Am I Parisienne yet? 5 years & Counting

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This Autumn marks 5 years that I’m living in Paris. And yet, it feels like only yesterday that I was stepping off the Eurostar with an extremely large suitcase, making my way to my first Parisian home. At that point in my life I didn’t know that I would still be here 6 months after my internship ended, let alone that I would still be living here (having just bought my first apartment with my boyfriend) 5 years on.

This anniversary has got me thinking about all of the places I visited, lived in and enjoyed for the past few years. I’ve actually lived and worked in A LOT of different places all over Paris. Changing apartment, changing companies or just changing offices mean that I’ve seen a lot of what Paris has to offer (but by no means all!)

And so, to mark this special moment I’ve listed some of my favourite bits:

Favourite area to live: A toss-up between the 9th and the 14th

Favourite French dish: So hard to choose! If I had to pick just one for the rest of my life it would probably be Blanquette de Veau

Favourite area to walk around: Montmartre – with one of the best free spots to view the city skyline, it’s one of the spots that make me stop and go “Wow, I live in Paris.”

Favourite apéro spot: L’Extra Brut in the 9th

Favourite place to shop: Les Halles or (for the sheer number of choices) or Galeries Lafayette (for the pretty architecture) – neither on the weekends though!

Favourite tourist spot: The Catacombs, such a unique attraction!

Favourite French sweet treat: You can’t beat a good Mousse au Chocolat, but Profiteroles are up there too

Favourite place to brunch: Hardware Société in the 18th

Favourite museum to visit: I actually haven’t visited many, mostly due to having la flemme to battling crowds on the weekend (Musee d’Orsay is still on my to-do list) but it really depends more on what exhibitions are showing

Favourite place to dine out: OK so it’s not actually French, but the Italian restaurant Salsamenteria di Parma is amazing, with special points going to their lambrusco, polenta and of course, their pasta

Favourite market: It’s not a marketplace as such, but there is such a selection of local, independent food stores that Rue des Martyrs in the 9th is as good as!

Favourite place to enjoy the sunshine: Parc Monceau is a picnic spot me and my friends have enjoyed for years. Otherwise a stroll alongside the Seine!

Favourite place to step in from the rain: Galeries Lafayette for shopping or heading to one of the covered terrasses on Grands Boulevards to grab a drink and people watch

Those were just some of my favourite bits from the last 5 years, now to see what the next 5 will hold… watch this space!

 

 

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27 – Stepping firmly into my “Late 20s”

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I hit 27 this weekend, affirming my status of falling into the “late 20s” age bracket, taking one step closer to the big 30. 

The weekend started off in style with an early finish at work, thanks to the France v Uruguay quarter-final match. With a seemingly easy win, the streets were buzzing with noise as I headed home to freshen up before catching the train with my boyfriend to the Stade de France.

He’d bought tickets months ago for an Ed Sheeran concert as a birthday treat. We’d got VIP tickets as these were the only ones left, but it turned out to be a good choice with access to the lounge, great seats and unlimited drinks during the concert. Now, I’ve been to concerts and festivals before, but I wasn’t at all prepared for seeing such a big star in a sold-out show. As the music blasted out on the opening “Castle on the Hill”, I felt tears in my eyes and slightly emotional at just how good his music was. I even surprised myself at how I knew the lyrics of every song inside out… I must listen to him more than I think!

The following day, D-Day, arrives. I’m nervously awaiting the England v Sweden match, remembering as a kid in primary school watching my team be knocked out of this stage of the World Cup. 2 goals up and then the final whistle blows, a sigh of relief – England will, for the first time in my lifetime, be heading to the semi-finals. My birthday celebrations can begin.

After being spoilt with gifts, cards, flowers and champagne from mon amour, he’s taking me out to Loca, an Argentinian restaurant in the 18th, just behind la Butte Montmartre.

We started with Boudin Noir, Oeuf de Cailles et Haricots Verts for me (Black pudding, Quail egg and Green beans) with Stracciatella, Aubergines et Endives for him (no translation needed) which was absolutely delicious. Our main consisted of a deliciously tender Entrecôte steak with barbecued potatoes and leeks for me, with an oh-so-fresh octopus, tomates confites and grilled cucumber for him. We washed everything down with a glass of Malbec each, enjoying the breeze and sounds of football fans next to open doors, before strolling back home via Sacré Coeur.

As we get older, we come to expect less from birthdays, to dread getting a year older, forever closing in on the next “milestone” birthday. But for me, as the years tick by, I always feel surrounded by love and excited for the year to come.

 

Being French: A gastronomical guide

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January is the month that everyone is waiting for the end of and yet, it passes by so slowly. Paris has been particularly dull these past few weeks due to the seemingly relentless rain and the question on everybody’s lips is “Is it Spring yet?!” Within the last month, we had one glorious day on sunshine, which my boyfriend and I spent strolling next to the flooded banks of the Seine. However, for the rest of the month, we’ve had to occupy ourselves with other pastimes.

Apéro is, in my mind at least, a form of art for the French. When I first arrived in France, I delighted in the way that people gathered together for a few glasses of wine with small plates of charcuterie and cheese – it was something I’d never experienced in the UK and it’s still one of the small things that I love about living here.

Whether it’s at home or in a bar, everyone has their ideal ingredients for their perfect apéro composition. This month, I went to Chez Nous, a cute wine bar in Saint-Germain, to celebrate a colleague’s birthday. While we all swiftly agreed on our choice of wine (red), opinions often differ when ordering small plates of food – should we go for 2 meat and 2 cheese plates, 3 cheese and 1 meat, or something different altogether? And once you’ve chosen your combo, which type of meat or cheese to select? One thing is for certain, I have never had the same apéro combination more than once and at the same time, I have never had a bad apéro.

Continuing in the theme of food, one rainy Sunday my boyfriend and I took ourselves to the Musée du Chocolat which, as you might have guessed, is a museum on the theme of Chocolate. The first part of the exhibition tells the history of chocolate, from the Aztecs to its introduction in Europe in the form of a liquid drink. Next, the story continues with the commercialisation of chocolate, moving into solid form before heading downstairs to a demonstration from one of their chocolatiers and finally gazing at structures such as the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe made entirely from chocolate.

Throughout the visit, we were able to taste chocolate – from tasting a recipe as close to that used by the Aztecs, to modern-day chocolate with different tastes depending on its country of origin. We finished our tour with a real-chocolate hot-chocolate, where a cube of your chocolate of choice is dunked into a cup of frothy milk. I am a self-confessed chocolate addict, forever trying to satisfy my sweet tooth, but even I was all chocolated out by the end of this museum.

The New Year is usually the time of calorie-counting following the indulgent festive season, but this month is anything but in France (and that’s before we even mention the galettes de roi for Epiphany!) Whilst everything must of course be taken in moderation, the French appreciation of good food and drink is something that never fails, even in the dull, dark months of January.

The Parisian Weekend of Culture

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The past couple of weekends have been so moche in Paris… I’m sure I say this on an annual basis, but this year is the coldest I’ve experienced in a long, long time. Because of this, I’ve been spending most of my weekends boycotting restaurants and bars in favour of staying-in with my boyfriend, experimenting with home-cooked meals followed by Netflix binges. However, after a few weekends of this magic formula, cabin fever had begun to set in, and so it was great to get out of the house for a weekend of culture.

My boyfriend had received some vouchers for the Philharmonie de Paris for his birthday back in September and decided to reserve spots for Les Planètes. This was my first visit to the Philharmonie (yes, shame on me) and so I was probably more excited than him, if I’m being honest.

As we’d booked so far in advance, we’d managed to nab spots a few rows from the front and so were treated to a spectacular, up-close view of the musicians at work. This was something I was beginning to regret during the warm-up act; a rendition of an organ-led set that was at times painful to the ears. Thankfully, the main act of Les Planètes more than made up for this. We were treated to seven pieces of beautifully composed music inspired by the characteristics of the planets in our solar system, backdropped against images taken from NASA. Although the first set was somewhat overpowering, the second half of our evening was perfectly complimented by the amplifying acoustics of the place, making you feel like you were transported into outer space.

On Saturday, I braved the cold along with my colleague to visit the Exposition Dior at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. We’d been talking about going forever and when we couldn’t find any pre-booked tickets until January, we decided to brave the queues. Upon arrival, we were informed that the queue without tickets stood to be 4 hours long, which we put down to a massive overestimation (you can never take the French seriously in matters of time). However, they weren’t far off – we waited 3 hours in freezing temperatures to finally make it inside.

This is one of those expositions that has all Parisians going crazy throughout its runtime… and I can see why. It was honestly one of the most beautiful expositions that I have ever seen. Even if you’re not that into fashion, you will be taken aback by the vast collection of original sketches, vintage dresses and one-of-a-kind couture pieces worn by celebrities of past and present. Every other group you’ll overhear will suddenly transform into globe-trotting fashion critics and while it’s slightly amusing to overhear middle-aged men exclaim that Galliano “lost his mind” when designing such pieces, such experiences speak volumes about the wide-audience appeal of this exposition.

Autumn: The season of Magic in Paris

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Autumn is by far my favourite season in Paris. As everyone returns from their summer holidays, the streets get busier again, new restaurants and bars open on every street and I get to dig out my heeled boots from their summer hibernation. However, for me Autumn is not just about rekindling my love with my classic black boots. This is the season that takes me back to my arrival in Paris four years ago.

In September 2013, I stepped off the Eurostar with one very large suitcase and a backpack to begin an internship within a marketing agency. Paris was a mystery to me at this point; although having visited several times to see the main tourist attractions, I didn’t imagine I would settle in this city.

Working in the 2nd arrondissement at this time meant that on a sunny lunch break, I’d often grab a sandwich with colleagues and head to Jardin des Tuileries. I remember arriving one day to find marquees had been pitched up in our usual spot and my colleague explained this is where some of the shows for fashion week took place. It felt so magical to me to be so close to the action, to just be a few feet away from the runways of some of the biggest names in the fashion business, having daydreamed about working in this industry since being a teenager.

For the past three and a half years, I have been doing just that, starting at a sustainable fashion platform, before this year joining the digital marketing team of a customisable jewellery house. Four years on from my arrival in Paris, I was tasked with organising an event during fashion week to host bloggers, press and stylists. Whilst returning home one night after dining at the former Jean-Paul Gaultier’s flagship, I spotted 90s supermodel Claudia Schiffer leaving an event; no matter how many years I spend here, Paris Fashion Week has a magic feeling to it, that takes me back to my 22 year-old self staring in awe at the marquees in Jardin des Tuileries.

Autumn also marks the arrival of Nuit Blanche; an annual, city-wide, all-night cultural festival. It’s events such as Nuit Blanche or (another favourite) La Fête de la Musique that you don’t really see in the UK and that, for me at least, make France a special place to live. My first Parisian Nuit Blanche was spent sitting on the banks on the Seine, witnessing an amazing fireworks display performed by a famed Chinese firework artist.

This year I revisited my old neighbourhood, as some would say the “bad side” of the 18th arrondissement. We walked around places that are usually closed to the public, this year visiting the train tracks and warehouses of the SNCF where artists were performing. Our evening finished at Le 104, a cultural space transformed for the evening into an open dancehall. While Nuit Blanche events can be hit and miss, I just love seeing the streets transformed and filled with people of all ages, experiencing events that they might have otherwise not have done.

When people back home ask me what I like about living in Paris, it’s actually difficult to put into words. The best way for me to describe it is a really personal feeling; it’s the small things that are almost intangible to the outside world. Personally, it’s the feeling I get every Autumn, swept up in the magic of fashion week or the atmosphere of filled streets for Nuit Blanche… every year it makes me fall in love with the city all over again.