I love the city of lights. I asked the Frenchie why it has that name and even he is not that sure as NY definitely has more lights that shine bright 24 hours a day. I studied French for 12 years in school to help fulfill my dream of one day living there. Fast forward in my 20's when all my friends were booking their international trips there, I thought France was too mainstream and opted for places like Turkey and Greece instead. When you visit a place like Santorini as a single woman, people are confused why you are not there celebrating a honeymoon. These questions really hit a peak for me while on safari in Sabi Sands, South Africa. Single women just don't regularly book $1000 a night safaris, especially black women. The staff in the hotel under the guise of being friendly would ask me "You are a pretty girl. Why no boyfriend? Why no friends?". My black, African male game tracker asked me after several days of being in the wild together "You don't have boyfriend. Do you like men?" I was quick to assure him I was straight! Afterall, South Africa has a long way to go with the LGBT movement. He then asked me if I go all these places alone where would my husband take me?
It was at that moment that I decided my husband would take me to Paris. It is supposed to be the most romantic city after all. On my wish list of qualities in my dream man, a French speaker was on the short list. The list included French speaking, smarter than me, ok without children, career driven, loves global travel (going to Miami once a year is not someone that loves travel), loyal and funny. My dream, French speaking man would be able to whisk me away to Paris with me practicing my french all along! Like most pipe dreams, I didn't think this would be my reality but it came true last year! Now that we have a real opportunity to possibly live in the city, I realize, like some dreams, its not actually what I want. I know that is God laughing at my plan once again. Compared to other cities I have visited in France, the Parisian vibe is too close to NY. I prefer the relaxed pace of Bordeaux or the hustle and bustle of Marseille. Despite shifting my goals to now live out my later years in Provence, here are my Paris picks.
1. Get out of Paris! We loved visiting Monet's gardens in Giverny. This type of small town is what I have come to love about France, not the big cities like Paris obsessed with being like Brooklyn. Art and nature come together for a perfect way to spend a sunny morning.
2. Stroll La Coulee Verte - Spring is the ideal season when the roses are in full bloom but we still enjoyed a magical stroll along this Parisian version of a Highline. The path will take you through several neighborhoods and you can pop off and visit some great, independent designer stores underneath to blow some Euros.
3. Eat at Les Cocottes or Coretta. On this trip these were my two favorite restaurants in Paris. Les Cocottes is a Christian Constant restaurant serving traditional French cuisine at amazing prices and with slight innovations without straying from tradition. The plat du jour is 16 Euros! Coretta is in a hipper, edgier neighborhood Batignolles helmed by a chef of Mexican decent. Despite not having a terrace, the place stays packed and we enjoyed new preparations of fish and duck - standard French proteins.
4. Vintage shop in Marais. I know everyone says this but it really is a must. As someone who is really not shopping at all, I always find something I have to have at an amazing price (most things are under 30 Euros. Free P Star at Coiffeur Vintage are two good shops to start with.
5. Have a jog in Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. There are parks and gardens everywhere in Paris but I loved spending time in this park watching the joggers (made me miss my running shoes) and even having a drink at the bar inside the park made for great people watching.
6. Visit Chinatown for Pho. All the various Asian delicacies are in Paris's Chinatown. The best Pho on the block is definitely at Pho Banh Cuon 14. Its the cheapest, largest meal you will find in Paris.
7. Recapture history in Saint Germain de Pres. This neighborhood is home is the existentialist movement and houses several famous cafes frequented by past thinkers, writers, movers and shakers of the Parisian intellectual sect. Today its gorgeous and chock full of galleries and art shops.
8. Brunch at Coutume. Brunching is not really a Parisian thing in the same regard as NYers. However, I did find delicous pancakes, coffee and friendly service at Coutume where I sat for nearly two hours eavesdropping (my favorite thing to do when eating alone),
9. Don't carry a purse. It may be because I am black, but I felt under extra scrutiny in Paris now after the recent attacks there. I am glad my leather moto has lots of pockets. I suggest using a light jacket in lieu of a cross body which will be searched often.
10. Read in Jardin du Luxembourg. This was my favorite place to sit and take in the magic and beauty that is Paris and still carve out a space not overrun with tourists (like the Louvre). With a laptop or a book, be sure to enjoy a few hours in this dreamy park/gardens.
P.S. In the photo, I am straight off the plane at Monet's gardens wearing a Zara faux leather moto and a comfy BR dress with black Nike Max Air 1.