Paris: A Local's Guide

BY Jacqueline De Gorter

Paris: A Local's Guide


Before you check for directions or search the nearest coffee shop, just flâne, notice how the architecture seems homogenous upon first glance, but each building is chiselled with different forms of ornamentation, notice the occasional 19th century storefront or stained glass boat window; just let your eyes wander and your feet will follow. But watch your step. The smaller the dog, the less obliged the Parisian dog owner feels to pick up after their petit chien. The streets are littered with dog shit (merde!) you probably already stepped in some. That’s okay, you’re on your way to Les Puces, an acclaimed flea market in northern Paris where, surrounded by embroidered linens of the 20th century and vintage cabaret posters, you can buy some 1930s lace up boots. But those will cost you €200.

Change of plans. You test your luck walking to Marché Aligre, chances are there is a flea market on Boulevard Richard Lenoir, and the shoes will be €20. You see a terrace flooded with that hazy Parisian morning light (it’s not haze, it’s cigarette smoke). You stop there and take a long espresso (the French take their coffee black, and that touch of milk will cost you an extra €2 anyway). You could order a croissant while you’re there, but why pay €2 more for a terrace croissant when there will be 20 more boulangeries along the route to Marché Aligre? Anyway, you hopped around the 11th arrondissement (Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements, or districts, which are numbered in a clockwise, spiral fashion starting in the centre) last night and wine by the glass was never over €5, so you actually need something more substantial. Maybe that Man’Oushe Za’atar the Lebanese woman is making with her hands over a hot plate on the corner of Jean Pierre Timbaud.

All seasons are beautifully reflected in the atmosphere and appearance of Paris, but try to avoid coming in the summer, around the holidays and during fashion weeks, when there is an influx of tourism. Late spring is the most magical time of the year: the city smells like a bouquet, the flowering trees frame the boulevards and the air is crisp in the morning and warms the parks by the afternoon.

Paris is less of a city and more like a collection of interweaving villages. You’re usually never far from a park, a boulangerie, a printing shop, because à l’epoque (in the past) people rarely had to leave their “village” to access everyday needs. That is not to say that it is not a bustling city. There’s almost always a demonstration at Republique, a sea of tote bags filled with seasonal produce at outdoor markets or crowds of flaneurs in Le Marais on a bright Sunday afternoon. Paris is punctuated by its reverence for art and culture; think museums, galleries, community spaces and historical theatres and cinemas. But, it is equally dotted with restaurants and boutiques donning Northern African, Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern delicacies. Paris est une Fête, but Paris is also a kaleidoscope of beautiful details of quotidian life if you keep your eyes wandering through the sights around you. But don’t forget to occasionally check the path in front of you.

If you're planning to visit Paris, check out our local guides for the best things to do.

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