I suddenly realized we had exactly two weeks left of our year in Paris. Our visas would expire, and we’d be personas non gratas in France on August 29. I booked one-way flights to Vancouver for myself and the girls with a sense of wistfulness. I’m very excited to see friends and family back home, but I did run through all the things I still wanted to do. Murray is under less time pressure, as he will stay on for another month on his Irish passport and participate in the grape harvest, the vendanges, in Champagne.
I’ve read dozens of books about Paris this year, and these six are my new favourites.
Based on a True Story by Delphine de Vigan (translated by George Miller)
Part of the trending auto-fiction genre (autobiography mixed with fiction,) this book was made into a film by Roman Polanski and premiered at Cannes this year. It’s a thriller about a female author who lives in contemporary Paris. One of the most creative and multi-layered pieces of writing I have ever read, where one is never quite sure what is true and what is not. Like me, you may go back and read de Vigan’s entire award-winning oeuvre.
The first time I heard the expression “C’est dûr, Paris” (it’s tough in Paris) was from a waiter in a brewpub in Richmond, BC. I was waiting on a kids birthday party at a trampoline park in the middle of nowhere so I wandered over to the nearest restaurant. The waiter had a Parisian accent of all things, and I mentioned that we were moving there in a few weeks. “C’est dûr, Paris” was his response. He’d tried it but couldn’t take it. But boy did he love Richmond, BC!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Before coming to Paris I had never eaten in a 3-star Michelin restaurant. Last week, I had lunch at two of them.
Before you start throwing stale baguettes at me, I should point out that we were hosted. We had some friends in town, staying on Ile St. Louis, the island in the middle of the Seine. They were two couples doing a week of Michelin starred dining, either a lunch or a dinner each day, and they invited us to tag along.