My Parisian Learning Curve
Upon my first visit to Paris, I quickly learned the cultural nuances of the city are much different from my hometown of Toronto. Little things that seemed so natural - like window-shopping with a Vente latte in hand - just felt like such an ignorant tourist move on the streets of Le Marais. The Parisian lifestyle is more relaxed than the hustle bustle of big North American cities, elongated by thoughtful, quality-rich experiences. Of course, delicious food varieties (boutique-like pastry shops, specialty stores outfitted like mini museums, fresh markets with accredited chefs and locals mingling ... I could go on) significantly contribute to this slow-paced setting.
Reflecting on my experience, here are a few adjustments I noticed when I became a Parisian local for a week on Foodie-Trips’ last Sweet Trip to Paris.
Walking and eating is a no-no. You don't want the looks I received while noshing on a box of macarons in front of the Louvre. Ditto for sipping a large tea while strolling the grounds of Le Grand Palais. Firstly, you'll have trouble finding anything in a large size. While French restaurants are known for their decadent foods, Parisians balance their indulgences with small portions sizes. That said, a large coffee anywhere in not usually bigger than the size of a can of pop. Just another way in which the Parisians insist on taking it slow.
Expect less one-stop shops. In the spirit of mindful eating and appreciating food, you're not going to find many places that have overly diverse menus or products. For instance, I wanted a hot beverage with a merveilleux - a sumptuous little meringue and whipped cream cake rolled in nuts - but the shop that specialized in these treats didn't have any brew! In fact, they didn't sell anything besides merveilleux! Don't get me wrong, the confection was amazing and the shop's immaculate marble and glass interior was like that of a beautiful jewellery store. But I would’ve preferred to not have had to walk
down the street a few blocks to get something to sip with my snack. Also, you can imagine the looks I got bringing outside food into a coffee shop (spare yourself this faux pas!). The moral of this story: change your pace, and change your dietary habits in Paris!
J-walking is not the same. As in, the cars won't stop the way they often do when pedestrians cross between traffic in busy North American cities. In Paris, cars seem to have the right of way.
Think poetic, not pretty plates. Don't expect overly-detailed, super elaborate plates from even the finest Parisian brasserie. This non-fussed aesthetic is also reflected in the streetscapes of the city as well. Historically rich, provincial artistry is the style of all things from a plate of foie gras in a bistro to the rust-bearing Gothic archways of Sainte-Chapelle.
You will never wait for a table. Because even a trendy brasserie will encourage guests to sit back and take their time over a meal. Typically restaurants don't have more than one or two servings per mealtimes, so don't expect servers rushing to tell you about the specials or bring your bill tout suite! As such, waiting for a table is futile.
The major take away from my acquaintance with Parisian culture is that there is an incredible amount of beauty that becomes apparent by slowing down. It's a unique vibe that I had not anticipated when imagining my trip to the world's most romantic city. Paris is full of fabulous history, thoughtful food culture and captivating charm. As a mecca of gastronomic delights, a food-oriented visit to this city is incomparable to anywhere else I've ever travelled. Join us this October as we enjoy drawn out meals, farm-to-kitchen cooking experiences and sumptuous sites on our Sweet Trip to Paris 2016!