Three Surprising Life Lessons From Paris
It’s a city with a big reputation to maintain, but for hundreds of travellers every year, Paris breaks hearts, makes memories and lives up to expectations time and time again.
My first experience of Paris was blessed as I was accompanied by a Parisian. My stay was a whirlwind weekend of learning how to be a Parisian in Paris, but not in the way I expected. Here are the life lessons my Parisian friends taught me after a weekend of wine, walks and joie de vivre.
Lesson One: Let it Go
Within minutes of leaving the Eurostar station at the Gare du Nord, I found myself sat outside a pavement café, with a glass of red wine and a host of chic Parisian women (pals of my travel companion). My rusty French meant I could barely keep up with the conversation, but watching the hustle and bustle of the passengers and Parisians on a Friday night was enough to keep me entertained. Then before I knew it, we’d hopped bars, consumed an obscene amount of wine and carbs and chatted until 2am.
This is obviously not everyone’s idea of an intro to a city, and no doubt we paid a lot more than we needed to by sticking to the area around the station, but the lesson from my Parisian pals was to be open to where the city leads you. It’s an ideal place to let your hair down and live out a few fantasies. Just be prepared for a slow morning after…
Lesson Two: Have an Appetite for Life
Speaking of which. My first morning in Paris was a short affair, as I didn’t leave my bed until it was almost over. However, despite protests from my head, we left for a brunch that beyond worth the hassle of getting dressed.
It’s often said French women don’t get fat and whilst I don’t quite think this is true, the delight my Parisian friends showed in their food was contagious. We found a local café in the Monmartre area in the north of the city. For a humble about of euros we were treated to a bottomless brunch which included a hot plate of fresh eggs and vine tomatoes as well as endless refills of pastries, fresh breads and cereal. Hot drinks were also included and over the course of the next few hours my life revolved around alternating black coffee with pain-au-chocolates, lemon tea with crusty bread and local honey, buttery eggs on equally buttery toast.
Every day me would have collapsed in a pile of food guilt and exercise plans, sure that the following morning I would wake up three dress sizes bigger. However, the ease at which these confident, chic women consumed what felt like a week’s worth of calories in one go was nothing short of sublime. I found myself relaxing around food over the weekend as the choices I made were the choices I wanted. Freed from the word ‘should’, my Parisian friends showed me that an appetite for life is much more Parisian than abstaining in the name of image or fear of the future. “Life is for living”, they told me, “you should live it”.
Lesson Three: In The Moment
I had been nervous about visiting Paris at first. It’s a city of fashion and culture and well sometimes, I don’t feel like I possess much of a sense of either. I had planned my outfits, coordinated my make-up, drafted maps of all the landmarks I wanted to ‘tick off’ with an elevated heartbeat – part excitement, part stress. How would I do it all? How could I make the most of this trip? What if I missed something critical? What if what if what if…
However, as we wondered across town, weaving in and out of landmarks such as the Sacré-Cœur basilica, The Louvre and Avenue des Champs Elysées, I realised I’d been thinking too much. We explored the city based solely on what we felt like doing in that moment. A city visit without an agenda is a terrifying aspect to travellers worldwide but in Paris, like Rome and London, there are landmarks at every turn. Seeing the iconic Eiffel Tower lit up as the dusk settled was surreal, and crossing the many bridges across the Seine at sunset felt ethereal. I couldn’t work out how I was so at ease without a plan but as my Parisian friends had taught me earlier, life is for living and living occurs moment by moment. As I wandered the city in my own time with my own agenda, I was able to become more mindful of the little things which kept me present. The scent of perfume as we passed iconic stores, the feel of old stones under my fingers at Notre Dame, the bubbles on my tongue as we dined on homemade Croque-madame and white wine in my friend’s kitchen after a day of laughter and adventures.
Embarking on the Eurostar the following morning, my heart ached for Paris. It ached to be leaving new friends and a city that inspired me with every turn. It ached even more with the love I felt for the life lessons I learned. I had expected a hectic weekend of sight-seeing, comparison and self-doubt, but I had found a city of confident women mindfully living their lives moment by moment and pursuing beauty in the everyday. Their confidence was contagious and the lessons they taught me about letting go, digging in and really living in the present filled me with hope. As we pulled out of the station, I took out my brand new red lipstick from one of Paris’s many boutiques and smiled. A little reminder to be a bit braver and live joyfully, wherever I am.
A designer and writer who loves helping businesses and entrepreneurs tell their story creatively.
Terri specialises in creating content which inspires connection; whether that is blog copy, social media graphics or building websites and brands. She helps small business owners identify themselves with a range of consultancy services and helps put their plans into action and share their purpose with their audience.
Having travelled extensively, Terri is a keen digital nomad who hunts out the best coffee and wifi connection any area has to offer. She adores the people, places and connections that she encounters when travelling and is grateful her freelance marketing biz gives her the chance to travel and work indefinitely. Having worked in Bali, Portugal and the Netherlands, Terri is currently based in the UK but has more than a few travel plans on the horizon.
Often found in or by the sea, Terri is infinitely inspired by the rugged grey oceans, stormy waves and cold water surfing culture. She curates a cold water surf website SeafoxCreative and loves nothing more than getting out and experiencing grey skies and green waves.