15 Things I’d Miss About Paris If I Moved Away

At a recent book event, there was a little Q & A session after I chatted and read from my new book. The only guidelines were that I told people that two questions were off limits.

white asparagus

One was; “Why did you move to Paris?”, and the other “How long are you planning on living in Paris?” Because I get asked them at least six times a day, and I’ve been here seven years, (so do the math and you’ll understand why j’en ai marre ), I figured I should just answer them in the book and be done with them once and for all.

Except when I said that, for a moment, I kind of blindsighted the crowd as I could tell that everyone was about to raise their hand to ask one of those two questions. Multiply that by 150+ people, and I’m not going to ask you to do the math again, but you see what I’m up against.

But someone did ask me a very good question: “What about Paris would you miss if you moved away?” which rendered me uncharacteristically speechless. In the book, I wanted to be truthful about my life here and balance the good with the not-always-good, and sometimes people focus on the less-alluring aspects of my life in this city, mostly because they’re more fun than to hear what a spectacular city Paris really is.

So here are 15 things I would miss if I moved away from Paris…..

gilet de pêche

1. The Dorky Sense of Fashion

For the most part, Parisians are a pretty fashionable group. Well, younger ones, that is. But the older ones tend to dress more for comfort than for style, and if anyone over 50 is wearing jeans, either they’ve been starched, heavily perma-creased, or the elastic waistband is a few centimeters north of their navel.

But it’s kind of quirky to pass men on city streets, wearing fishing vests, strolling on sidewalks where there’s clearly nothing biting, and seeing sixty-seven year old women wearing skirts that are short enough to make the gals pole-dancing up in Pigalle blush.

2. The Lack of Wacky Diets & Exercise Freaks

With the exception of the woman I saw jogging last week in the Tuilleries wearing espadrilles, most people aren’t obsessed with exercise or working out. (If you’ve even been in a gym here, you’ll see why they likely avoid them.) The French are a sportif lot, but no one gets up at 4:15 am to do a circuit, take a Spin class, then pump iron for an hour before their morning wheat grass juice. Hence you see very few over-inflated gym bodies like you would in say, California. And I’m thankful for that.

Curiously you also fewer overstuffed bodies either. There’s a panoply of reasons for that, which get me into trouble every time I bring it up, but from what I see, few people here are afraid of food. I recall during a baking demonstration I was doing in the states and remember one person telling me they were giving up fresh grapes because “they had too many calories”…and another person asked my opinion of “low-carb chocolate.”

I doubt few people in France thinks fresh fruit is the enemy, and am certain that if low-carb chocolate had ever existed, it has come and it has gone—thankfully.

scone-dive

3. Vélib’

Sure we got off to a rocky start, but after a couple of years of using the nearly-free bikes, the only way you could get me to take the métro is to hold a bar of low-carb chocolate to my head. (Or my mouth.)

“Aren’t you scared of Parisian drivers?” I’m asked. To be honest, I’m only scared of them when walking because they tend to speed up and see pedestrians as nuisances. (If they see them at all.) But bicycles are treated like vehicles and people share the road with them. Of course, you need to be brave and not be scared of swerving in front of a speeding bus or taxi. (Ok, the taxis I don’t recommend.) But I’ve had far more harrowing experiences with crazy drivers in San Francisco balancing lattes, yoga mats, and tapping messages on their iPhones in their Priuses than I have in Paris.

The other upside of the Vélib’ program, which they really should tout, is that the baskets make excellent cooling racks, in case you’re making a cross-town scone delivery. The downside is you need to be careful when applying the brakes when it comes time to stop, unless your scones are pretty-well secured.

jeune homme

4. Les jeunes hommes with Impossibly Small Waistlines

Wait. Before you call the feds on me, it’s not what you’re thinking. It’s just that I’m astounded by how slim some of these young men are around here. I mean, some of them are so lithe that you wonder what’s holding those jeans up. (Often not much, judging from the undergarments sticking out all the time.)

I don’t know how they do it, but I want one.

A waistline like that, not what you’re probably thinking.

5. The Brusque-ness

While at first it may be off-putting, once you become brusque yourself, life becomes so much easier. “No” is so much easier than saying “Yes” and shoving someone out of the way is far less-effort than contorting yourself to try and move around others. If you’ve ever wondered why there’s so many kinésithérapists here in Paris, it’s because everyone’s spines are all outta whack from the never-ending twisting and turning.

So why keep your feelings inside? Running for President? If some kid tries to pick your pocket, slap that little scoundrel across the face. If someone cuts you off on their bike, yell at them. Feel free to ride full-throttle on your scooter down the sidewalk. I mean, who do those pedestrians think they are, anyways? Don’t they know who the sidewalks are for?

And I’ve come to enjoy the art of finding out who is the stronger of the lot when it comes to dealing with bureaucrats and salesclerks: if you don’t stick up for yourself, they’ll take you down in an instant. So I’ve really worked on my assertiveness training and curiously, all my back pain has vanished, too.

The Parking Goddess of Paris

6. The Sense of Humor

French people are really funny. And they appreciate a sec sense of humor. There is that thin shell of veneer that needs to get broken through, but once you do, you’ll find they like to have a good laugh. Unfortunately a few have been at my expense, but I’m not holding that against them. Because I’ve had a few at theirs, too.

butter & jam

7. The Butter

A Parisian chocolatier I know had some hot-shot investors lined up to open a confectionery shop in New York City. He went, looked at locations, did the rounds, had meetings with everyone, and came back.

When he returned, I asked; “So, are you going to open in New York?”

Non,” he told me, “c’est pas possible. The butter is pas bon.”

You can find acceptable butter in the states, but really, when you’ve had amazing French butter, most of the stuff (even the fancy organic-groovy-whatever butters taste bland) in America is pretty average. I’ve gone back and forth between Beillevaire and Bordier (I’m back to Bordier, for now) which is like choosing between Daniel Craig and Colin Ferrell. And with choices like that facing me every day, people still ask why I moved here?

rosé

8. The Cheap (and Drinkable) Wine

Last time I was in California, I went to a slightly-upscale pizza place. Because there was a long wait, I ordered two glasses of rosé, which clocked in at $13 each. So, for two small glasses of wine, with tax and tip, I was out 30 bucks. For two half-full glasses. I wanted another, but I didn’t dare. Okay, yes I did. But was not thrilled when my credit card bill came.

Look, I don’t begrudge anyone who owns a restaurant, since it’s hard work and the pay isn’t nearly commensurate with the headaches or the insanity. And I also think people that produce our food deserve to be properly compensated for their work. But if someone can tell me why 2 ounces of wine costs the same as an entire handmade pizza pie made with organic flour, locally-made cheese, and hand-picked vegetables, or twice as much as a slice of chocolate cake with freshly-churned ice cream and chocolate sauce made from bean-to-bar chocolate made nearby, I’m listening.

Wine in France is so integrated into everyday life that it just has to be inexpensive. And while I wouldn’t trust a $3 bottle of wine in America (sorry, that two-buck stuff is pretty bad, and that’s coming from someone who is not a wine snob), for everyday drinking, you can find very decent wines for less than €5 here. As in, €5 per bottle.

I don’t think even a 3-star restaurant in Paris could get away with charging €10 for a glass of rosé. And if they tried, they’d get run out of town.

9. The Lack of Beating-Around-the-Bush

One of the things I had to get used to is how “honest” French people are. That’s kind of a sweeping statement and you might be scratching your head since last time you came back from the market you found a rotting peach in the bottom of your bag, or you counted your change a few minutes later and realized you were short a few centimes.

But a good example of the brutal honesty I’m talking about is if you were following my eyeglass saga, I finally decided to get the glasses I’d picked out. And after going to the store and declining all the expensive specialty lenses she was trying to push on me, I asked the woman what she thought of the glasses I was buying.

“Well, they’re fine…as long as you don’t leave the house wearing them.”

10. You Can Get Anything You Want By Flirting

In addition to the straightforward fashion advice, she also knocked the price down 10% because I made her laugh.

showerhead

11. The Volatility

French people don’t baby you, even if you’re a baby. In fact, if you ever see small children misbehaving, it’s likely they’re not French because children are meant to be controlled, not granted carte blanche to act like children. Which is fine with me.

But if you’re walking down the street and a bike or car cuts you off, arguing with the bank teller about why you can’t get a receipt (or change), or madame cuts you off at the market, you can let loose and no one will think the worse of you. In fact, you’ll gain their respect for standing up to them.

(Disclaimer: Don’t try this unless you can do it with great élan and/or your French is pretty good. Otherwise I’m not responsible for any consequences.)

12. Dining in Restaurants

The last time I was in the states, I could barely eat out: the restaurants were so friggin’ loud! On all those online bulletin boards and such, everyone complains about how loud restaurants are. But—hello? Have you heard all those diners screaming at the top of their lungs?

And let’s hear if for Service Compris. Pay people what they’re worth, tax earnings and use that money to pay for universal health care for all (not just for those in the certain businesses and not others), get rid of the gross discrepancy in how much waiters make as opposed to cooks, toss those stupid tip jars begging for spare change, forget people grousing about good or bad service (if a place has bad service, don’t go back; like all other service industries, you don’t tip flight attendants, salesclerks, dry cleaners, and librarians), forget trying to figure out if you should add 15%, or 18%, or 20%, and just make it easier all around, for diners, owners, waiters, and cooks.

13. Cafés

Corby Kummer wrote a wonderful piece about me, the tone of the book, and my feelings about French coffee. But the impression that that French cafés are “unfriendly and dismal” isn’t quite on-target. The cafés are meant to be gathering places and to me, the less-fancy, the better. My favorites are the old ones with the hunched over waiters in long starched aprons who grunt when you order. And I spend my few hours there trying to win over their affection, and I haven’t yet not succeeded.

I love cafés. Just not the coffee. Recently Romain asked a barman, “Why is the coffee so bad? It tastes like aluminum.” I think you need to be a certified native Parisian to pull that one off, but the guy behind the counter came back with, “C’est comme ça, monsieur…” (“Because that’s how it is”) and walked away. He must be un vrai Parisien, too.

14. Cutting in Line

Many people find this annoying, but for me, now it’s part of my life, and the daily game. And I’m a willing player. I mean, who out there likes waiting in line? Me neither. So I do whatever I can to slide to the front now, too. I’ve maimed old ladies and trampled babies in the name of bumping up my place in the queue.

Although I wrote about my techniques more extensively in the book, the main thing is not to yield to anyone, and don’t make eye contact either. And if you get busted, just do the shrug of denial, and carry on.

French breakfast

15. The Bakeries

A lot of visitors come here with lists of places they just simply have to visit. Especially foodies, who want to see all the best chocolate shops, boulangeries and pastry outlets. And I don’t blame them at all.

Except when you live here, it’s pretty unthinkable to travel any farther than a few blocks for your daily bread. As much as I love going to Poilâne, I have to cross the river to do so, and that’s just too much effort. A baguette from that award-winning place in the 17th? Are you out of your mind? Who goes up there?

Like most Parisians, I keep it within a few block radius, even though I know there’s better bread beyond my boundaries.

Ok, so there you have them. Fifteen things I’d miss about Paris if I moved. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go press my jeans, put on a fishing vest, and head to the eyeglass store to pick up my glasses that the saleswoman said looked horrible on me.

On the way home, I’m going to dodge the scooters jetting across the sidewalk, and I may have to push a few people out of my way en route to the wine bar for a cheap glass of rosé. Then I’m off to the bakery to get the bread to go with my fantastic French butter.

But if there’s a queue, I don’t plan to wait. After all, why live in Paris if you gonna stand in lines all day?

Sweetlifecoverhomepage.jpg

Note: Tomorrow, May 28th at Noon (EST) I’ll be speaking with the ever-entertaining Adam Roberts, the Amateur Gourmet, on BlogTalkRadio. Tune in, or call in. Or both!

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111 comments

  • I am a half-french living in Brasil and I have to say that these are exactly the same things I do miss while away from France. I will have to add the cheeses and the bread along with the butter, because no mather what people say, c’est incomparable !! A bientot, et tous mes voeux pour ton nouveau livre (deja commandé sur Amazon ) !! Flavia

  • These are all things I miss about Paris, and I’ve never lived there for longer than a month. My parents spend a month in Paris every summer (they’re there right now – I tried to send them to your book reading, but OhLala La Rive DROIT? Ce n’est pas possible. They rent a place near Invalides) and I went along with them before I was a grownup and had a job. Now they travel all over (just spent the academic year in London with side trips to Egypt and Turkey, with a couple of cruises thrown in) but every time they get back to Paris (and they ALWAYS go back to Paris) they give a little happy sigh and go eat oysters. We have a running joke that even the mosquito bites don’t itch in Paris.

  • I learned all about cutting in line while living in Sicily, and I am definitely a pro now (although it’s not a very useful skill to have here in the states). I have to say that it’s a rather exhilarating experience! ;-)

  • Love it – thanks for the giggles. Also, how could I have been in Paris for 5 whole days and still not been able to try some Bordier butter? Next time, don’t let me forget. x

  • Very, very nice entry. Especially the part about the children. Come on, people, if you treat your children like thinking human beings, they will act that way.
    Thanks for the great post, David!

  • I’m so pleased the question prompted a posting! Because, while I love all your posts, my favorites are definitely the ones where you reflect on things à la parisien or à la français. And here’s another beautiful one to treasure.

    My greatest feeling of victory was one Saturday morning a few years ago at my neighborhood branch of Societe Generale. I went to the side, filled out my deposit slip, and then took my spot in line. Another fellow, who had gone up to a teller window to fill out his, then came and tried to take his place in FRONT of me. And I wasn’t having any of that. I thought why, just because this is a rich, prosperous, older gentleman, do I always have to be the nice little American girl.

    So I told him that he hadn’t been ready until after me, and that his place was behind me. And he grunted (in French) that a little politness wouldn’t hurt me. And I retorted — it wouldn’t hurt you, either, Monsieur!

    Glorious victory, I was on a high for days.

  • I’m so pleased the question prompted a posting! Because, while I love all your posts, my favorites are definitely the ones where you reflect on things à la parisien or à la français. And here’s another beautiful one to treasure.

    My greatest feeling of victory was one Saturday morning a few years ago at my neighborhood branch of Societe Generale. I went to the side, filled out my deposit slip, and then took my spot in line. Another fellow, who had gone up to a teller window to fill out his, then came and tried to take his place in FRONT of me. And I wasn’t having any of that. I thought why, just because this is a rich, prosperous, older gentleman, do I always have to be the nice little American girl.

    So I told him that he hadn’t been ready until after me, and that his place was behind me. And he grunted (in French) that a little politness wouldn’t hurt me. And I retorted — it wouldn’t hurt you, either, Monsieur!

    Glorious victory, I was on a high for days.

  • Sounds like you have the beginnings of your next book!! :)

  • Hello David,
    I have been lucky enough to have spent the last month in Paris, and I attended your book signing as well – good timing huh? I stayed awake until nearly 2am reading your book (damn you for being so funny). I am going home on Friday morning and am nearly crying now just thinking about it.

    I rented an apartment here and I think we must have been neighbours all this time because I have bought my bread at the same Boulangeries as you and visited the Richard Lenoir Markets religiously every Thursday and Sunday.

    Thank you for all of your stories and tips – they have proved invaluable, and I find myself, even after only a month, barging my way down the street, and not letting people cut in front of me. I have even been most gratified to have had ACTUAL French people ask me for directions in the street!

    My Ladurée macaron and baguette traditional withdrawal symptoms are going to be baaaadddd when I get back to Australia and I will be saving madly for my next trip.

    Merci Beaucoup!

  • Kim B: That reminds me of one of my all-time favorites: I was in line at the Grand Épicerie, and this woman came over with her handbasket, and said, “I was here, but I had to go and get something else.”

    I was, like, “Um, that would mean that you lost your place in line.”

    (That is, if you really were in this line once.)

  • Okay, I have to smile: as soon as I saw the title of the post I thought “I’ll bet butter is on that list…”. And I was right! : )

  • Love this list. Counting the days to July 1….

    ps: I’ve also noticed a high percentage of the 17 or so Parisiennes who actually jog doing their laps sans support, if you know what I mean. Ouch.

  • I just finished your book. I can’t say anything more than thank you for such a wonderful read. I was both enlightened and reassured about French and particularly Parisian idiosyncrasies and now, more than ever am excited to move out there this summer. (Though I’ll be lucky enough to be a tad bit closer to Poilâne.)

    One thing I do miss, which my friends can’t seem to wrap their heads around, is the food. Is it really that crazy of a thought for someone to want fly 5000 miles for a fallafel or a chocolate almond croissant?? Yum. I just tell them “You’ve never had it… you just don’t understand!”

  • One night, walking on the Left Bank, I ran into a man wearing knickers and a wool, tweed jacket. Oh… and he was carrying a rifle. I’m still not sure what fashion statement he was making(?) One thing I really miss about Paris is “smelling” the coffee in the early morning when I’m out walking. When I make my espressos at home, I close my eyes and dream for a moment that I’m on a Paris street. Rude awakening when I open them.

  • Eileen: Well, my guess is that it must have something to do with all the ‘fishermen’ patrolling the streets of Paris. You tell me there are hunters, too? Hmmm…perhaps there’s something no one’s telling us about around here….I’m definitely going to be more careful from now on. Lord knows what is out there?!

  • I really enjoyed reading this.

    Lovely. :)

    Thank you.

  • Love it ! Thanks for the wonderful read!
    Thanks for sharing:)

  • heehee — I was just thinking today that I’m going to get called all kind of names and given all kinds of ugly eyes if and when I ever move back to the States.

    I’ve learned to argue (even in crappy French), push and shove, cut in line, and to put on that incredibly annoying air of righteous indignation when you are slighted. This evening at Carrefour (I know..but I wasn’t buying butter, okay?!), I had like 7 items, and this woman was holding the place in line for her husband (arms spread like a linebacker, no less), who came rolling down the aisle just as I approached the caisse, he rolling a chariot groaning under the weight of all the crap they had piled in there. (In French) — Him: oh, let’s let her go ahead, she has only a few things, and we have the entire chariot — Her: No, I was here first, she can just wait — Me, with shrug: Merci tres beaucoup pour ca, madame, c’est tres gentile — bon soiree. Don’t ever forget the pleasantries — it makes you so much more of a P.I.T.A. (and in cases like this, it just feels so good to see that fleeting look of guilt. And she said Merci. HA!

    I’ll have to have behavior modification if I ever go back.

    But I’d miss it here, horribly. It’s a bit of an art to learn to let crap like that roll off, but once you do, it really is a pretty nice place to be.

  • I don’t know why exactly, but I’ve been feeling restless. Your post just made me want to go back to Paris. I also miss the produce, because here you can’t get the nice produce you get in the US.

  • I’m so very glad to see this post – it means you didn’t give into the idea that this blog should be all recipes, all the time.

    I enjoyed reading this – thank you!

  • How about the pleasure of walking…and stumbling on a new treasure every time you turn a corner?

  • Thank you so much for writing this, David. SO much!

    Having just left Paris (yikes! was it 6 whole months ago??!) and missing it terribly, I agree with your list 100%, and add a 16th for Things I Miss: comfortableness with touching other people. Okay, well not during rush hour in the metro, maybe, no sirree. But rather the many times daily shaking of hands or giving cheek kisses. I hadn’t realized how grounding it is.

    P.S. I adore your shower-hose photo. Worth mille mots!

  • Loved your post. I only disagree with one thing: I hate it when people cut the line. Unlike you I will NEVER get used to it!

  • *sigh* We must move to France…

  • David, another excellent post. I could get used to many of the things you would miss about Paris, but not sure I could learn to cut in a line.

    “Class, please use panoply in a sentence!” Great word :) Your English teacher would be proud.

  • Brilliant post, David. I was so engaged in the content, I didn’t even realize this was from you at first — someone I’ve collaborated with prior.

    I particularly like some of the “unorthodox” choices you’ve made here — and your emphasis on what may seem like negatives at first, but can ultimately become positives.

    Sure, I might occasionally snub my nose at some of the Franco pretension, the self-importance, etc. But America needs a cultural foil for all the many reasons you listed above. And to that I’ll drink a nice glass of Bourgogne, clap my hands, and sing silly French songs in defiance.

  • Are we going to get a look at you in those glasses? I’m dying to see them, now that the salesgirl has revealed their unfitness for the streets.

  • This made me smile… 15 times. Especially on the ones about the overall attitude of the French. I love it—and always sneer at people who make remarks, when the reality is they just don’t get it.
    I am a New Yorker whose first visit to Paris at age 12 has created dreams of living there. The last few years of barely passing french classes has somewhat discouraged me, but I must say—these are the reason I need to live there.
    Thanks for reminding me.

  • not that I disagree with your opinions, David, but I think my list would look like this: items 15 through 8: just butter (yes, butter, 8 times) and items 7-1: bread (yes, bread, 7 times). I love Paris and so want to go back there. Thanks for posting this.

  • What a sweet and loving look at the quirkier side of the most romantic city on earth. I loved reading about these quiet, everyday sorts of observations.

  • One of the most interesting thing I discovered while living in Paris was that, although you often get bumped into and elbowed out of the way, you can elbow and bump to your heart’s delight and the French don’t mind it. It’s not personal.

  • I bought your book yesterday and I have already laughed my way halfway through it. I took an extra long lunch today so I could read. It’s too bad you didn’t write this before my first trip to Paris a year ago. If I had known what I now know, I think I would have enjoyed the trip that I had dreamed of my entire life much more than I did. Hopefully, my next trip to Paris will be a D.L. Chocolate Tour.

    Your book is totally delightful and I dread finishing it. When is the sequel going to be published?

  • Great post David!

  • David, I love your “an expat in Paris” posts. :)

    What brands of bicycles are popular in France and Italy? Your mention of the Vélib’ program reminded me of the lovely bicycles that can be found overseas. Most American brands seem a bit too bulky or marred by wiring.

  • I miss those things too, and I’ve never lived there. sigh.

  • Great list, especially the butter. And those skinny guys.
    The line-cutting and shoving I just hate, though. I really prefer the “After you.” “No, after you.” that goes on here in the middle of nowhere. I don’t understand the correlation between the behavior of cutting in line and yet thinking of oneself as a cultured person. I guess I need to be there to understand.
    A friend from England says Americans don’t push and cut in because the lines are never as long as in Europe. No need to be agressive. Or maybe we are not standing in line for anything as good as French butter.

  • I am so in agreement with your take on the french. What a gift to be able to live there half the year for the past dozen.
    Residing in Paris is one the most rewarding things I’ve done in my life , without a clue there would be so many benefits to the richness of my life experiences. What a gift to observe the sensibility, the discretion, the personal boundaries & the thin/elegant/CLASSY/scarfed women who are like actresses from dozens of movies I’ve seen.
    I ride my bike all over. Never feel unsafe, don’t wear a helmet but trying to get past that, listen to Leonard Cohen on my iPod. I soak it all in, smile, laugh and know that this must be appreciated with all the senses; let me count the ways.
    You read them right. And once I understand I have to dance their tune we get along better than fine. How can you not love to see teenagers at the largest lycee in Paris near my apartment dressing with such panache, to kiss each other with ease and to have such style , already! Bravo.
    J’adore la france! Great story. Merci.
    Albert

  • I was in Paris Last October, and was dying to grab a Vélib to stroll around the city. It’s a wonderful system. The only problem is that I didn’t have a card with a “chip” and it took me half a day of asking around, using my best Frenglish, if there was a way I could get one with just a regular credit card (or cash), only to find out that it was impossible.

    I miss the bakeries and the markets, and the street vendors selling fresh ripe fruit, and how everyone eats on the patio, facing the street, people watching.

  • Well, one word I rarely use is envy but I envy so many of you here who live, have lived or just have been to Paris–once or multiple times. It’s something I have hoped for since I was in elementary school and I am now 40 and still hoping, hoping, waiting….

    I’m sold just on the butter and chocolate part of it all! Apparently there is more to Paris than charm and antiquity (I knew that, just kidding). Someday, someday….after a refresher of my high school French.

    David, what’s with the non eye contact? I have read that before about Paris, isn’t it more assertive to make eye contact or is that just asking for a French verbal enema or ass kicking?

  • I love this post! thank you!

  • As a former expat in Paris, I couldn’t agree more with your whole (brilliantly put) list. All I can do is add a few other things I miss – the cinemas (the number and variety put pretty much every other city to shame), the swimming pools, the metro (I’m about to move to Los Angeles and I have a feeling I’m going to wake up weeping from dreams of the metro on many a morning)… I could go on, but I’ll stop.

    But… I can’t say I’ve ever noticed the old guys in fishing vests! Where do they congregate? I’m coming back to Paris in two weeks, and I will not rest until I’ve seen them with my own eyes! ;)

  • I reckon for those of us who don’t have French genes some of these are mutually exclusive.

    I was “un jeune homme with (an) Impossibly Small Waistline” until I went to France. I, like most, discovered what bread is, what butter is, and discovered I had an addiction for fromage blanc and religieuses au chocolat which used to be satisfied daily. So even though I walked everywhere I’m still coming to terms with the fact I’ll never see my 28 inch waist again…

  • Great list…especially the cheese, what I miss the most. There was a wonderful small shop around the corner from Saussaye, the owner would bring up the different chevres on straw trays, from the basement/cave below the store, like jewels in Bulgari’s. The tome du Savoie, the best! Camembert du Issigny (sp?)…hmmm…
    Learning to buy in small slices, just for the day, to assert oneself with the salesgirl, to get the little morsel just right, or that whole quarter of the pain Polaine, when she was running low. And, the look on the French faces at lunch or dinner, when they saw it all… Great memories. Don’t give up the original format here, it is just fine the way it is, very fine, super(be).

  • sofia: Yes, because American credit cards don’t have a microchip, they don’t work in the Vélib machines. (Just like French credit cards don’t work in America…maybe we need a reciprocity agreement?) One can rent a bike in Paris from other outfits and it’s a great way to get around. Just watch out for those taxis…and me!

    andrew: I wish I was a jeune homme again, too, but it ain’t gonna happen. Aside from the waistline, I can’t get that bushy mop of hair back either.

    Rachel: As I mentioned in the book, few people notice it, like my pal David, until I pointed them out to him. Now he’s mad at me because that’s all he sees! I keep threatening to get one to wear myself, but all those buckles and zippers scare me.

    Linda H: Anyone who says there are no long lines in America hasn’t been to Costco, or to an airport lately. Or the Trader Joe’s in New York City on a Sunday afternoon. That line was breathtaking (but worth the wait, for those of us stocking up.)

    Sunny: I assume you’ve seen this?

    What’s especially hilarious is that it’s so true! ; )

  • Great post, as usual! We found the Beillevaire butter yesterday…it was absolutely amazing, and we’re already plotting how many to bring home and how to pack them. I hadn’t read about the Bordier before. I can’t wait to do a taste test!

    I was dreading the “battering ram” nature of Parisiens, but I have to say we haven’t experienced it yet. Maybe because we’re always moving out of their way :)

    Thanks again…because of your blog, we decided to rent an apartment for our trip and are having a fantastic time eating our way through our Paris vacation.

    Regarding coffee, I think I remember reading in your book about your search for whole bean coffee. You probably know about it, but there is a little whole bean purveyor across from our apartment on Cour Damoye off of the Bastille (the Context apartment was booked until next week). The proprietress described each of the beans and, after we had made or selection, asked what kind of coffee machine we had before grinding them (wish we had a grinder at the apartment, but oh well).

  • David, another great post. I would also have to add cheese to my list.

    Although the French may not be into “hard bodies” there is quite a lot of exercise happening in parc Monceau, especially in the morning, especially among the pompier…sigh

    Loved that last video clip at the little grocery store “c’est tres vrai”. However, after a couple years year, I still couldn’t do what she did (that B*T#H!)

  • Jennifer: I figured I extolled the virtues of French cheese so much on the site it’s wasn’t necessary to repeat myself.

    But I am interested in learning more about les pompiers, since they’re #16 on the list. So if you could pinpoint and tell me—exactly where they exercise, and at what time, that would be extremely helpful for my research. Thanks.

  • ROFL — it’s almost not funny because it IS so true!

    I’m with you, though Jennifer — as much as I’ve learned to hold my own, I still don’t think I could step in front of a little old lady with one item.

    I HAVE seen a cashier tell a customer to go to the back of the line, though — a young girl with a sandwich and a Coke tried to step in front of a guy with a cart full of groceries on the day before Christmas Eve. She apologized and said oh, she’s so sorry, but she’s in a hurry. The cashier said that she still had to wait just like everyone else, and that it wasn’t the man’s fault that she didn’t plan her day well. (Hallelujah! Clone that woman!)

    And the guy with the cart?

    The look in his eye would have been enough to wilt a Rottweiler, and she skulked to the back of the line.

  • Nooooo! Please, please tell me you’re joking and that you don’t actually cut in line! Oh, the horror! The humanity!

    I realize it’s typical in many countries. When I lived in S.Korea and went to a zoo, and a few amusement parks on leisure, the foreigners (non-Koreans) would stream in and try to cut in line. We made a game of keeping them in the back.

    So in Parisian terms, if it’s acceptable to slap a pickpocket, is it also acceptable to b*tch-slap a line-cutter to the back?? Ooooh, I’m becoming a very crusty old woman!

  • I’ve never been to Paris before, but If I go there one day, I’ll make sure I never miss the things you wrote about. Especially cheap but drinkable wines. I tried cheap non-drinkable ones, but I want to try cheap and drinkable next time. :-)

  • No, Amanda, I don’t cut in line — but I also have learned to stand up for myself and no longer just step back, annoyed. You have to — or you’ll never actually get to the till — and you’ll be at the back of the store, wondering what happened!

    It’s common to hear advice to not be a doormat — but you have to be a little more assertive in some places.

  • I’m French and Parisian, and I must say that you described completely the reasons why I love my country so much and, even if I love to travel a lot, these are exactly the reasons why I can’t feel at home outside of France…

    Thank you so much for such a brillant post !

  • I was just talking about #8 yesterday. It’s not just that you can get good wine in Paris – or really, anywhere in France – it’s that you can get a good glass of wine in the crummiest dive bars. Here in the states, it’s risky ordering wine in a bar that doesn’t have a snooty clientele – not only are there few options (usually yellowtail, or something along those lines), but you always have to wonder how long a half-finished bottle has been sitting around.
    Having said that, I’ve no idea why so many people in France drink the beer there!

  • I have many queue stories after living in europe for 10 years, (the French are not the only line-jumpers) but the one that takes the cake is recently trying to board an Easyjet plane. If you’ve ever flown with this carrier, you’ll relate. After fighting to hold our place to get to the ticket counter, we eventually got on a bus that took everyone to the plane. With Easyjet, there is no reserved seating – bad idea in europe. As we got off the bus to ascend the stairs to the plane, any politeness and civility that may have existed was tossed to the wind. Well-dressed, educated adults ran off the bus pushing to be the first one on the plane. My husband was separated from our young son and when he told the man who had just shoved ahead of him that he needed to be by our son, the man took his walking stick and shwacked my husband. He was too shocked to react (but really pissed off later). This of course is extreme behavior. It’s usually not so physical and some tactical body language will do the trick.

    David, happy to help you with your research. I’ll have detailed data for you on the 10th

  • Shay: Yes, it’s interesting how these things become charmant, and part of the fabric of life, as we say. I was trying to write something to express the conviviality of Paris, and the French, but it’s hard to put into words in such a short space.

    I still can’t get used to people walking into me as if I’m not there, but the inexpensive wine, the butter, and pretty much everything else, make up for it.

    Jennifer: Ah yes, the infamous EasyJet boarding process. I like how they’re now offering “Priority Pre-boarding”…for a fee. These poor Canadians I saw on my last trip, had paid the fee, and were clutching those passes, expecting to be personally-escorted to their seat or something.

    Instead, the shuttle bus pulled up to get to the plane. So with their “Priority Pre-boarding” pass, they got to get on the shuttle bus before everyone else. Then eighty or so people followed them, cramming in.

    When the bus pulled up to the plane…well, I don’t need to tell you what happened…but the look of shock on their face was pretty priceless.

    (Or who can forget when Peter Greenberg got charged $585.62 for excess baggage on EasyJet…for a 48 minute flight!)

  • This post is right on the money and that clip of Bayrou is priceless. One thing I’d miss here is how brass the old ladies are. Just the other morning two were having a row underneath my window and one septuagenarian said to the other: “You know what you need? You need a good f**k!”

  • Brilliant!!

    Please Universe…bring me home to Paris~

  • The pompiers in the 16th are out around 9 am, running around the lakes in the Bois de Boulogne, and up and down the steps at Palais de Chaillot.

    I saw an old lady literally race a younger man to be first in line at the dry cleaner’s this morning. For the record, she won by giving him a big elbow.

  • The pompiers in the 16th are out around 9 am, running around the lakes in the Bois de Boulogne, and up and down the steps at Palais de Chaillot.

    I saw an old lady literally race a younger man to be first in line at the dry cleaner’s this morning. For the record, she won by giving him a big elbow.

  • I loved this post.

    I hear you on the wine.

    One thing I’m still not used to, is the cutting line thing. I have to be more aggressive when I go to new places. At my usual spots the salespeople recognize me and when folks try to cut in front of me, they’re told to wait.

  • I moved to Alaska from Germany and immediately stopped drinking wine because it was so )*&%*&^ expensive (now truth be told, AK is also not exactly wine-growing country, but still…) So I’m with you on that one. Also on the volatility issue. Must be my German rudeness.
    The lovely picture at the beginning of your post reminds me of one of my perpetual cravings: White asparagus. Why oh why do they sell only the green stuff here, and when you get the white stuff, it looks like it had to walk all the way to the store? I now have an asparagus bed that should start producing next year. Wish me luck…

  • David: Once again, a terrific post! Cheers, Ed

  • Ok, I’m moving just for the kids behaving.

  • The queuing issue reminds me of the time when my husband and I, living in Switzerland at the time, went skiing for the day in the Haute Savoie. The normally quiet resort was packed with families because it was winter break for Parisian schools. The line at the lift was about thirty people wide at the end funneling down to two single lines! People were extremely aggressive, pushing and cutting in front of me and within a couple of minutes my husband was light years ahead (yelling at me to catch up!) and I thought I would never meet up with him – in fact, I thought I would never make it onto the lift at all. That was when I told myself I had nothing to lose and pushed my way up to my husband just in time to insert our tickets into the machine. It really was traumatic for me because I, like most Americans, was not raised that way. I prefer waiting in line anyday to the chaotic queu scenes we have enountered countless times all over Europe and other countries we have traveled to. It is much more civilized, and you never know who you might meet while you are waiting.

    One thing I realized while living abroad was that every country has good and bad, and if we were to combine the good from each, I believe we would come close to Utopia.

  • Omg is that grape story for real?! And I thought low carb was ridiculous but that is…wow…

    And behaving kids? Be right back, packing some bags!

  • I think the British and the Americans have very different takes on Paris. I noticed that when I lived there.

    http://theenglishcaneat.blogspot.com/2009/05/ripailles-by-stephane-reynaud.html

  • I have come to accept the price of wine in the USA. Intermarche and the “super-markets” in Paris amaze me with their prices. What I can not accept is the limited availability of DECENT rose wine for spring thirsts. When it is a drinkable rose, with the right chill, it quenches and satisfies. It does have the disadvantage of being a little too easy to consume in mass quantities and leave one wandering the 6th, 11th and half of the 12th searching for a Metro station to get one back to Ile St. Louis. Everything looks like a Goddard film at midnight with a couple of bottles of La Santonniere. I would have to list the street entertainers in my top 15 list…even that hostile Camera-Phobic Mime on rue de la Huchette. He was sort of the Kate Gosselin of the quarter. “I am making a profitable spectacle of my life, but do not photograph me!” Buskers and street artists have always been a great source of grins, and Paris has some good ones.

  • Hi David, thank you for sharing this! I spent a couple short days in Paris in April and had an opportunity to eat some great food, drink some great, affordable wine, and ride down the Champ E’lysees on a velib, all within a few blocks of my hotel, Le Vignon; which I would recommend to anyone visiting Paris. I can’t wait to get back for a banana and nutella crepe on the street!

  • David, I adore you and must say, this is one of my favourite posts.

    I think we agree to disagree about the coffee. I yearn for France and hope to make my way back on a semi-permanent basis soon.

    I listened to you and Adam this morning and thought you were both thorougly charming.

    All the best to you,

    Rhonda

    P.S. I really like the glasses. Edgy & sophisticated.

  • Wine and bread are my favorites in Paris. It is very challenging to find a proper baguette in most U.S. cities and wine at restaurants is often overpriced and commercial.
    Cheers
    Amy

  • Well, now I don’t feel so bad for berating the old French man who cut in front of me at the checkout at Fairway with his cart overflowing with food. I was carrying a 4 lb. pork roast and two 2 lb. lobsters in my arms and had two bags with bottles of champagne in my hands which were cutting off my circulation! I told him “My arms are about to fall off and I only have two items!” His reply, “THIS is the least of my concerns!” was true to form!

  • craigkite: I always tell people who are visiting to ask before taking pictures, since people are prickly about that here. One woman didn’t listen to me and one evening on the métro, she took a picture of a man who went ballistic (who was a bit unbalanced to begin with), and he got up, grabbed her camera out of her hands and started hollering at her.

    Me? I looked the other way. I wanted to say “I told you so”, but figured he was doing a much better job of it than I could.

    Rhonda: There’s a pretty spot-on explanation of why the coffee in France could use some improvement (to be polite) from a Frenchwoman herself. There’s a common expression around here: jus de chaussette to describe the coffee. And while I’ve never tasted “sock juice”, I’ll take their word for it.

    SarahB: If you really want to cut someone down, instead of the one I used in the book (when a woman who was cutting in front of me went ballistic on me in a department store), tell someone they’re mal elevée (badly-raised.) I was at the market picking out something and this woman kept reaching over me, as if I wasn’t even there. While there was plenty of room for both of us to shop together, she wanted the whole bin for herself and I kept saying, “Pardon, madame…pardon, madame…”, using my superior politesse to prove a point.

    Romain watching, cut in and said, very politely, “Madame, vous êtes mal elevée”, and the look on her face was worth all the bruises she’d given me on my arm.

  • Again David, I just love reading your posts – so funny and so on point! I lived in Paris a couple of years ago and worked in a bar (Barrio Latino). At first I thought all my workmates were, excuse my language, priks – how dare they shove me out of the way and not even apologise?! But, as I quickly realised, sure beats apologising every 2 minutes like we do in Australia! And when you embrace being rude back, then the fun really begins :) This is what I miss most about Paris (and the croissant aux amandes… I’ve never found one as good again since…)

  • Boy, on my end of Paris using “mal elevee” were fighting words of last resort, the ultimate insult. You usually heard “socialist/communist!” if someone cut you off in traffic. Neuilly was not really Paris though. Very staid, quiet and all together more chill and aloof. It was freezing out there, even in summer time. Getting a particular shop keeper’s attention was more of a problem, but on the street the last thing anyone wanted was contact…after all, they didn’t know who you were…lol

  • Just Delightful!

    Cheers!

  • Fabulous butter, cheap wine and a disdain for diet and exercise? How fast can I pack?

  • Everything I love about France too. Great list!

  • Fantastic post! I loved Paris when I visited. Thought the people were wonderful – appreciated the brusqueness. Revelled in it! And the bread … and wine … and cheese … and … ;-)

  • David, I just caught the live audio program that you did. You handled that with such grace and I’m glad to see you haven’t lost your California manners completely!
    So awsome to hear your voice. Loved the bit about yoga, which only caught on in Paris in like the 80’s, right? I was so surprised to see the lack of gyms over there and realized that sweating is not as sexy as it is here. But thinking about what to have for lunch while in tree pose…tres chic!

  • David, you’ve inspired me to write my own 10 Things I’d Miss About Living in Oakland, hardly a comparison, but interesting enough to have to put it down on paper. But geez-how I wish the wine in CA was that much more affordable; it does seem like you can go out even in Paris or anywhere in Europe for a quick nibble and a glass or two of wine without breaking the bank. And then of coarse there is everything else you write about….so what do you miss about living here?

  • David, my precious petal;

    I agree with the French estimation of local coffee.

    However, everything is relative…

    “Sock Water” has a density and richness that is far superior to “Piss Water”, which is what is available in North America (especially when combined with milk).

    Please, do not make me send you a locally made croissant…

    I love you. Let’s run away together to Italy. Or Corsica, which is where I aim to be very soon.

    – Rhonda

    xoxo

  • as a born-and-raised parisian, and having lived there my whole life, the main reason why I really enjoy reading your notes about Paris is that it reminds me why I should stop bitching about the city where I live and stop hating its inhabitants. (but would I be a true parisian if I didn’t hate parisians??)

    thank you for that!

  • Here’s what I miss: the saucisson, properly poached eggs, verveine tea, baba au rhum, and cochonailles. Oh, and the smell of French floor wax and varnish.

  • Hi David,

    Thank you for posting. I was just curious if you need a car if you live in France. What would be area you would recommend as a good neighborhood to live?

    Thank you so much.

    -Green

  • That asparagus is just beautiful.

  • Ok this post got me depressed… I have missed France so much since I got back to the states despite all the negative things… but I totally agree with you on everything on this list! bravo!

    I miss the butter!!! But it’s ok, I don’t eat butter/pastries here in the states so my waistline is getting back to those French boys waistlines. hahaha. But of course, I will be back.

    And i remember when I called this lady a “salope” because she rammed into my 60 Euro bag of Pierre Herme macarons that I just bought… this other French lady applauded me and couldn’t stop laughing.

    sigh… the nostalgia…

    btw, how much longer do you plan on living in Paris ??

    jk !

  • It’s amazing how many people love Paris and France. I am one of them. I like to think I can live vicariously through your life. Thank you for your lovely stories and insights. If I can’t live there, this is probably the next best thing! Well, apart from all my own holidays of course! :)

  • 5,8,10,&11 had me laughing out loud! Especially 10 which is dead on, and my French isn’t that great. Can’t wait to meet you on the 10th.

  • Nice one! I do agree with you about going to miss the cafes, restaurants and bakeries. Oh especially the cheap wine. I really miss those…

  • Nice one! I do agree with you about going to miss the cafes, restaurants and bakeries. Oh especially the cheap wine. I really miss those…

  • “Badly raised!” I love it. You are insulting the rude person, his/her mother, father, and entire family. Maybe “raised by wolves,” which I’ve heard around here, is an American version with the same intent.

  • Oh, how I would love to miss Paris. Maybe someday!

  • David,

    I thoroughly enjoyed this post (plenty of giggles) and feel very sentimental reading it…has brought back so many memories of living in Paris (the real stuff – both good and bad)…

    I share many of those favourites….especially the cheap and drinkable wine – and not in fancy wine glasses, but a glass cup, which just added to the feeling that wine here is not just for special occasions but a part of everyday life.

    And the cafes…where you can sit alone in and read a book without feeling out of place, as I would elsewhere.

    Cannot wait to go back, soon I hope. Favourite city in the world.

  • Everytime I read your posts David, I feel like the room is full of the aroma of the fresh baguette my dad used to bring back from the bakery. Crisp, comforting and always made me happy.
    Thanks for a wonderful piece!

  • David,

    I discovered your website by accident after researching yoga studios in Paris.
    I’m so glad I did and I especially enjoyed your “15 things” post since I just got
    back from a trip in May. This is my new favorite website. Thank you.

    I would also like to add that the French have had yoga for a long time.
    The first yoga class I ever took was at a Club Med in Guatalope in 1973.
    The instructor was Parisian and I thought she was so charming and sophisticated.
    I knew this was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

  • Hi! David,
    I know this is out of topic but then I just want to let you know that your book The Great Book of Chocolate is finally available locally, I immediately bought it as my birthday present to myself :p Can’t wait to get baking

    Glad you like it- Try the Blue Chip Chocolate Chip Cookies, or the Bouchons! -dl

  • So how long before you leave all of these things? :) Just seeing if I could slip one past you…

  • I miss everything about Paris and France in general. Where I rented an apartment on rue St. Dominique, the area was the equivalent of a food mecca. A boulangerie across the street, a cafe on the corner, a boucherie next door and rue Cler only four blocks away. How I miss shopping at the Marche Richard Lenoir, thanks to the advice of you, David,…what a riot of great food. How anyone could ask why you moved to Paris is beyond my comprehension.

  • You said it, David. Whenever Americans claim that Europe is too expensive, I try to explain about the affordable wine!!!! If you rent an apartment and shop in a grocery store, you can eat and drink like a king. And this holds true for Italy and Spain, too.

    Paying $13 for a glass of wine in a restaurant is indeed insane (though I’ve done it). I was in Paris last month, and we never spent more than 42 euros (total) eating out for two. Granted, we didn’t go to 4-star temples of gastronomy, but I’m still dreaming about that Salade Perigourdine (14 euros) I had near St-Placide, and that piece of Tarte Tatin we shared in the Places des Vosges… it’s so much more civilized simply to eat well and pay the check, no insane taxes added, no expectations for a huge tip.

    Loud restaurants in the US are another pet peeve of mine. Eating out in NYC should be a recognized health hazard.

    Don’t even get me started about misbehaving children.