“Paris? Oh, la la.”
Okay, that may have not been the exact reaction from people once they discovered our summer vacation plans. But it was close.
The word Paris conjures up images of iron towers, decadent cream sauces and buttery pasteries. It’s a land of rich cuisine, perfume and shopping.
Oh la la.
So, why am I writing this blog from a co-working space while waiting for my laundry?
Because that is where the true Paris can be found.
When I lived in Las Vegas, I lived by the law of the land: Locals don’t do the Strip. The only time I navigated the one-way streets, traffic and drunk pedestrians on the Strip is when visitors came to town — for the first time. If a friend or family member made a second trip to Sin City, they were on their own.
Maybe I’m projecting from my Vegas history, but I have a feeling that many Parisians avoid places like The Louvre or Eiffel Tower. They aren’t spending two hours in line to be one of 78 people looking at the 8×11 Mona Lisa or climbing the almost 700 steps to the top of the Eiffel. (Especially when it is 38 degrees out)
It’s more than just the people. The shops and restaurants cater to the tourist dollar. They focus of a “wide palette” of flavour — rather than the distinctive taste of Paris.
I read about something known as the Paris Syndrome: a transient mental disorder exhibited by some individuals when visiting or vacationing Paris, as a result of extreme shock derived from their discovery that Paris is not what they had expected it to be.
The City of Lights and Romance is full of people with big cameras, low patience and high expectations. People pack their days full of museums, tours, iron steps and slow services.
Want a different vacation? Want a slower, richer experience? Step outside the tourist zone.
Visit a coworking space. There you will encounter entrepreneurs having meetings, a workshop in the upstairs space and the traveller looking to do some blogging in an A/C building.
The laundromat is full of people squeezing in a load before work or while meeting a friend at the corner cafe for a flat white. It is a swirl of activity and moving bits that pulls a traveller from Canada into the Paris current.
Parisian apartments are small with no air conditioning. Residents treat the local cafes as their living room and the view of the street as their television. Spend a morning sipping cafes and munching baquettes while watching scooters and tourists hustle around you.
Other things I recommend in Paris — and any new city:
* Get a haircut
* Watch a film (animations in foreign languages are easy to follow along)
* Attend a workshop
* Ride the bus
Enjoying the culture of any city means stepping outside of the tourist zone and into the local lifestyle.
Give it a try. You won’t regret it.