The question I am asked about Paris the most is its restaurants – which could be a reflection of my image, or of my taste in friends, anyhow too late to change both. I am not home as often as I would like to be, and when I am here, I do my best to enjoy the city, to celebrate that I, even largely theoretically, live here, – and eating out is a big part of it. (There are also periods in my life when cooking at home simply makes no sense, because most of the things I buy over the weekend do not survive until my next culinary attempt.) So I have put together my top favorites in Paris, for you to savour.
With all my trips, geo discoveries, new places on my travel map and all the excitement around it, – briefly, with all the wanderlust, – I have noticed that I almost never write about Paris. Living in Paris, however, has been my lifelong dream and one of the best things that happened to me. Ever. I am grateful every day for calling it my city, walking its streets (or riding it with my white bicycle), tuning in to its noise and sleeping under its stars. So, to celebrate having spent two complete weeks here (largely devoted to visa applications), I am taking a geo detour to tell a little about my Paris.
Paris is many things to many people, and for me it’s the weekend food markets (among many other things). I don’t cook much but the beauty of these markets is that they don’t require a lot of cooking. You follow the golden rule of great meal: best ingredients. With the food markets, you do your shopping on one street and set yourself for a successful dinner (or lunch).
The closest market to me in the one on rue Poncelet. My first address in Paris (well, this time that I am living here) was just around the corner, at rue des Renaudes, and I used to come to rue Poncelet almost every day. Now I mostly come during the weekends, but every time it is a great experience, the one that makes living in Paris for me really precious. Food markets are extremely popular among locals, next door food stores are literally empty during the market working hours. Maybe because of that, markets become a center of civilization at the quartier, attracting many small restaurants, cafés and all sorts of shops and ateliers. The symphony of colors, perfumes and tastes wakes up all your senses and reminds that you are in Paris, it’s a beautiful day and life is the best tale ever told.
Walk with me to look around.
There are people who don’t really care about where they live. I mean, they might care about the actual city, location, flights of stairs, driving distance from the office (or from the airport). But the actual home? Comes second, at best. I am not one of them.
At least, at this stage of my life. After I was born, I spent first several years in a concrete mini skyscraper next to the Gulf of Finland (that’s an area in St Petersburg, though the geo tags might be confusing), in the home that I barely remember. Actually, my only memory of that place is my own bed, inhabited by a maximum number of some adorable (or I so thought back then) stuffed animals. Some of them very big. We then moved to the first place that we owned as a family, in the city’s historical center, on Repina street.
This one I remember very well (I spent around ten years there, after all). First we had a room there (well, a room of 33 square meters with 4+ meters ceilings, but anyway) and were sharing the other facilities, like bathroom and kitchen, with other 3 families. Facing an option like that now would send me to a state of deep shock, but back then it was absolutely awesome. Our Tatar neighbors had a boy in my class (and his sister a few classes elder), he was secretly (or not so secretly) in love with my best friend, and soon the entire class was playing hide-and-seek in our long and not-always-so-well-lite hallways. Then we had one more room, which became my own. Russia at that time just emerged from the Soviet Union, and no one was clear how to go about the real estate. The property that belonged to the state for almost a century became private overnight, but who was to own it? And how to acquire more? In Soviet time, owning anything was not an option (even good books very rare and property of a library, or an item of a proud family collection, like in our case. We might not had much, but we had our books). One could only get an apartment (or a room) after some work history to support one’s claim: 20+ years working above the Polar Circle (my grandma), a few Doctorate degrees (my dad). And then suddenly everything became for sale, except that no one had any real cash to pay (and there was no credit system to sustain the alternative financing options yet). I lived across the street from my best childhood friend. It was the narrowest street in town. We were besties since six. And yet, we were economic worlds apart. My friends’ family were as bourgeois as one could possibly be during the post Soviet times. We were, well, my parents and their friends were a bunch of people believing in science. My bestie did not care. We were always together, on this or that side of the economic dividing line.
For two weeks a year, everyone in Paris remembers that they are very into tennis. Crowds flock to Stade Roland Garros to celebrate spring (theoretically, since the tradition of Roland Garros goes back to 1891, long before the climate became weird), get a grasp of latest trends and social gossip, drink champagne and catch up with friends. And to watch tennis, of course. Elena and I are no exception to the rule. Roland Garros became our personal tradition since – we were trying to remember it last weekend – 2011, when we were first invited for one of the Paris sport – and social – key events. “Do you two even like tennis?” – Stephan, then Elena’s boyfriend, was challenging our intentions.
We did like tennis: at 2011, Elena, a student of Panthéon-Assas and myself, a proud resident of a 22 m2 apartment under the roofs of the 9th arrondissement of Paris and an exchange at Dauphine, liked every social event we could get to in Paris. Let alone Roland Garros.
A lot of things have changed since then. Elena has defended the best in class thesis on political science and was then lured by the challenges of commercial sector. I have graduated from my Masters as well, went to Istanbul, then back to Finland and then returned to France for INSEAD. Elena and Stephan got married, moved to a new place and now have a daughter. I graduated from INSEAD, left for Munich and now have finally come back home, to Paris. When I think about 2011, everything has changed and only Fedya, Lena’s dog, remains a constant in our lives (and now a favorite toy of Jeanne). However, we still reunite every year to watch Nadal, make a ton of epic pictures and, naturally, to exchange news and reflections on life (and Paris public) over champagne.