After being laid off last year, I decided to move to Paris for an undetermined length of time this January. And not to go all dreamy, but, I’m kind of loving it.
It’s hard to iterate exactly why I am so enamored with the city. However, in the seven days I’ve been here, Paris and its environs have been almost universally fantastic, even though I’ve spent much of my time reading Metro maps, willing WiFi to happen so that I can text from my iPhone and negotiating the price of French lessons.
Still, I’ve found plenty of reasons to really like this place, beginning with:
1) The ability to consume food anywhere. Seriously. The whole idea of “eating is for dining rooms” that I grew up with is not, in any way, a thing in Paris. People eat everywhere. Chewing bits of baguettes while walking down the street, wolfing down a McDonald’s cheeseburger in the subway, you name it. They’re eating it. Everywhere.
The eating on the subway bit is probably my most favorite thing, honestly. From my experience, the Paris Metro is wildly inconsistent and oft-delayed. It’s also wicked expensive, compared to trains in New York and DC and when configuring the conversion rate from American dollars. BUT. But. You can eat while you wait. There are no rules against it, as in the States, and they even provide handy vending machines so that you can snack without abandon as you wait 30 minutes for a train during rush hour. Super!
2) One word: macarons. There was a time, while living in Washington, that I feared macarons would become the new cupcake. Cupcakes are not my favorite dessert—the icing to cake ratio leaves much to be desired—but they are my favorite sweet thing to buy when I’m out and about. You literally cannot swing a reusable shopping bag without bumping into some place in DC selling cupcakes. At some point, macarons became the thing, though. People would bring them to social gatherings or say stuff like, “Let’s go to Sweet Lobby for macarons.” So, when I thought of Paris, I kind of dreaded the dessert situation awaiting me. “Ugh, macarons,” I’ve actually uttered in my life.
The other day, though, I visited Jean Paul Hevin’s stand at Galeries Lafayette and my life changed. The most delicious chocolate-y thing was ingested and now I am a convert. Give me macarons, or give me death!
3) The array of cool and trendy headwear (and street style in general). Growing up in Texas, hats were not something young women really wore or thought about. Sure, older women sometimes wore fancy hats to church or social events, but, because of the near-constant sunshine, young women didn’t really think about the snapbacks, beanies and skullies that regularly adorn the heads of young Parisian women. Blame it on the ever-present threat of rain or on the general chicness of kids who grow up near public transit, but the girly headwear on the streets and on the train gives me so much life.
4) Winter sales. So apparently there is a period in Paris where all of the stores practically give away their winter stuff. It lasts for most of January and, for some stores, into early February. It is characterized by discounts of at least 50 percent on old stuff. Ah-mazing. I was warned of these sales far in advance of arriving in Paris, but I didn’t get excited about it because I figured with the exchange rate it would still be unaffordable. Wrong. Dead wrong. There is nothing that is more than, like, $50, at any store in the entire city—prices even an unemployed person can afford! I walked into a department store the other day and walked out with two skirts, a sweater and a pair of jeans for the equivalent of about $37.
5) Surprising variety of large(r) sizes. While we’re talking about sales, one of the reasons I wasn’t super-geeked is because I figured I wouldn’t have a lot to choose from in my size. Plus-size shopping in America is...frustrating. I follow all the normal rules—trying stuff on even when it’s not your normal size, online shopping, making dresses into shirts, etc—but for a person who really likes clothes, it is always annoying to be left out of so many shopping experiences. I didn’t want to start my trip in Paris by being annoyed, so I did a lot of research before venturing out for the winter sales.
There are a few plus size stores that I’ve visited that were, to be really, really understated, disappointing. What surprised me, though, was how easily I was able to find size large and extra-large on the sale racks at regular stores. My experience in the States wasn’t so much that I had to always go for plus sizes (what with the wild variation in size from store to store and all), but that the larger sizes in straight-sized stores were always snapped up so quickly that I had a better chance of actually finding something at a store with designated plus sizes, like a Forever 21 situation. I don’t know if it’s a fluke, but the stores I’ve been to have had a pretty good stock of larger sizes. Winnnnning.
6) Relatively clean streets. There are trash cans everywhere and sometimes recycling bins, too. This is pretty foreign to me, but even more strange is the fact that people actually use them. There are still a ton of errant Metro tickets everywhere, but, in general, I am a little taken with how free of debris the streets seem to be, considering the volume of residents and tourists. It’s also mad freeing to always have the option of discarding a tissue or food wrapper or whatever, instead of hoarding them in your purse until you can find the trash.