What happens when French expats return to Paris on vacation? First, they spend quality time with their relatives, if they are around. Then, they play a game.
The name? “Let’s delve into French rituals with unbridled abandon.”
The players? This French girl, and, I suspect, many other French expats.
The rules? Easy to follow. Read on.
1. French expats in Paris: Food, glorious food.
Walk to the boulangerie. Ask for a baguette tradition. Nibble le quignon (tip,) and carry it all the way home, trying not to eat the whole thing. Congratulate yourself for resisting the urge to buy a pâtisserie. We, Frenchies, are all about moderation. Stop at la fromagerie. Choose at least three different types of cheese. Make that five. Cheese keeps well anyway. Pray Madame la fromagère feels sorry for you when she finds out you live abroad; and offers cheese samples to remind you – proudly – of what you have been missing. Tell her you really like the paper she wrapped around the cheese. Ignore her puzzled look. Try not to pass out when reading the receipt (fromage is still cheaper here than [American] college tuition.) Hand out cash. She’ll smile if you give her the exact change. Imagine that: You still have enough to pick up an éclair au café or a Millefeuille after all! Forget moderation. Vive les vacances! Return to la pâtisserie. Good thing it is just around the corner. You’re on a roll. Make a stop at the local supermarket and walk up and down the yogurt aisle at least twice. Slowly. Smile at Mamie Nova, and la Laitière. Your bag is not quite full yet. Hit the neighborhood outdoor market on the way home, and purchase fresh produce. If there is no outdoor market today, just wait a day.
2. French expats in Paris: Visit your favorite café
The terrace will be heated, and if it’s not, bundle up. Ignore the smoker sitting next door. Smile when you realize the smoke still drifts in your direction, after all these years. Say “Bonjour” to the waiter and wait to see if he cracks a smile. If he does not, take a deep breath and rejoice: You are back in Paris! Watch people go by. Watch some more. Marvel at the sidewalks, the beautiful building across the street, the window displays, the familiar look and comfort of the colorful Gatti rattan chair your handbag is resting on. Order “un express” or “un noisette.” Try not to beam at the pretty, white china cup when the waiter returns. If it is lunch time, order un jambon-beurre, or if you’re hungry, une entrecôte-frites (pray it comes with sauce béarnaise.) Hand out a couple of Euro bills. Watch the waiter as he looks for small change in his vest pocket while expertly balancing the heavy tray in his left hand, without spilling anything. Take another deep breath. You are in Paris.
3. French expats in Paris: Catch up with Parisian cultural life
Visit the local newsstand. Smile at Charlie Hebdo. Wink at Elle magazine. Purchase the latest copy of l’Officiel des Spectacles your Parisian Bible. 1 Euro. Have the exact change ready. Amazing: The magazine still fits inside your purse after all these years! Check out new movies, new plays, new exhibits. Start counting them. Give up. Feel excitement when remembering that in many Parisian theaters, the show is as much in the room, as it is on stage. Théâtre Edouard VII, anyone? Circle favorites. The list will come in handy later. If you forget, the colorful posters featured on Colonnes Morris all over the city will remind you of popular choices.
4. French expats in Paris: Shop at the pharmacy and at Monoprix
Look for the big, green cross. Walk to the local pharmacy and check out new lines in the Para-Pharmacie section (quality skin care products.) Vichy, Biotherme, Nuxe, Avène, la Roche-Posay, revered by French women, offer attractive products in beautiful packaging. Listen to conversations. Smile at the fact that some French people still talk to their pharmacist as if he were a friend. “Au revoir, Monsieur Jean-Louis.” “Au revoir, Madame Dupuis. A bientôt.” Move on to the Monoprix. Always a fun store. From cosmetics, to clothing, from fine wines to fine foods, from books to stationery, Monoprix has it all! This ain’t Fred Meyer, folks. Fred Meyer may go on sale more often than Monoprix, but no one ever refers to Fred Meyer as “fun.”
5. French expats in Paris: Explore the city
Rive Droite, Rive Gauche. It does not matter. Start somewhere; start walking; and get lost. You are safe: Your cheat sheet (le Plan de Paris par arrondissement,) is safely tucked inside your handbag. Watch Parisians as you pass them on busy sidewalks. Swerve left, swerve right. Try to stay out of the way. They are working. You’re not. You used to be one of them, always rushing somewhere. After all these years, they still look familiar. The funny part is: They come in many shapes, colors, and sizes. Listen to the laughter of children zooming down the sidewalk on their scooter. Notice how… French they look. Is it their clothes? The unmistakable lilt in the young voices as they ask a question? Recall the days when you had fun shopping for Junior’s colorful outfits chez Du Pareil au Même. Make a point to ride le Métro at least once a day (just stay away from Châtelet and Etoile.) Your old Carte Orange pass is long gone. They call it Navigo now. Feel free to stick to le carnet. These 10 (discounted) tickets are the gateway to the best spots in Paris. Immerse yourself in the sounds (and smells) of le Métro. Some things never change, in Paris…
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Quel beau cadeau d’anniversaire (aujour’dhui!), cette visite de “ma ville”. En lisant, j’y suis à 100%, ce que l’on ressent… En admirant le papier d’emballage du fromage, le garçon de café tenant son plateau en équilibre, pendant qu’il cherche la monaie, et, ah, le Monoprix. Qu’ils sont beaux. Et les pharmacies.. Merci de partager vos émotions et bon séjour !!
Oops pour l’orthographe “d’aujourd’hui “!! Pas moyen de corriger 🙂
Ah, Monique, on s’y croirait, n’est-ce-pas? Ravie que le billet vous ait plu.
Yes, that’s it ! Last time I was in Paris, last May, we went into the same Monoprix, rue St. Antoine. Also, just a bit further there is a Jeff de Bruges chocolate shop with good “bouchées” en vitrine! Yummy! I usually check all the new chocolate bars at the supermarket (and buy some too.) I start the mornings with un café crème et une tartine (de baguette.) True, prices are a bit high, but luckily my bank is just up the street, before you get to Place de la Bastille.
I am happy to see you still have a “French life,” Vagabonde (complete with a Parisian bank account!) Thank you for the visit.
Monique, your post brings wonderful memories of Paris to me. What a well written post you wrote today. Thanks! I can’t believe I have never bought cheese but I do linger at the yogurt isle, and purchase skin care products….by the way, why does the yogurt taste different there? Paris is always on my mind…ha ha…so glad to have visited your country!
Merci Jeanne. Je m’appelle Véronique 🙂 I do not know why yogurt tastes different in France. Mind you, so does Nutella, and a few other things. Try and get some fromage next time you visit!
ha ha…please forgive.. I knew that Veronique:-)
Yes I must admit that the cheese shop shown looks incredible. On the one hand, it looks like heaven. Sadly, on the other hand, I don’t think I’d even know where to start in such a store!
Nonsense Antoine. You just follow your nose in a cheese shop 😉
What a lovely post about Paris, sigh. I always love reading about Paris. And, yes, the yogurt is better there. Next time, I will buy more pastries, especially the millefeuille et eclair and also les fromages. Smile
Uh-oh. Cherie is already preparing a shopping list, and she has not even purchased her ticket yet!
Veronique – Comme j’aime cette tour de Paris. In particular I love your use of the 2nd person singular to get those visions right up under your reader’s skin! So powerful! Inoubliable!
And to Monique – MERCI for this little snippet of easy-to-understand, colloquial french!!: Quel beau cadeau d’anniversaire (aujour’dhui!), cette visite de “ma ville”. En lisant, j’y suis à 100%, ce que l’on ressent… En admirant le papier d’emballage du fromage, le garçon de café tenant son plateau en équilibre, pendant qu’il cherche la monaie, et, ah, le Monoprix. Qu’ils sont beaux. Et les pharmacies.. Merci de partager vos émotions et bon séjour !!
Eh bien, merci beaucoup, Anne. I am sure Monique agrees with me: We are happy we could be of assistance. Keep studying the challenging – yet beautiful – French language. A bientôt.
I think 1 and 2 are universal for expats — I do the same when I go back to Olympia. There are some great things to eat and some typically PNW cafés that are just not the same as here in France.
The others don’t apply in my case because Olympia just isn’t Paris!
You are right Betty: I guess 1 and 2 would be popular choices for all expats, in their homeland. I need to go back to Olympia. It has been a few years (we used to boat there from Seattle.) A bientôt.
Do I sense a summer visit approaching Veronique? 🙂
It all looks so, well, civilized doesn’t it? No one quite does street culture like the French, and in France, no one quite like Parisian’s.
There is a trip in my future indeed, Craig. Paris is also fun outside of summer, you know 😉 Yes, Paris is unique, as are Parisians, or, as I prefer to say it, “people who live in Paris.” Take care.
Un jour, il faudra aussi que tu nous dises ce que font les expatriés US en France quand ils reviennent au USA.
Ils font le plein de beurre de cacahuètes, et si j’en crois les blogs des-dits expatriés, ils se précipitent dans leurs restaus mexicains préférés, qui leur manquent beaucoup en France, ou dans les mega grandes surfaces, comme Costco 😉 Et bien sûr, comme tous les expatriés, ils profitent de leur temps en famille et avec des amis. Merci de ta visite, Alain.
tu les fais drôlement saliver ,tes lecteurs!!!!!!!!
C’est très bien, de saliver. D’ailleurs moi aussi, ces photos me font grande impression. J-6!
Wonderful post. Je suis bilingue. Bonjour de Montreal, Canada.
Bienvenue Linda !
welcome back v-that is what Paris was saying in her warm embrace to one of her favorite daughters WECOME BACK-not home because you have a foot firmly planted here and foot firmly planted there! A foot in two worlds for sure!
What a great visit that was, g, in spite of the cold weather. Wish you could have seen me, smiling from ear to ear, as I walked miles in downtown Paris every day!
Beautiful pictures that made me want to go back as soon as I can and look for all these places. You should send this blog to Air France or any travel log magazines and you could write an article for them. With pictures like that so many people will want to go.
J’adore Monoprix! Merci, Veronique.