My Everyday in Paris

I am sure the world does not need another writeup about Paris.  But I think we all experience Paris differently so here is my take.  It is such a unique place (as are other places like Venice, Rio, Istanbul, etc.) that I never get tired of visiting.  At some point I will add to the endless writeups on Paris out there to share my favorite sights.  Today, the everyday takes center stage…

Landing in Paris in 1999

I spent 6 months in Paris in 1999 on a work assignment with another group of folks from the U.S.; we had all worked together for a few months prior to going to France and the trip felt like an adventure.   It was great to be sharing it with others even if we all didn’t hang out together all the time.  At first, most of us lived in the same building near the Arc de Triomphe and with a rooftop terrace with one of the best views in town!  Check it out!

Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower in Paris, France by day

Want to better see where this location was?  Check THIS out!!!!

Aerial view of the Arc de Triomphe and Charles de Gaulle Etoile

The star marks the spot!!

Once there, most of the time I was working which was crazy and unfortunate and for which I have given myself grief in retrospect, with no real effect on the past (how does that not happen??).  However, even with the long days and many days of work, living there was a fantastic experience as I got a taste of life in a one-of-a-kind city.  There were some experiences I would rather forget and probably have (… except the work ones!).

The daily life of a non-Parisian in Paris

Of course, being there for 6 months, we got to see a lot of the main sights in our free time.  But we also got to live and deal with the mundane.  Among the mundane, I can recall going to a hardware store looking for a particular type of lock (with my back-then limited French so I didn’t even know how to say “lock”), phoning locksmiths on behalf of my American colleagues (still not being able to say lock but using the words “cannot close the door” to indicate we needed help), doing laundry at public laundromats (which was quite the experience the first time as we didn’t know where the detergent went in those industrial machines), fighting to be able to buy a monthly carte orange for the metro with the more obtuse clerks, dealing with the throngs of tourists in the summer who made our commute in the metro more painful, etc..

Of course, I have to talk about food

The best part of the everyday (which, actually, was only possible on the weekends – if I didn’t have to work) was having breakfast at the neighborhood cafe (where the bread with butter was more butter with bread) and sit there for a few hours reading a book and watching people.  The cafe au lait, of course, was the ever faithful companion of the butter with bread… and it was delicious.

I guess there was the other everyday breakfast routine which I also enjoyed – the one during weekdays.  During weekdays we would go to the bakery near our office which offered -how can I say “selling” when these things were glorious- the freshest bakery items.  Our everyday routine was to take a break around 9 AM and gather any interested colleagues for the 5 minute walk to the bakery.  The baker didn’t speak English but baked goods know no language (I should be a philosopher).  Her pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant) was fantastic and, of course, freshly baked.  In August, as many other locals do, she took vacation and went to the beach.  We had no idea at first what had happened and why the bakery was closed.  We figured it out and rejoiced upon her return when, with my limited French, I managed to figure out she had gone with her family to the beach and to tell her we had missed her baked goods.  Worthwhile to note, I lost like 10 lbs when I lived in Paris, even with this diet…  That’s what walking daily does to you…

I also loved the movie theaters where you could enjoy a beer as you watched a movie (how adult of the French).  I mentioned in an earlier entry about Paris about my favorite steak place and my favorite hot chocolate place so I will not repeat here lest this entry become War and Peace length.

Glorious end of the day

For me, and possibly for my friends Troy and Cybil, the “highlight” of the everyday was the end of the day and I don’t just mean leaving work which was probably the runner up of the highlight of the day.  We lived in the first ring street around the Arc de Triomphe across from the Belgian Embassy.  Our building had a rooftop terrace overlooking the Arc and behind it, further away, was the Eiffel Tower with its sign counting down the days until the year 2000.

Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower in Paris, France at night

At the end of just about every night, we would grab a bottle of cheap local wine (for like $2, perhaps the French version of two-buck Chuck?  what would that make it?  cinq-franc-Jacques?) and go to the terrace to drink the wine and sit back and take in the view until, 10 seconds before midnight, the counter would begin flickering, and at the stroke of midnight, the counter would change.  At that point it was “good night”, “good night”, “see you tomorrow” and off to bed.  That was the life.

Eiffel Tower in Paris, France 62 days before the year 2000

Eiffel Tower 62 days before the year 2000; the counter we saw change just about every night!

I have surely left off many aspects of the daily life.  If I think of others, I will add as comments but please, if you have your own routines or experiences to share, would love to hear about them.  I will add to the Paris category in the future. 

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