Oh, the pleasures of Paris….dozens of scintillating memories flood back. The frilly lights of Pont Neuf twinkling across the Seine, Rodin’s tour de force sculptures, the view from the steps of Montmartre, crepes on the roof of the Beaubourg, boats on the pond at Jardins de Luxembourg. Not forgetting the ongoing dream of a Valentine’s Day surprise trip.
Makes me want to be there right now, but from the moment I disembark the sleek Eurostar at Gare du Nord, I’d want to fit right in as a temporary Parisienne, not stand out like a tourist, especially at this time of year. So, what to do? Think formal - or at least chic casual.
This would be a good opportunity to wear my nicest clothes, especially a stylish coat and boots, even if they have flat heels for comfort. A trendy bag would complete the look. I’d certainly never insult the city and its people by wearing trainers to walk those stylish streets. Evenings would be another chance to dress up a bit, even if it’s only some nice jewellery on that favourite little black dress.
Next, I would polish up on my French language and and be sure to say in a really good accent ‘Bonjour Monsieur, Madame, Mademoiselle’, as appropriate – although the latter two can be a bit of a guesswork minefield – every time I enter a shop, buy a ticket or approach somebody for assistance. If I can’t express my question in French, I will at least ask in my best French whether they speak English – s’il vous plait very kindly.
When I meet up with the Parisian couple who I know a little, I will remember not to hug them fondly but to exchange ‘la bise’, the wonderful kiss on each cheek or even in the air. This time, I’ll avoid fumbling awkwardness by heading left and touching our right cheeks first, for this, I understand, is the Parisian way.
Once all that preparation is done and lodged in my brain, I’ll book my own little holiday apartment in a fashionable arrondissement rather than a hotel, for a yet more authentic taste of la vie Parisienne. From here, I'll feel confident to sally forth and order un café – and, as I sit by the window or at a pavement table discreetly people watching and picking up fashion tips, I might even slide my English newspaper inside Le Monde, to really demonstrate that I belong! Will I actually fool anybody? I doubt it, and I'm bound to make some crashing faux pas, but fun to try.
What are your top tips for blending in Paris? If you’re planning a visit, check out our comprehensive Paris guide
Photo by www.catholic.org