Memories and Inspiration for Food, Travel and Life
I know I’m not the only one who has been feeling like this, it seems to keep coming up. Are hipsters ruining Paris? No, I would hardly blame the trend on one group of people. Is Paris changing, for sure…but maybe only in my mind. The stunning and inspirational Paris I first met and fell in love with almost fifteen years ago doesn’t exist anymore. It is a world I invented coming for SUMMER holidays, looked into the windows of grand apartments with crystal chandeliers and large curtained windows, when the summer sun shined and the city just seemed magical. It is a 2D world which will continue to be created through the articles of talented writers, stories told by wealthy travelers, and images by creative artists and serendipitous photographers.
The reality of it all is why, I suppose, I have been wanting to leave Paris – even though I never had intentions on staying in the first place (for other reasons). I can’t complain too much, I did meet the man of my dreams here and met some truly incredible people. I was lucky enough to study French cuisine with some of the best instructors and cook in some of the finest restaurants. Please don’t let this writing make you think I don’t love this city, I do. I just miss the Paris I used to know as a tourist versus a resident, I suppose.
To be blunt, living in Paris is so much more challenging and dreary than I expected. Paris’ beautifully decorated shops, tastefully designed restaurants and pristine streets are dream-like. Unfortunately, much like the photoshopped images of models and celebrities we find in magazines, the life depicted shows little of the reality for the many. Where is the blogger writing about cooking on two hot plates in their kitchen-come-bathroom in their 20m apartment at 900 Euro a month? Who is Instagramming the images of the black mold growing around their apartments’ window (which the landlord and management company could care less about) in the closet-sized bedroom they rest in between their 16 hour shift in a high profile, high stress kitchen? Who mentions the cold, grey, and incessant rain which envelope you from October to May?
It is a museum city, a luxury-land for the few who can afford it, a hipster infused and Brooklyn-esque village which does little to inspire me anymore. After years here I wonder, what does Paris now have which cannot be found in other cities? A recent friend came, and I was almost devoid of ideas of what to show them which New York couldn’t offer or that which seemed authenticlly Parisian and French. Globalization has introduced the French macaron to New York, Pauline bread can be shipped over night to North Dakota, and American, Japanese, and Australian chefs are dominating Parisian restaurants and patisseries. Many ‘stereotypical’ Parisian cafes are owned or run by foreigners. American wine and fine cuisine isn’t so horrible at home anymore, fine textiles and linens can be bought on etsy or antiques on ebay, and adorably chic cafes are available in any large city. What is authentically Parisian anymore? Being mugged for your iPhone on the metro? Paying 5 Euro for a small cafe au lait?
As far as cuisine is concerned, Paris will become Brooklyn will become Paris…and then maybe Paris will return to its senses. Maybe the French will take more time to create local food movements that improve their own impressive regional cuisines. Maybe the next generation will appreciate the cassoulet as much as the burger. I hope the baguette isn’t lost to gluten-free regimes and fine Bordeaux to foreign acquisitions ignorant of the growing process. I hope that in another fifteen years there is still a reason to visit Paris outside of viewing the Eiffel Tower, beautiful architecture, and the Seine.
Smaller cities like Toulouse, Lille, and Bordeaux (for example) now have an edge, which the traveler to France should be aware of. You are more likely to experience authenticity in these cities; taste, see and hear the real France than you will in Paris. A tour group I have worked with for over ten years is making that decision. Paris is not only far too over priced, but it doesn’t seem ‘Paris-y’ as it once did. Hopefully my old Paris will be there when I come back for a summer holiday.
A bientot, j’espere.