meal is going to a crêperie and having a savoury crêpe followed by a desert crêpe. La Marche des Enfants et Rouges is an exciting Morrocan street food market near the Musee National Picasso with an exciting atmosphere and incredible smells, so good you wont be able to leave without buying something. There are millions of places to eat in Paris with a variety of different cuisines to represent the diverse hub that Paris is.
4) Go On Dates
Paris is not the city of Love. It is however the city of dating. Dating culture seems to be massive here and is much more lighthearted and fun than in other places. It isn't uncommon to be seeing and dating multiple people at once here and what better way to explore the city than being shown the best bits by a local french person.
That's not to say Paris isn't for couples. There's plenty to do here with great date opportunities but don't be one of those couples who come here and place a lock on the love lock bridge. In a moment of severe irony, these little representations of indestructible love actually caused the original bridge to collapse under their weight and now all one million of them have been moved elsewhere, not that this has stopped people from trying to attach locks to the newly built lock-deterring bridge.
5) Visit any Museum that isn't the Louvre
I hate the louvre. If it isn't it's 5 million rooms of statues, it is the tourists swarming around the most over-rated painting in the world. France is the home of modern art. It is the place where Van Gogh's paint came alive, where Pablo Picasso decided to paint not what the eye could see and where Marcel Duchamp changed the definition of art forever. As a fan of modern art, the Musee d'Orsay, Centre Georges Pompidou and the Musee National Picasso are in my opinion much more interesting and hold some of the most innovative and history changing pieces that often get overlooked for Leonardo Da Vinci's 'Woman with a Questionable Smile and No Eyebrows'.
6) Find the Underground Parisian Culture
While, the aforementioned galleries are great, Parisian culture does not lie in the museums and the famous historical sites. If you really want to experience Paris, attend a spoken word poetry night or a jazz or piano bar. These are the kind of places that made me fall in love with the city. Paris is the inspiration point for thousands of writers, poets, artists and musicians and these are the places to find them.
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