Whenever I return to Paris, it always takes me a few days to get settled and realize that I am actually here. I recently read one writer describe how she knew when she was 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 and unique. 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.

a cobblestone street at night with a set of stairs
Top: photo by 11th gate; Above: photo by Mariano Alvarez

1. I’m inspired to take Photographs everywhere

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. I encounter Small Flirtations in Everyday Encounters

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 transform into A Flâneuse

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.

a group of people walking across a street
photo by Kyriakos Michalakis


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.

a bridge over a body of water in front of a large building
Photo by Joao

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 for the HiP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Plum Guide and our Marketplace for fabulous vacation rentals in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long or short term, or buy in France? 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? Check out our marketplace shop and experiences.


Claire Oldman

Claire Oldman is a travel, fashion and lifestyle writer. Her work as appeared in American Express Desination Guides, Budget Travel, Bust Magazine, Fathom, (contributing editor), Gridskipper (weekly column), The Guardian, Harper’s Bazaar (weekly column), HiP Paris (column), Hitotoki, The Tourism Board of Paris (Comité Régional du Tourisme Paris Ile-de-France) and Metro. She is also a copywriter for brands in fashion, perfume, and the natural wine niche. Her writing is often accompanied by her own photographs of which a selection can be found on her website.


  1. The “go to” place on my arrival day in Paris is the Trocadero. That view of Tour Eiffel establishes for me that I am truly in Paris.

    I’ve been doing this for decades; the thrill never gets old.

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