Paris.  It sounds oh-so romantic, doesn’t it?  You hear the name and you think of little cafes, divine food, the Eiffel Tower, striped shirts and berets, Coco Channel and what have you.  It’s sort of like that, but not really at all.  It’s both better and worse, as I’ve been finding out since I’ve been here.  I’ve been here for about a month and a half and let me start by saying that you don’t see many beret-wearers around.  Although, I’m considering investing in one and wearing it around in a sort of chic/ironic/trendy way.

First thing is first, the Europeans are by far a very good-looking bunch.  They dress impeccably… always – men as well as women (which sometimes does make it hard to figure out who is gay and who isn’t).  What’s unfortunate is that they know they are beautiful – that always ruins it for me.  But really, the amount of eye candy available here more than makes up for the fact that tickets from the US to Paris (or anywhere else in Europe, for that matter) are not so cheap.

The little cafes live up to the hype.  They’re charming (though coffee is sometimes expensive – sidenote: French coffee is more or less espresso, but you can get American coffee if you want) with appropriately rude (polite yet cold, as the French would probably describe it) waiters.  Space is scarce in Paris (and, as I imagine, the rest of Europe) so unless you manage to find the one cafe sans patrons in France, you’ll probably be surrounded by twelve other “tables for two.”  Speaking of tables for two, that’s another thing I’ve noticed – I’m not sure if it’s just that the French don’t make a habit of making friends, but most people here only have a few friends that they actually hang out with.  One of the best ways to spot Parisians (other than looking at their awesome clothes or lack of camera) is to look at who is rolling down Rue de whatever with the smallest crew.

The food is actually as good as they make it out to be.   There are crêperies all over the place serving the signature Nutella and banana crêpes, tons of great restaurants (though they can be pricey), and best of all – tons of boulangeries.  Boulangeries are bakeries and if there is one thing the French can do, it is make pastries and bake bread.  Even if you only come to Paris for one day, I guarantee that you will at least see five people walking out of bakeries with baguettes.  They really do eat them all the time.  I don’t think my host family has ever been out of bread.

Moving on, French pastries are where it’s at.  There are tons of renowned pastry shops around Paris (La Durée and Pierre Hermé are two of the better known ones and I’m lucky enough to live right down the street from a Pierre Hermé) but my favorite ones are the random ones your find serendipitously when you could just do with a pain aux amandes (my personal fav but feel free to pick your poison).  The bakeries carry a variety of pastries but Paris is probably most famous for its macarons (in case you are some kind of freak or live under a rock and don’t know what a macaron is: http://static.chefnini.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/macaron-rose2.jpg.  Macarons can be found more or less anywhere (I’ve even seen them at McDonalds here) and they come in every flavor you could imagine.  I’ve had pistachio, lemon, and passion fruit, among others.

To sum things up, Paris is awesome (minus the metro which, however convenient it may be, reeks of piss and is thus, not my favorite place to be) for all of the aforementioned reasons.  Furthermore, it’s placed perfectly for travel opportunities to other parts of Europe.  I’ve already been to Amsterdam (a story for another time…) and Belgium (Brussels & Bruges) and I’m going to Toulouse and London next month.  So here’s to another four months of American badassery in Europe (haha, okay, not really) and many more updates throughout!

Bisous from Paris!

Hazel