The Gotham Gal and I just spent the last two weeks in Paris. We have been going to Paris together for around forty years and have had a place there for the last decade. It is a place we can go to get away from it all for a few weeks, connect with each other, and enjoy ourselves in a city we love.
I’ve thought a lot about why Paris works so well for us to dial it down a bit and focus more on each other for a while. The time zone is a big part of it. The US doesn’t wake up and start working until early afternoon in Paris so our mornings and lunchtime are all our own. We sleep way later than we sleep anywhere else and stay up later too. The coffee shops I like don’t open until 9am or later so that’s an added incentive to stay in bed a bit longer.
We do find time to work when we are in Paris, but it is generally from mid/late afternoon until dinner time. So the time we work goes down considerably but not to zero and the time together goes up a lot.
Add to that our love of walking through cities and neighborhoods. We do a ton of that in NYC and will walk to and from dinner most of the time in NYC. But walking in Paris is next-level walking. The avenues are wider, the buildings are lower, the light is better, and the architecture fills the streets with beauty. We walk between 10,000 and 20,000 steps every day we are in Paris except for full rainouts, of which we had one on this trip.
And then there is the culture. The museums, the galleries, the nightlife, the restaurants, the stores. You can get all of that in NYC or London or a number of other great cities in the world, but Paris does it so well.
Our stays in Paris are basically less work, more sleep, more culture, more walking, and more fun together. It’s a formula we found many years ago and has never failed us over the years.
On this trip, there were some new things and observations that I thought I’d mention.
1/ Pedal assist bikes and bike lanes: I’ve been doing Velib bikes in Paris since they launched in 2007/2008. I wrote about them back then. But over the last few years, Paris has really upped its bike game. They have cut down lanes for cars and replaced them with bike lanes. They have allowed competitors to Velib in the market and now I have three bike apps on my phone, Velib, Dott, and Lime. The Gotham Gal and I were able to find pedal-assist e-bikes whenever we wanted them with no trouble. Our favorite was Lime which was the most available and their new Gen4 bikes are really good. On Thursday, when we wanted to go to the Paris Photo Show in the 7th, there was a strike on the Metro and so we biked forty minutes, mostly along the River Seine, to the show. It was fabulous. NYC should allow competitors to come into the market and compete with Citibike. When it comes to pedal-assist e-bikes, I think the more options the better. And the way Paris manages the parking spots for the Lime and Dott bikes works pretty well and suggests that the kiosk model that Citibike and Velib use may not be ideal.
2/ English spoken everywhere: Well maybe not everywhere. But over the last decade, since we got our first place in Paris, the number of people we encounter whose English is worse than our French has basically gone to zero. I don’t feel great about my poor french, which gets better over the course of two weeks but is not conversational in the least. But I do feel great about being able to communicate with whomever we need to while we are in Paris.
3/ More and more American ex-pats are living in Paris. Or maybe it’s that we know more American ex-pats living in Paris. Some of them came a decade ago. More came in the wake of the changing political dynamic in the US in the last five years. And the Pandemic brought even more. I did think a few times, “maybe we should join them” but we are not ready to give up the lives we have built in the US over the last forty years. But I do understand why so many US citizens are making Paris their home. It’s a very livable city. And with the dollar so strong, an American income goes a long way in Paris these days. And socialism, which is a scary word to many in the US, seems to work quite well in France. There is a safety net. There are fewer homeless on the streets and there is a sense that people in need are better taken care of in Paris. I don’t know that to be true, but that’s the feeling I get walking around the city for a few weeks.
4/ Property values and rents are more stable: Having bought a couple of apartments in Paris over the last decade, we have come to understand that the real estate markets work a bit differently in France. If an apartment is offered at a price, and you meet that price, the apartment comes off the market for a month while you decide if you absolutely want to buy it. There are no bidding wars as a result. There may be other factors at work as well, but we got the sense that the real estate markets, both purchasing and renting, are moderated in Paris in a way that is absolutely not the case in NYC. We own a lot of property in NYC and have benefitted from increases in the value of our real estate but we feel like those gains came at a great cost, which is that NYC, particularly Manhattan, has become so expensive to own and rent that many stores cannot make it anymore. It’s hard to find a shopping street in Manhattan that doesn’t have multiple vacant stores. We saw very little of that in Paris. And many restaurants we love have remained in the same spaces for over a decade. Again, we don’t know the details of how and why this is, but it is noticeably different and it seems like the model is working in Paris. The streets are alive and vibrant in a way that NYC streets are not right now.
We returned home yesterday having spent a wonderful two weeks together, reconnecting in lots of ways, and with new memories and new adventures under our belt.
I highly recommend that couples find a time and place that they can go unwind and reconnect. For us it is Paris. But it can be almost anywhere that allows you to cut back on work, spend more time with your loved one, and refresh and recharge. It has been working great for us for many years and the longer we do it, the better it gets.