So this brings me to the end of my blog as well as the end of Paris.
I’m not one for saying goodbyes (funny then my last two blogs should be titled “goodbye” hey?). I feel that saying goodbye often puts too much focus on the leaving rather than the bits before, and the bits to come.
But I feel it’s fitting that my last entry is, if not a final goodbye, then an ode to Paris. So I sign off with my lasting impressions of Paris…
I will miss the food here in Paris. In particular the cheeses, breads, pastries, deli meats/terrines and roast chickens. I love that you can buy these things from nearly every block or market in Paris and it will be cheap and delicious. Yet I also love the chaotic French bistros, the average looking hole-in-the-wall that serves amazing dishes, the modern and inventive restaurants and of course the fabulous wine bars.
I was always aware that the French were leaders in the gourmet world and were famous for its cuisine. Yet I wrongly believed they were famous for their classical and traditional dishes. That’s a little like assuming Australians are mostly convicts. Yes they still embrace their classical dishes but they are also innovators in developing and mastering new cuisines and styles. Really, the one thing that has struck me most when eating in Paris was the technique and it is this technique that so many countries try and replicate across the world.
I will miss the French wine. I was already starting to feel disappointed with Australian wines before I left Sydney but now that I’ve been here two months I’m not sure how I’ll ever go back. The French wines, particularly the natural ones, taste so much smoother, so much more complex, so much more unique. In particular I will miss Le Verre Volé which we went back to yesterday just to stock up on some wines for our final nights. I love that the staff patiently sit with you to work out what sort of a wine you might like and always recommend bottles that will blow you away with their richness and individuality.
I love that everyone was wrong about French people. Nearly everyone warned me of the rudeness or brusqueness to expect but I can safely say that I have not experienced that at all. In fact, quite the opposite. I thought the French were always professional, courteous and passionate and the people I came across in shops/restaurants/public services were always only too happy to help me. Maybe this was because I was able to speak enough French, or because I made sure I understood French etiquette, but either way the only rudeness I saw on this trip came from the tourists.
Which brings me to a hate. I hate the tourists in Paris. They push, shove, talk loudly and take up too much space. That being said, the good thing is that most tourists only stick to the main tourists sites and the pretend French restaurants. By “pretend” I mean restaurants that are designed to look like tourists think French restaurants should look like (and serve only frogs legs, snails, fondue etc). So it’s easy enough to escape them and experience the real Paris.
I will miss weekends in Paris. There is such a happy and relaxed vibe. Everyone seems to leave the house and either shops at a market, sits in a cafe, wanders the streets, or sits in a park…you get the feeling that everyone here loves it here. And it makes you love it back.
I won’t miss the smells or the pollution. You can’t go far without smelling either urine, exhaust fumes or cigarette smoke. True you get used to it but I can’t wait to actually breathe fresh air.
I love French etiquette. I love how when you enter an establishment the first thing you do is greet the host and the last thing you do is farewell them. I love that there’s a level of respect in how you talk to someone and everyone is a Madame/Monsieur, and I love that it’s a given you will give a smile and a hello to whoever you’re sitting next to at a restaurant (which is just as well seeing the tables are so close together you wont be able to avoid getting friendly). I’m a big believer in manners and the French way conforms nicely to my view on how things should be.
I will miss having picnics in Paris. I’ve loved buying a whole heap of goodies and taking it to a park, the river, or the canal with a bottle or two of wine. It’s both an idyllic and inexpensive way to spend a day/evening and everyone does it so it also has the potential of being very social…especially when you forget the bottle opener (I don’t love that France hasn’t caught on to the screw top lids yet…). In fact, this is how we will be spending our final night in Paris (and boy have we bought a spread…).
I love the number of options in Paris. Every shop/restaurant/wine shop/cafe has the potential to double as a bar/night club/jazz room and the city is so large there are literally millions of such establishments. To this day I have no idea how they can all survive with the competition yet there must just be a hell of a lot of people in Paris because everything is always full. Which is another love – I love that everyone goes out in Paris! Young and old alike, no one wants to stay at home, everyone wants to have a good time.
I will miss my butcher, my grocer, my cheese shop and my favourite pastry shop. I bought something in all these stores today and said my farewells (all seemed very sad to lose a valued customer). I am so happy we got our apartment where we did – Rue Montorgueil is the liveliest most beautiful market street in Paris and the quality of the produce has always been incredible. I realise I’m probably being biased but I don’t care.
I love the French fashion. But by that I mean that everyone does their best to look good. That doesn’t mean heels, fancy clothes (it rarely gets formal in Paris despite what people say) or even make-up (something few French women wear). It’s just that no matter what time of the day or where they are they always dress at least smart casual. There’s no such thing as ducking out to the shops or pubs in shorts, singlets and thongs. While I do enjoy that liberty in Sydney at times it’s nice to see everyone looking smart for a change.
I will miss the French parks and their ability to create perfect symmetry and flowers that belong in a museum.
I will miss our little apartment. Sure the stairs are a bit uneven and old and the child outside our bedroom still screams every afternoon, but it’s been home. It’s small and quirky and I’ve loved looking out onto the rooftops of Paris and drinking wine on the couch with Demis (fighting for the last bit of cheese).
I will not miss any of the modern “art”.
I’m reluctant to finish this entry but once I start resorting to listing things like modern “art”, well, it could just get silly from here on in.
Paris – I think you are a city of many secrets. You hide these secrets behind your more obvious landmarks and breathtaking parks, but you openly reveal them to those who go digging. I love that you embrace your history and traditions and that they’re used each day as a platform for all the new and incredible things you produce. I love that nearly everything you produce is designed to please. You’re the city of love because spend enough time here and one learns to love all the simple things they often ignore.
Thank you Paris for treating us so well in your city – for the sunshine, the memories, and for everything in between.
Until next time xx