I was asked more than once how it feels to live in “la ville lumière”. People tend to think that we stroll daily in posh Avenue Montaigne and eat famous macarons accompanied by “les bulles” all the while enjoying world renown “séduction à la française”.
The reality is different. The reality is nicer. I live in a “bobo” neighborhood where you can observe effortlessly chic parisiennes starting their days with a serving of “tartine” and a coffee in our local café, or munching on pieces of their baguettes as they walk to the nearest velib stop. The cafe’s funny little dog is there day in and day out to meet and greet the passers by.
You can watch the local beggar and her baby right across the park, just next to the local bank. She has this spot for over 4 years now. The baby was a newly born when they first settled there, now he walks and talks and charms the neighborhood. She is a part of our “quartier” so much so that we all actually make sure they’re both fine.
Of course our street is not an exception when it comes to the ever-existing harmless crazy person which each and every Parisian neighborhood has. He has his foldable chair right next to Franprix. Calling out to people stuff like;
“I know you, you’re from around here, so no need to pay.”
“Hey man it’s been ages since you last paid me, it’s about time.”
“Hang on a second, you’re new here, let’s meet and don’t forget to give me a little something.”
“It’s OK mon ami, it looks like you need the money more than I do”.
As he has the best spot on the street, he knows about everyone and everything happening in the neighborhood. But he’s there only when the weather is good. When it starts getting cold, he packs up his chair and leaves his space to someone else and disappears to who knows where.
Just to the right of our old Parisian building is hidden a little treasure only our locals know about. A tiny bistro called Rustres. Nothing fancy, just a handful of tables and a daily changing menu -not according to what is available on the market but rather to the chef’s mood- hand written on a blackboard. Obviously you don’t expect to eat a plate “étoilé” but traditional French cooking with all its simplicity and yet deliciousness reserved only for the knowledgable palate. We call it our “dining room” as i had soon enough discovered what a waste of time it is to cook at home while living in Paris. My better half seems to take each weekend longer to come back home with a loaf of bread for breakfast as he stops over to have a morning coffee with the friendly owner.
Mentioning bread takes us to another less significant secret Boulanger where the foodies come in scores to worship the finest of French pastries at Rue Antoine-Vollon. Blé Sucré is a name to keep in mind, trust me. You’ll not have enough of its crusty croissants, chocolate rich eclairs.
Heading towards to one of the most typical Parisian farmers’ markets “Marché d’Aligre,” you first make a stop in our local wine bar. Baron Rouge that is. The fact that you will see people eating oysters off the plates on top of cars and garbage bins might intrigue you at first. But it is the place to be.
If you’re in a rush to finish your shopping in Marché, well don’t bother. Shopping in open air markets takes time in Paris. Your butcher will ask you what you’ll cook and then suggest you the best cut for that, along with his own recipes. Your fisherman from Normandy will give you a lecture about fresh catch of the season. He’ll chat with you cheerfully while preparing your fish. Oh and he’ll not forget to slip a citron and some parsley before saying “au revoir”. Your Moroccan grocer will keep the juiciest tomatoes for you. He’ll tell you about how tomatoes are tastier back home.
Your elderly but always chic 1st floor neighbor will advice you against jogging on hot summer days. The building will always smell good thanks to your invariably smiling Portuguese concierge who keeps an eye on every single person entering the building. He will only complain about the students on the 6th floor: “they always come home late and make too much noise Madame!”
You’ll sip your afternoon coffee in front of your window directly on the street and watch life in Paris, the real Paris with her real people and you’ll know that you’ll never love a city as much.