I’ve come to the realization that a trip to Paris is better than a jaunt to the world’s premier wellness retreat. All that is good for the soul—exercise, food, and conversation—came organically there. My apartment was on the 5th floor, what Americans would call the 6th. The lift would often get stuck; it made no difference whether a resident was inside. Taking the stairs was the safer option. In the beginning, I had to pause several times during the ascent, but eventually, I became accustomed to the climb and could make it to my door without stopping. This achievement gave me a sense of accomplishment. As did climbing the steps in the Paris Métro without becoming winded.
While conquering various Stairmasters gave me a sense of pride, I probably got most of my exercise through the French art of flâneur, which means to wander aimlessly. When leaving the apartment, I permitted myself to make detours en route to and returning from my destination. I discovered a few shops in and adjacent to my arrondissement this way. One of them being my local Pierre Hermé. For the record, Ladurée is the better of the two, but I wouldn’t have discovered this if I hadn’t stumbled upon 89 Bd Malesherbes after dinner one night.
My knowledge of French enabled me to engage with Francophones. These interactions mainly took place while ordering food and buying tickets for museums and other sites of note. My husband went to Paris with me, and speaking French for two people was a heavy lift. Successful, but heavy. The the first time we went to La Ripaille (69 Rue des Dames), we didn’t have a reservation. I knew this would make the conversation with the front-of-house staff more complicated. I prepared for the exchange by practicing “Est-ce que vous avez une table pour deux personnes?” and “Nous n’avons pas de réservation.” We were met by Philippe, the proprietor, who explained that his place was full but that a table may become available later in the evening. I said that we’d return another time, and two nights later we did.
The next day, we entered the restaurant, and Philippe greeted us warmly. After bonsoirs, I told him that we had a reservation and the time that it was made for. We were shown to a cozy table for two. The dishes were written in chalk on blackboards hung high on the opposite wall. Philippe informed me of the changes that had been made to the menu. I relayed all the information to my husband in English. If you book a table for dinner at a restaurant in France, it’s yours for the night. We witnessed the departure of other parties one by one and eventually settled into a long conversation with Philippe. I thanked him for the delicious and nourishing food. (Lunch and dinner in France are eaten in courses; you must do the same when there.) I told him how the food in America makes us ill and how living in France would be ideal for health reasons. We discussed other American peculiarities and laughed about how vieil, vieille, le veau, je vois, and la voix could be confusing for language learners. He complimented me on my French. I told him that I was fearless and that I had put in a lot of work. Our party was one of the last to leave. Besides the conversations I had with my Chanel fashion advisors, this was the longest time I’d spent speaking continuously in French during the trip.
The food in France is generally fresh, free of preservatives, and not overly sweet. I dined often and freely from the menus of the restaurants in and near my arrondissement. I even consumed dessert and bread without falling ill. Le Tourbillon, whose address in Paris recently closed, was one of our favorite places for dinner and mille-feuille. According to the website, diners will be able to find them at the restaurant L’abri Norrmand (47 rue de General De Gaulle, Gaillon) in September. It looks like a pilgrimage to Normandie is in order. Although, I don’t know if they’ll have mille-feuille.