Discovering a city is like discovering another person. At first, it’s the obvious stuff that needs to be crossed off the list: the Eiffer Tower, the Colisseum, the Sagrada Familia, those obvious things that everyone knows about. But once you’ve done that, what’s left is discovering the less obvious, it’s time to dig deep and become one with the city. I’ve been doing that with London for many years and it’s easy when you live somewhere, unpeeling layers and layers of secrets and magical corners. But I’ve started this wonderful game with Paris, a city I’ve been to many times and yet never quite discovered properly,.
The week-end in Paris was a bit unexpected but terribly needed. And the plan was to get out of our way and explore hidden Paris, pretend to be locals for 3 days.
First task: avoid the touristy looking restaurants and find small bistros where random decorative objects compete with the customers for space. One of those places is Balancoire, in Monmartre (6, rue Aristide Bruant). In fact Montmartre and Montparnasse are probably the best places in Paris to go looking for hidden culinary gems. Serving only a few dishes, you’re guaranteed to have a great meal without breaking the bank.
Second task: find random places where locals hang out. One of them is Marche des Enfants Rouges, like Borough market but smaller and with plenty of tables to sit down at. The stalls have their own little kitchen and you’re guaranteed fresh and tasty food. We had sashimi – it was generously portioned and delicious!
Third task: vintage markets and shops! Lots of vintage shops in Montmartre and way cheaper than the ones on Brick Lane. Well worth a rummage through. However, Paris is famous for its flea markets and the one in Porte de Clinangcourt, the most famous of them all!
Don’t be put off by the cheap stalls welcoming you from the tube station, make your way through them and soon you’ll end up in a very surprising place: hectars of markets where antiques, vintage photographs and vinyls are guaranteed to keep you there for hours on.
Of course, what trip to Paris would be complete without venturing in the crazy traffic on a velo! Yes, I screamed a lot but Parisians seem to be used to crazy tourists on bike with no clue where they’re going!
Otherwise, just get lost and find out that down the road from Notre Dame, Parisians are trading birds or catch a graffiti artist at work!
And last but not least, over-indulge in people watching. Yes, I know it’s a terrible cliche, but Parisians do have that efortless look about thems. Men sporting the double-scarf trend, wearing retro hats and expensive looking eye-wear. Elderly couples all dressed up walking on the streets like it’s the most important day of their lives. Kids and dogs looking equally chic. Fashion bloggers in extravagant outfits photographed in front of Notre Dame as if they just happened to walk past and someone’s secretly snapped them.
I wish I was the Sartorialist, I’d spend my whole life in Paris and stil wouldn’t ran out of subjects!