February 15, 2013
Whenever I return to Paris, it always takes me a few days to get settled and realize that I am actually here. A while ago, Tory wrote a post on how she knows she’s in Paris, which inspired me to think about the signs that tell me I’ve arrived.
Everyone has their own Paris; a few special haunts and pleasures that always make returning to Paris feel like a wonderful indulgence. I’ll bet most regular visitors have certain things they always do and see as soon as they hit the ground. I arrived here a few days ago and like clockwork, these seven habits kicked in.
1. I start taking photos at bookshops, florists and even greengrocers. There is something about the level of beauty and the care taken in displaying even simple things here that makes me very happy. Essentially, my desire to take photos of random things tells me that my eyes are wide open, I’m being inspired, and I’m taking everything in.
2. The cute, young waiter in an ordinary corner bistro gives me a lingering look with smoldering, come-hither eyes along with the bill. WHAT. Actual attractive men give me a bit of an appreciative glance as I pass them in the street.
This is always a shocker when you’ve just arrived from London, where no one looks at anyone, ever, especially not like that. This is something that I find very nice about Paris – it just feels like a sign of appreciation of women and you don’t have to be eighteen to receive it. I look forward to enjoying those looks until I’m well into my eighties.
3. I take long walks for no particular reason, with no fixed destination in mind. I would never do this in London, but in Paris I can walk for miles without getting tired. It’s how I first got to know the city really well, and I’ve found many of my favorite haunts by exploring on foot.
4. Yoghurt. I haven’t tried yoghurt in every country in the world, and perhaps that’s what my first book will be about, but French yoghurt is delicious. I don’t even eat it in London, but here I stock up on my favorite brebis (sheep’s milk) yoghurts as a matter of urgency and I eat one every day.
5. I become extremely excited about visiting pharmacies. Like anyone sensible, I’m obsessed with French beauty products and Paris pharmacies are vastly superior to those elsewhere. French pharmacies contain hundreds of excellent skincare products, and I usually spend hours scanning the beautifully laid-out shelves searching for promises of new types of radiance unavailable in the UK. I have my preferred pharmacies around the city.
Citypharma on the rue du Four, where all the hair and make up artists shop when they’re in town, is like a crazy discount supermarket. I actually prefer the Pharmacie de la Mairie on the corner of the rue des Archives. It’s smaller but much calmer, so you can browse in peace. It stocks all the brands you could ever want and has knowledgeable, helpful staff. Prices of the same products do tend to vary quite a bit across the city, so my quest for the best deal on double 500ml packs of Bioderma Crealine H20 cleanser starts as soon as I see the first green cross sign of a pharmacy glowing at me.
6. I pay a little more attention to grooming and how I’m dressed, but subtly. As in, I iron clothes and make sure a lint roller has been deployed if necessary before leaving the house. (When I’m in Paris I only wear black, navy and charcoal obviously.) I look in the mirror before going out to make sure my skirt isn’t tucked into my knickers. No one would even notice in London if it was (see 2), or they’d think it was a new trend and start doing it as well. In Paris the more impeccably dressed you are, the better service you get and the nicer people are to you. Fair? No. True? Afraid so.
7. I have to say hello to the Seine. I don’t feel properly oriented in Paris until I’ve been to pay my respects to the river that runs through it. Once I’ve crossed over the river, I know I’m really here.
Written by Claire Oldman
Claire Oldman is a travel, fashion and lifestyle writer who was born and raised in London, but she'd usually rather be in Paris. She founded the blog Lola is Beauty on a whim in 2005, to cover her favourite subjects of clothes, Paris, places that are not Paris and cats. Living like a local, not a tourist is always her aim when traveling. She was a fashion stylist for a decade, and now writes press releases and web copy for fashion brands, but only ones she loves, like Toujours Toi-Family Affairs. Claire is currently a contributing editor at Fathom: the travel website re-invented, and she has written on Paris and London for publications including Bust magazine and the Guardian. She was the London correspondent for online urban travel guide Gridskipper in its glory days and was given an award by The Paris Tourism Board for an article on what her perfect day in Paris would be. Happily, the prize was a trip to Paris.
Website: Lola is Beauty