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My partner and I spent a week in Paris in April. You know. Like the song? April in Paris. ┬áSomeone forgot to remind Paris it was April because spring had not yet arrived. It was cold, rainy and overcast for most of the week. We live in London so we’re used to this kind of weather. You just don’t want it following you to fucking Paris.

Many years ago, my partner lived in Paris. He was studying French at the Sorbonne. He lived in a house in Montparnasse owned by a kind, elderly lady who opened her home to foreign students. He became a friend of the family and is still in touch to this day.

Paris helped define my partner. It was his first big city, real city. He grew up in suburban Florida so you can imagine. I’ve learned not to roll my eyes when he over pronounces French to be funny. I imagine that had we known each other back then, I’d have slapped him or made fun of him. I hate pretentious people. That’s why few of my friends are gay.

But I digress.

My partner and I have taken to exploring cities as if we lived there. You know how you spend your Saturday afternoon exploring more of Brooklyn or heading up to north Chicago just ’cause? You try a new restaurant, pub or go back to the place where they know your name and pretend you’re not a raging alcoholic. We did this in Rome last year, Istanbul in February and Lisbon in May. Christ I’m lucky. Why am I always so high-strung and tense?

Most days in Paris were spent exploring, urban hiking as I like to say. We did our best to avoid touristy areas and museums. We both love Luxembourg Garden and the Saint-Germaine-des-pres. I love Saint Sulpice Cathedral. That square in front is just wonderfully local and urban.

Our friend’s flat was in Belleville near Parc des Buttes Chaumont. Nice park. Great views of the city. Very few tourists. Belleville is a middle-class neighborhood filled with immigrants from the Middle East, North Africa and China. A lot of observant Jews too. Artists and hipsters are sprinkled about. It’s kind of like the Lower East Side before it became saturated with people who use summer as a verb.

Four days into our trip, I was getting the impression that my partner wasn’t enjoying himself all that much. He kept giving me mopey face, kept saying that next time we visit we should plan ahead more. Incidentally, “we” means “me” as I don’t work and have time to “plan more.” I reminded him that “we” didn’t want to plan, that the idea was to just wander and explore, find new restaurants, parks, streets, neighborhoods.

“Yeah, I know, but…I just feel we haven’t really been doing anything.”

It was clear Mopey McMopster needed some perspective.

“Didn’t you tell me you had one of the best meals of your life two days ago? Have you not had fun trying to look nonchalant as we breezed through those sketchy neighborhoods? That shirt you bought from the nice girl at that Italian shop wasn’t good enough for you? That cafe with the best people watching not fun enough? All those stretched faces, spoiled kids, stilettos, rich daddies and nanny’s on the verge of suicide not hilarious enough for you?”

“I feel like Michele from Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion where she tells Romy that she didn’t know high school wasn’t fun until she told her. I’m having a blast in Paris. Think of all the things we’ve done? And we still have three more days! What? Do you want me to take a picture of you wearing a beret, a black and white striped t-shirt with a baguette under you arm and a glass of red in your hand? So we didn’t make dinner reservations at places ahead of time. Big shit. I didn’t want to. So we didn’t know what exhibits were in town. We didn’t really want to go to museums on this trip anyway. We were going to live like a Parisian. You know?”

He laughed and agreed. I got off my soapbox and ordered him to order us another glass of wine. Can’t let his French get rusty.

The next day, we left the hovel on the 5th floor and checked into charming Hotel des Nations Saint Germain on Rue Monge. It’s located near the Sorbonne. My partner enjoyed showing me around his old stomping ground. We stumbled into theme bars (think teddy bears) and into an open mic night at a jazz venue. I was too tipsy to attempt Sinatra or Holiday but will return one day. You’re backed by a live trio! Just put a glass of scotch in my hand and I’m a cad or a diva.

Was it a perfect trip? No. But it was Paris. It was April. And we had a great time.

Tips:

Hotel Des Nations Saint-Germain: Slightly nicer than your average three star hotel and soon to be remodeled. The friendly staff is helpful and attentive. Some rooms are bigger than others. We had a smaller room but faced Rue Monge and had a juliet balcony. Nice.

Le Bonaparte: Elegant corner cafe in Saint-Germain with friendly waiters (odd for Paris) and zero attitude. I ate the best omelette I have ever had there (the one at the Metropole Hotel in Hanoi is a very close second). This cafe is a great people watching spot so do yourself a favor, order a bottle of red and linger.

Le Square Trousseau: My partner had one of the best meals of his life there. Great public square too. Urban. Local. The restaurant had zero tourists. Our waitress was friendly and there were vegetarian options for me. We lucked into this place but I would make a reservation, especially if you plan to visit on the weekend.

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