I love Paris, I really do. It is fabulous to visit – so many different neighborhoods to wander through, so much to do, amazing museums, exceptional restaurants, history and art at every corner. Every time that we go for a weekend I discover some new part of town that I’ve never been to before; I will never tire of it…of visiting it.
“But what do you mean, visit it? Why wouldn’t you want to live there?”
“Yeah, I don’t get it, why don’t you live in Paris?”
“I mean, when you moved to France, how come you didn’t choose to live in Paris?”
“Where would you live beside Paris? Wait a minute, are you saying that there are other cities in France besides PARIS?”
The way non-Frenchies (meh…and sometimes Parisians…you know who you are) talk about Paris kind of reminds me of the final scene in “Gone with the Wind” – check out this clip at about the 1 minute mark:
(SERIOUS SPOILER ALERT: If you have never seen “Gone with the Wind” this completely gives away the ending…also, if you have never seen “Gone with the Wind”, slap yourself and go rent buy this film immediately.)
Foreigners are obsessed with Paris; I mean, how many books, films, articles are written about the glories of living the expat life in Paris? It’s as though if a foreigner comes to France they must be doing so in order to find themselves (“Um…their true self”, she says while straightening her Lisa Loeb glasses and sipping an organic chai tea) in the quirky, intellectual, and artistic world of Paris. I mean, come on, Hemingway and Fitzgerald (both super happy guys, right?) did it and then Woody Allen made a movie about it and how he desperately wanted to do it so there must be something to it, no?
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to bash on Paris or on the inspiration provided by that fair city. I mean, hell, I buy it, man – Paris is dead sexy, wildly provocative, and classically romantic all at the same time…a combination which packs quite a punch.
I remember my first visit there; I went out by myself in the afternoon. I dressed in skinny jeans and ballet flats with a loose tank top and a blazer thrown over my shoulder, I hardly wore any make-up and let my hair stayed tousled and messy. As I stepped out of my hotel, I flipped my Ipod on and listened to Billie Holiday while walking along the Seine, I took myself to the Louvre, I got an ice-cream cone (Berthillon…obviously) and watched the boats float by while pontificating about life…it was all very Truffaut-esque. Paris made me feel different; that is a power that Paris invariably has…especially for foreigners.
I’m just saying – there is more to France than Paris.
“OHMAGOD, what did she just say?”
“She does NOT know what she is talking about.”
“I don’t even…I’m just…PARIS!”
For instance, Paris: NOT the gastronomic center of France.
*GASP OF HORROR*
Paris is excellent for getting a taste of a lot of different types of French cuisine in one place and the classic French bistro is undoubtedly Parisian but Lyon is actually the major gastronomic city of France and areas like Burgundy, Normandy, Perigord, Provence, and the Southwest (just to name a few) all have their own regional cuisines. Foie gras, escargot, brie, camembert? None of these things are produced in Paris. Boeuf bourginon, coq au vin, cassoulet? Not Parisian dishes. And don’t even get me started on wine. Why buy the wine for 3 times as much at a restaurant in Paris without even tasting it when you can buy it for 3 times as much at the vineyard in Burgundy AFTER having a few sips?
The Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and Versailles are super cool (hall of mirrors – what what!) but so are the Chateau’s of Loire, the Roman ruins in Provence, and the various medieval castles you see from the highway during a road-trip.
I guess my point is that Paris is cool but France is even cooler. It is a virtual wonderland of food, wine, and history and Paris is a part of that…not all of it.
So go to Paris, don your sunglasses and walk around, maybe get a coffee and smoke a cigarette…even if you don’t smoke. Wear attractive shoes even though you know you will be walking all day, never hurry, and think serious and deep thoughts… let yourself be enveloped by the city, by its contradictory combination of sensuousness and utter coolness…then get out of there and go see France.