There’s something electric about a storm in Paris. It brews above the centre of the city for a good few hours during which the entire city hits double time – people scurry for cover from no precipitation in particular and scramble to tick to-do’s du jour before imminent downpour, then take shelter in sparsely covered cafés and observe passersby. I like to think of people-watching as the incidental sport of Paris. It’s how the French stay thin. Every food and beverage institution is designed solely for that purpose with pairs of chairs facing the street, coffee cups just large enough to cover the lower half of one’s facial expression and feign some incarnation of poker face, no menu item so exciting that it would distract a player’s gaze from calculating humans and vehicles alike… certainly, watching the people-watching is a far more entertaining absorption of atmosphere than any towering tourist attraction or cliché.
Particularly before a storm.
Alex and I pushed the envelope and took out people-watching to the Tuileries, in the hour we had to burn before I knocked off a few meetings in Trocadéro and he went to get his fill of the Catacombs (which I am blindly and hilariously terrified of since I first visited at age fifteen, so that worked out well). The mixed bag of people was amusingly reminiscent of Martin Place at home, the gardens being a perfect passing-through for local business moguls and gawking visitors alike. Amusing, too, was what I would like to think was a transformation from the latter to the former – from a white-teed, boyfriend-jeaned, ankle-cuffed and espadrilled monument go-getter to a semi-iridescent blazered weirdo strapped into her shoes and freshly mowed bob (hola, Paloma).
The definitive factor for authentic Parisianism, though, is still one’s ability to people-watch. I am years from mastering the art – I tend to look away awkwardly should anybody catch me spying from my seated tea and croissant.
I will be sure to return every six months to practice in different seasons…
Best places to people-watch in Paris:
- Jardin des Tuileries
- Rue Saint-Honoré (my oh my the Saint Laurent and Isabel Marant that went past…)
- Le Marais (anywhere really… can’t go wrong with places around the Hôtel de Ville)
- Café De Flore (172 Boulevard Saint-Germain)
- Le Sancerres (35 Rue de Abbesses)
- Café Delmas (Le Mouffe)
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