To the rest of the world, Paris can be surrounded by enigmas: where are people buying all those blue and white striped shirts? Why are their hats flat? How is that tower so sexy? Even beyond the warm glow of Hollywood-crafted romanticism, there is a contradiction. The city seems at once nostalgic and à la mode, classic and modern. Yes, well-dressed people sip espresso in wicker café chairs, buy baguettes at boulangeries, and kiss each other on both cheeks, but a more dynamic view of the city reveals neighborhoods with distinct characters and plenty of people who are not too chic to laugh when someone trips, spill drinks while singing karaoke, let their dog just go right there on the sidewalk, or eat chicken McNuggets. Paris hasn’t been blissfully left in some golden age of the past; it faces contemporary challenges of globalization and immigration and confronts social issues like from wealth to race to religion. These factors combine with its rich history and tradition, creating a diverse city that’s livable, evolving, and exciting. So, while its landmarks reflect ancient influences, its museums house works from old masters, and its wineries take advantage of thousands of years of knowledge, there are always new and unique parts of the city to meet and explore. Enchanté, Paris.
Say goodbye to foot-long subs and that sticky pre-sliced cheese they sell at Costco; you’re not in Kansas anymore. Food is an integral part of French life—while world-famous chefs and their three-star prices are valued Parisian institutions, you don’t have to break the bank for excellent cuisine, especially if you come at lunchtime (when prices are nearly half what they are at dinner). Brasseries are even more casual and foster a lively and irreverent atmosphere. The least expensive option is usually a creperie, which specialize in thin Breton pancakes filled with meat, vegetables, cheeses, chocolate, or fruits. Creperies might conjure images of yuppie brunches and awkward first dates for Americans, but here in Paris, you can often eat a crepe for less than you’d pay for a patty at the great Golden Arches. Specialty food shops, including boulangeries (bakeries), patisseries (pastry shops), and chocolatiers (chocolate shops), provide delicious and inexpensive picnic supplies. A number of cheap kebab and falafel stands around town also serve quick, cheap fare. Bon appétit!