When I lived in Texas and California, neighborhoods didn’t matter, except for the school district. I drove everywhere, from Target to the Olive Garden to the gym. Don’t judge me—you know you ate your weight in those breadsticks back in Tucson.

Left: A picture of a Parisian florist as a male cyclists passes by. The flower shop is full of small flowers and its exterior is painted dark blue. The cyclists is blurred and is wearing a denim jacket, denim pants, and white sneakers. Right: A picture of a Parisian plumbing shop with its gray exteriors. A lady is inside and appears to be talking with a lady seated behind a desk.
Top: @deareverest / Above left: @javiernapi / Above right: @pamelaloutfi

In Paris, it’s different. I don’t drive here, so I need groceries and restaurants and exercise to be right outside my front door. It has to be safe, and, because it’s Paris, I’d like it to be charming.

I moved recently, and I wanted all those things. My old quartier, near Metro Villiers in the 17th arrondissement, was perfect. I had a shopping street, rue de Lévis, that made me feel like Belle in the opening scene of Beauty and the BeastBonjour! Bonjour!—except I’m not jaded and cynical. (Seriously, she’s complaining about the same old bread? In France?).

That neighborhood saved me when I moved to France. I’m not the bravest expat in town. I moved here with long-dormant high school French, clueless about Gallic customs and manners. But the merchants on rue de Lévis made me feel like a native. They corrected my French (don’t say je suis chaud, because that means you’re horny; say j’ai chaud, my butcher told me). Always say Bonjour first, or they won’t wait on you, the fromager said.

Left: An old man dressed in a khaki green trench coat and brown newsboy hat is walking through an outdoor market. He is carrying in his right hand a bag of vegetables and herbs. This street is lined with different types of colorful produce. Right: A close up of baskets of fresh fruits in a market. Some of the fruits are red apples, green apples, yellow apples, green pears, and red plums.

Our relationships blossomed over the three years I lived there.

Once I forgot my bag of meat when I left the butcher. He saved it for me, and it became a running joke—N’oubliez pas votre sac! The fleuriste often threw in a free rose with my tulips. The vegetable lady gave me recipes. The fromager helped me build apéro platters that delighted my friends. My coiffeur waved at me when I passed his salon, sometimes coming outside to chat between clients.

Left: A picture of the interiors of the famous Parisian cheese shop “Bathélemy”. A man dressed in white is seen weighing some cheese in an aisles full of cheese. The cheese comes in all shapes and sizes. Right: A picture of a yellow Boulangerie with people in line to buy baguette for dinner. These people are all wearing masks due to the current pandemic.
Left: @luukklawer / Right: @emilytaubert

Three years of living like that had an unexpected benefit during last year’s confinements: Those perky front-line workers made my life bearable. I couldn’t see friends or family in person, but a conversation with those real live humans in the shops became a lifeline to sanity. Eye contact and a smile had never been so valuable.

Then I moved.

I had to. After a divorce and a water leak that exploded the bathroom ceiling, I needed a fresh start.

Left: A picture of the famous Parisian boulangerie in the 10th arrondissement called “Du Pain et des Idées” (translates as ‘Bread and Ideas’). It has two wooden benches and tables where 3 people are sitting — a couple sharing coffee and bread, and someone with his coffee and cigarette. It looks like it has just finished raining as the soil appears wet. We can also see the blue door of the building that matches the blue accents of the bakery.
Right: A photo of a small yet cosy bar in Paris. The flooring is made of black, red, and white tiles. The bar chairs are wooden like the actual bar. We can see a lot of bottles and glasses including coffee machines. The doors are white and are being held open by one of their black bar stools.

I would have loved to stay in my cushy quartier, but I just couldn’t find a suitable apartment. Besides, I figured, I’m a grown-up, strong, independent woman who can speak French with relative ease now. I don’t need the kid-glove treatment every time I buy tomatoes.

I found a great apartment. A brief scan of the neighborhood showed me a nearby shopping street and an indoor market. I knew I could feed myself, even without the friendly cheese guy and the butcher who knows my name. So I started making my rounds, looking for the best prices, yummiest roast chicken, and freshest baguettes.

Then something started to happen. I began to love my new quartier.

Merchants began to recognize me, even though I had never said much more than Bonjour, deux cordons bleus, s’il vous plaît. They started to nod and wave when I passed their stands, and I’m pretty sure from their crinkly eyes that they were smiling under their masks. I asked about seasonal produce, what region the chèvre came from, and which wine goes with pork chops marinated in lemon sauce. I learned not to put my cut flowers in the sun. These people love their métier, and they began to get chatty, giving me recipes and tidbits.

The good feelings grew.

The vegetable guy threw in a couple of apples after I had paid.

I forgot my bag of fruit at the flower stand. Mince, I said, and I went back to get it. The stand was closed for lunch, but the fleuriste had left my bag in plain sight, with a note that said—save this bag for the lady who left it.

Left: A young baker in white shirt and green apron holds a few bread in a white towel in his hands as he smiles in front of a Parisian boulangerie or bakery. Right: A picture of a pastry counter full of tarts and sweets in different colors of brown, beige, black, and red. Each set of products is beautifully lined and marked with their name and their price. In this photo, we can see sweets such as ‘Chocolate Valrhona’ in sachets, Tartelette aux Noix Caramel, Le Royal Croustillant, and Paris-Brest Praline.
Left: @boulangeriecozy / Right: @rhts_

The butcher went a step further. I ordered a rôtisserie chicken, and he told me to pick it up at 5:30, to give me enough time to get home before the 6 p.m. curfew. However, when I went back, the mortified guy explained that the chicken was a big boy and needed 15 more minutes. Or 20. Then he offered to bring it to my apartment. He showed up at curfew, still in his long white apron, with my succulent chicken in a bag. We had a delicious dinner, sopping up the sauce with a baguette and toasting the butcher’s culinary skills and attentiveness.

It’s my neighborhood now.

I know the French are famous for being snobby and unapproachable. I know the bureaucracy makes you want to cry. I know people cut in line, old ladies give judgmental stares, and there’s dog poop everywhere.

But I also know that France has been very kind to this uprooted single cowgirl. Even with masks, distancing, and no cafés or restaurants whatsoever, I have made connections in this quartier, stumbling along with my adequate French and my Anglo-Saxon expectations. These people are just people, doing their jobs as best they can, getting along with their fellow humans.

Once again, France has my back.

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Written by Yvonne Hazelton for HiP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Haven In for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long-term or buy in France or Italy? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates or click here. Looking to bring France home to you or to learn online or in person (when possible)? Check out new marketplace shop and experiences.


Yvonne Hazelton

Yvonne is an American writer living in Paris. She blogs at Escaping the Empty Nest.


  1. I lived at 52 rue de levis for 3 years too and ended it in june 2020. Lol this wasn’t my experience at all. Its a cool place definitely but people are not this friendly. Sure its closer to parc monceau, but the amount of judgement one faces in this neighbourhood is crazy. Also the amount of women I’ve come across crying on this street was crazy too.

  2. So you didn’t say, (unless i missed it) where your new neighborhood is. I too adore the 17th and stay often near Terns for the exact reasons you specified and my shopping street is the rue Poncelet. I am SO homesick.

  3. Love your articles, Yvonne! Glad you’re resettling into your new quartier. I’m planning to move to Aix in October for a year so I’m reading your notes with great interest. Terrified of the bureaucracy of dealing with la prefecture and opening a bank account!

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