I find taking it slow when I travel really hard. I’m usually the kind of traveller who, in an effort to make sure I’m maximising my time in a foreign destination, tries to fit in everything it has to offer – every activity, every sight, every restaurant – before the sun has set on day one. Well, maybe not day one, but you get my drift. I’m not a sit on the beach with a cocktail kinda gal.
I blame it on travel FOMO. You know, that fear you have of missing out on something you should have seen or done or tried, that you just know everyone is going to ask you about once you get home. “Seriously, you went to India and didn’t see the Taj Mahal? It’s the best thing the country has to offer!” None of us want to feel the sting of that conversation, and so we zoom through destinations at the speed of light so we never have to have it.
The only problem with this, though, is that it usually means we miss out on properly seeing the place. On really tasting its flavour, soaking up its atmosphere, and understanding how the locals really live. I’m fully aware of what a great shame this is, even when I’m in the midst of all my rushing around.
And so. For this trip to Paris, once my first four days of whirling around the city for the launch of the Paris cultural season was over, I vowed to pick a neighbourhood and simply stay put there. Sink in and indulge in a bit of slow travel for a few days. And it kind of changed my whole perspective on the city.
Wanting to experience Paris like a local, I organised to stay in an apartment with Apartments Actually in the Haut-Marais, the upper area of the Marais in the 3rd arrondisement that’s both trendy and villagey in just the right amounts. I spent some time with a great guide through Apartments Actually, just for the first morning to help me get my bearings and figure out where the best places to eat and drink were. And then, I just chilled.
I spent three days simply wandering the Haut-Marais’ narrow laneways, sitting in the park enjoying the spring sunshine with the locals, perching in cafés sipping Perrier (and maybe the odd champagne, oui) and watching life go by. I ate at a few great restaurants, I explored the local market (which happens to be the oldest covered market in the whole city), I did a bit of shopping. In short, I relaxed.
At first, I felt kind of anxious about it. The FOMO would creep in and I’d beat myself up about not making the most of my precious time in the city… Until I realised that I was actually doing just that, perhaps more than ever before.
I left feeling like a I understood what made this little corner of the city tick, and how life might be for the locals there, if only for a couple of days.
MY HAUT-MARAIS FAVOURITES
Beautifully styled boutique apartments throughout the Haut-Marais, from small and simple through to luxury.
Delicious small plates and a completely natural wine list, in a chic historic bar next to the Cirque d’Hiver. 114 Rue Amelot.
Les Enfants Rouge
Low-key atmosphere and incredible food, with a slight Japanese bent from chef Daï Shinozuka. 9 Rue de Beauce.
Marché des Enfants Rouges
Oldest covered market in Paris, dating back to the 16th century. Don’t miss the famous crêpes from Alain. 39 Rue de Bretagne.
Fabulous spot for afternoon people watching, as typical a Parisian bistro as you’ll get. 1 Rue de Bretagne.
A fancier version of Le Progrès, with a very fashionable crowd but often long lines. 38 Rue de Bretagne.
Le Mary Céleste
Come for oysters, natural wine and great cocktails; from the owners of Candelaria and Glass. 1 rue Commines.
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