Paris is commonly recounted as the city of love, and while I can see how l’architecture marque profondément la romance, this city has always had quite a different love story for me.
It was 2008 the first time I went to Paris. My boyfriend at the time surprised me by whisking me away from London in a black cab, and onto the Eurostar before letting me in on the big secret. On the second day of our 3-day rendezvous, he convinced me to go up to the top of the Eiffel Tower with him, despite pleading against it due to my dislike for popular tourist pursuits. When we arrived at the top and walked to the edge to take in the view, I watched him slowly bend down onto one knee, as the biting cold wind brought tears to my eyes, and with horror, I spun around and ran for the nearest elevator and threw myself out of the Eiffel Tower as fast as my legs could take me. Sometimes all it takes is a sobering instant to know that you don’t want to be with someone, and I was certain at that moment, that he was not the one for me. We broke up shortly after.
The second time I was in Paris was in 2012. My boyfriend and I had just travelled up from a festival in Portugal and he was running out of money before we could make it to Amsterdam where he was working as a tattoo artist. Paris was supposed to be a pit-stop for him to pick up a couple of clients. Instead, I came home to the friend’s apartment we were crashing in one afternoon to him cutting a bag of white power with other white powders. Apparently, he had decided this was a really good moment to become a cocaine dealer to supplement his income. Unfortunately a drug-dealers girlfriend I do not make — I’ve witnessed that doughnut-dust destroy too many lives. We broke up shortly after.
Now, I am in Paris for the third time, with a beautiful friend of mine and I get to be completely avant-garde with this city of love. While I’m a total romantic, I am not a traditional one. For me, romance is the way the wind brushes through the leaves on an autumn day, or the soft pink rays touching the horizon just so at sunset, or the ocean lapping at my feet early in the morning. It’s when my fingertips first touch the hand of a man I am intrigued by. Or the way the juice from a ripe peach runs from my lips down my chin when I bite into it. Romance occurs in the momentary bursts of time between things. It cannot be manufactured. I have what my astrologist calls amoureuse de le’amour, I’m in love with love itself.
I thought I’d share the beautiful bright sparks of romance that I’ve discovered on my trip this time — mostly around the north-east area of Belleville which is known for its street art — as I write this to you on the Eurostar back to London, in case you want to experience them too.
Lulu la Nantaise – Crêperie — It was 4pm when we arrived and I was starving, not having eaten anything yet that day, after dropping our bags off at our AirBnB, when I spotted this creperie in the Canal St Martin area that we were wandering around. I ordered a buckwheat, spinach, cheese and egg crepe and it was one of the best things I have had in my entire life.
Rue Mari et Louise — Shortly after we stumbled up this charming flea market that looked like the whole neighbourhood had come together for the Parisien street version of a garage sale. While I didn’t find anything to keep it was fascinating to be amongst it all. The market pops up Friday to Sunday.
Chez Meme — Our local cafe was stunning, and the Café crème delicious with beautiful outdoor seating in the sun which is very appreciated on these brisk autumn mornings. We spent our mornings waking up here before exploring and it was wonderful.
Park de Buttes-Chaumont — A19th-century park in a former quarry, with tall trees, lake, waterfalls and old, iron railway bridge to wander and get lost in filled with Parisiens vehemently swearing at their canvas on an easel, groups of friends smoking and chatting in the sun, and little old men walking their tiny dogs with newspapers tucked under their arms.
Vintage Desir — One of many cute vintage stores we ventured into, this one was the most well-priced and I walked away with a gorgeous woollen sweater that I haven’t taken off since.
Love Juice Bar — My beautiful friend runs this tiny little cafe tucked away on a street in Las Marais which has become popular amongst models. She was so rushed off her feet from Paris Fashion Week when I went to see her she could barely remember her own name. This the place for delicious vegan smoothie bowls, avocado on toast and hot elixirs.
Le Loir Dans La Theiere — Famous for it’s huge and extravagant cakes I had the most luscious lunch here with a friend and client: zucchini and feta quiche with salad and left feeling so nourished and satisfied. I recommend everyone go here, at least once.
La Mouette Neuse — A beautiful bookstore/cafe to work in with a view over a little, hidden garden for those days when you need wifi and a quiet place to put your thoughts together.
Rue de Martyrs — The most picturesque street full of cheese stores, florists, cafes and cute little things of every description close to Sacre Cuore it’s lovely to walk around and pretend to be a loyal albeit a mute one when someone speaks to you.
La Fontaine de Belleville — For real french fare: charcuterie, cheeses, salads, croque-monsieur etc. served with freshly-baked sourdough in the most beautiful, eclectic ambient space complete with mirrors, a piano and chandeliers this is the place to be for a romantic meal or drink pour un, deux ou trois.
KiloTime — A ridiculous name for a fantastic vintage store with the most endearing staff who tried to gift me hilarious-looking iPhone cases as big as my face. It’s a treasure-trove of great things and fun to hang out at.
L’Atelier — Tucked away at the top of Rue du Jourdain is this little gem of a bookstore where I — after days of hunting — finally found my vintage postcards. Full of ancient sleeves and titles this place is magic and worth visiting solely for the Harry Potterer-esque quirky, sarcastic and simultaneously hilarious storekeeper with round glasses and the perfect amount of nerdy charm that makes you want to hug him and keep him forever.
I’d like to add that finding postcards was an exceptionally difficult feat and an Postal that was open or hadn’t moved or a Tabac that sold postage stamps even harder, so much so I ended taking the cards that I did write back to the UK with me after little success to find a way to send them. I’m going to post them from Scotland in a few days instead.