In France, just as there is a song for everything, there is a time for everything. They even have an expression that translates roughly to “Before the hour, it’s not the hour; when it’s the hour, it’s the hour.” It sounds a bit weird in English but the French take it very seriously.
Marriage proposals in Paris are not a new thing—who could forget Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes halfway up the Eiffel Tower? While that may be a bit of a cliché (and we all know how that marriage ended) there are many more inspired options for romantic moments. And I think we’ve found the best.
Our local train station is called Gare St. Lazare and you can walk there in 10 minutes. It even has a new restaurant, called Lazare, that was just awarded a Michelin star. At the station there are just over 20 lines coming in and out and trains leaving every few minutes. The first time we went we watched the screens in awe. You mean we can just jump on one of these trains for 11 Euros and in 45 minutes be in Versailles? Or Haute Normandy? Why, yes!
No trip to Paris is complete without a “balade” through the flea markets, or the Marchés des Puces as they call them. But I have to say we’ve been pretty underwhelmed so far. Finally, last weekend, we figured out the Paris flea market secret.
One of the biggest issues during last week’s presidential election was unemployment, which has been hovering around 10% for quite some time in France. With corporate taxes at up to 75%, there’s a strong incentive not to start a business here. Or as the French tennis players and actor Gerard Depardieu have done, move to Monaco, Switzerland or Russia. More than a few expat couples told us they wanted to move to Paris but couldn’t figure out a way to make money here. So they ended up in Africa, Germany or England.
Our apartment building is relatively small, but there’s always lots of activity. We see the gardienne coming and going from her loge a few times a day. There are the lawyers who work on the third floor, with a constant stream of clients and couriers.
This Monday we came home to find a swarm of paparazzi next to our apartment and a fleet of black Peugeots speeding off. Just a typical day in the 8th Arrondissement.
It was the morning after the first round of the French presidential election, and there were motorcades everywhere. Also, it turns out, ex-French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s office is two doors down from us. “I thought that was Carla Bruni who asked me for a light the other day,” joked Murray.
They say that luck is when preparation meets opportunity.
We’re feeling pretty lucky these days. My sister-in-law Britt calls it our “pinch me” year.
Our most recent “pinch me” moment was two days ago. We woke up to the golden light of the South of France in a beautiful villa in the hills above Saint-Tropez. Like a Cezanne painting, it overlooked fields and vines, and stands of les pins parapluie, a local pine tree that looks like an umbrella.
Now that we are into our eighth month in Paris, we’ve had plenty of friends come through – 14 groups so far if I’m counting correctly, with many more to come this spring and summer. I’m often asked where they should go for a date night, or a business lunch, a girl’s night, or where to take the kids. Here are my picks of the top places to eat and drink right now, for every occasion.
Jogging has become wildly popular in Paris, ever since the former President Nicolas Sarkozy started a trend by jogging in the Tuileries. Now everyone is doing “le footing.” There is a stretch of the Seine between Pont de L’Alma (near where Princess Diana’s car crash took place) and the Musée D’Orsay that the city has recently redone for joggers with street art and water fountains.
Every time I turn on the news or open my Twitter account I am reminded of just how volatile life is, not just in Europe, but everywhere. France has been in a state of emergency since the terror attacks just over a year ago. But there is a strong sense of solidarity among Parisians, who have taken back the streets. When Parisians were asked in a survey their favourite thing to do, the most popular answer was “walking in the streets.” Even more than sex. Apparently Hemmingway’s A Moveable Feast has become a bestseller since the attacks.
This year in Paris has not been all Michelin star meals and Chanel fashion shows. At this very moment, for example, I am sitting in my apartment in the pouring rain waiting for an electrician who was supposed to be here three days ago to fix the power which shorts out whenever we cook with the lights on. I mean, we like to be romantic but it’s getting ridiculous.