Whether it be the fruit vendor at Marché d’Aligre or the executive chef at the hottest avant-garde restaurant — every Parisian knows when to slow down.
Step outside, draw a cigarette from your left pocket and light up. Decadent deep smoke-filled inhale.
If you don’t stop to analyze and take things in one dimension at a time, Paris will swallow you whole. Like a drunkard holding that seventh glass of whisky, absentmindedly gulping the amber liquid down just to get on with the next.
A brief and forgettable love affair.
To avoid oblivion… You have to put the glass down. Stop your racing mind and look around, Paris is revealed in the details.
There is a word in French that literally means to walk about aimlessly — flâner.
That might be because people here understand that walking doesn’t always have to be about getting somewhere. Instead, it can be the transport medium of deep introspection. Meditation in movement if you prefer. Letting your thoughts be processed by the gentle swing of your hands, the rhythmic sound of your feet against the sidewalk.
Paris will be the stage upon which your thoughts might manifest into poetry or the next fashion industry disruptor.
Take a detour towards the 4th arrondissement if you’re into politics.
You might catch a lesson on Marx’s class consciousness at Place de la République after working hours. This city can be an ode to anyone of your favourite theories about human nature and social angst. Sartre, Camus, Baudelaire and Rousseau came up with their own takes on inner demons, the subconscious mind, the causes of suicide and the meaning of orgasms.
We keep walking cigarette in hand. Strolling alongside the Seine because river water always makes for good company.
Arriving at the legendary Les Deux Maggots on the 7th. Once upon a time the coffee-house was a hot-spot for non-conformist existentialists, surrealists and abstract painters. Today, you can take a sip of their overpriced cappuccino if you’d like a philosophical ego boost. (But there are cheaper ways to do that).
Hands in pockets, the crisp autumn air brushes your face forcing you to squint your way through Saint Germain des Près. Inhale the whiff of freshly baked baguette from the corner boulangerie, next is the scent of garlic roasting in a panful of butter from a nearby Brasserie. Hop on the metro and hike up the twisting staircases of Montmartre if you’re willing to work for your inspiration. Self-congratulate with a hard-earned view and a chocolate-filled crêpe suzette.
Skip over to Cimtière Père Lachaise and wind down hundreds of moss-covered tombstones. Visit Balzac and Molière to pay homage to the roots of French cynicism…or Edith Piaf and James Morrison for lessons on human perishability and the immortality of art.
Pick a neighbourhood from the menu of arrondissements to people watch. You can learn a lot from observing passerby.
Their carefully picked attire, often chosen with enough tact as to let their strange fetishes and disordered love-styles shine through the fabrics. Choice of textiles and patterns can signal marital status, confidence level, probability of having insomnia and whether they’re a wine or a cheese person.
Fashion and statement were never as intertwined as they are in this city.
But to live in Paris…Is it possible to grow tired of a city like a married couple does after thirty years of marriage?
After the love affair is over what then? Can it become your home, your family, can you see past the mirky subway, the grey winter, chipped away walls and apathetic waiters? Can you come to love the city not despite of its flaws but because of them? Because you would rather have a chaotic, beautifully imperfect home than a numbingly normal one. Paris will be a challenge, a deep dive into cynicism and melancholy. An orchestra of perfectly coordinated chaos. A ballet performed in a madhouse, or is it the other way around? Madmen spinning in pirouettes?
Regardless of how you live the city — from the perspective of the madmen in a china house or a ballerina in a rave — you can make this city yours. You can stumble upon people who are just the right kind of crazy — who push the boundaries just enough to create an abstract masterpiece…without burning the canvas down.