Insider Secrets To Discovering The “New” Paris

Insider tips for visiting Paris.

The Louvre. Photo courtesy of EdiNugraha.

For many, Paris defines classic charm. With its old world sophistication and medieval beauty, Paris is a city that has stood the test of time; however, a new movement is stirring in the City of Light. Foreign influence is spurring new trends, giving Paris a fresh face worth exploring.

Writer and Philadelphia-native, Lindsey Tramuta, moved to Paris in 2006.  As a French literature major, she simply loves the city’s classical and romantic side, but at the same time, she is also interested in the cutting-edge developments taking place in Paris. In her book, The New Paris, Lindsey shares her advice for travelers who would like to explore these exciting trends in the French capital.

Epicure & Culture caught up with Lindsey to learn more about the little-known side of Paris.

What you didn't know about life in Paris

Author Lindsey Tramuta. Photo courtesy of Charissa Fay.

1. What were your preconceptions of the city before you moved there, and how were they proven right or wrong once you arrived?

It’s been ten years since I moved to Paris. I admit that as the years go on, it’s challenging to remember what cliches I may have held at the time, but certainly the most obvious ones are: Parisians are rude, they know how to savor life, it’s a cosmopolitan place, it’s the ne plus ultra of dining.

I would say that Parisians aren’t rude, but distant with people they don’t know – they aren’t any more short-tempered than New Yorkers. Savoring life isn’t specific to Parisians, it is an innate French gift and one that instilled balance in my life from the very beginning. This isn’t the live-to-work culture that I knew in America. People are efficient and focused, but their private lives are equally important and that is, by and large, recognized on a government level. Five weeks minimum paid vacation means burnouts can be avoided and people can travel, see the world, take time for self reflection – all the things Americans have been conditioned to believe are superfluous.

Paris is cosmopolitan in population but only in spirit more recently, as discussed in my book. Same thing with food: the culinary accolades from the past were eroding when I moved to the city, but the local food scene began to rebound around 2009 and has continued to evolve at breakneck speeds. It’s more exciting and diverse than ever before.

An American expat in #Paris shares her #traveltips for exploring the city like a local. Click To Tweet

2. How has being an American expat influenced your Paris experience?

As much as I adore Paris for what it has always been – chaotic, exquisite, dirty, manicured – coming from a country that prizes effort, enthusiasm, optimism, and openness made settling in the city a bit of a battle for the first couple of years. When I would need encouragement, I would be met with a hardened, “pick yourself up and keep going” attitude from my husband and friends.

The pessimism that generally pervades the Parisian attitude is tough to fight off. The trick is to remain who you are while adapting to a different life. That said, my juggle-it-all hustling in my career has been seen as a distinctly American trait and one that is starting to rub off on a generation of young professionals who realize they don’t need to limit themselves to one career to be successful or feel fulfilled.

A glimpse into life in Paris.

Lindsey’s new book. Photo courtesy of The New Paris.

3. How would you describe the “classic” Parisian culture? Did you notice any of this when you first arrived in the city?

That hasn’t changed – the café-going, apero-loving, art exhibit-hungry, curious Parisian is still very much the archetype. I would say the difference is in the types of places that have tacked onto the list of beloved hangouts – craft cocktail bars, wine bars, boutique hotels, along the river. That is the most noticeable difference in the way Parisians appropriate the city and make use of local culture. I can’t say this with statistic backing but I get the sense that the many international artists and performers who come to Paris contribute greatly to the types of cultures at Parisian disposal.

#Paris is changing! Here's how to explore the city's innovative #food scene. Click To Tweet
How to experience local life in Paris.

Zoé Kovacs and Guillaume Servet, the duo behind the produce and flower shop, L’Épicerie Végétale. Their shop was one of several that brought new life to an ill-trafficked street in the 11th arrondissement. Photo courtesy of Charissa Fay.

4. What are some key influences that have caused Paris to open up and innovate?

As discussed in my book, the economic crash of 2008 encouraged France to think differently about how to survive in a global economy.  Many companies had to downsize, many people had to think twice before indulging in eating out or other luxuries.  On the positive side, it encouraged some people to reevaluate what they loved and take innovative risks to pursue their passions.  It created new energy, new ideas and new ways of doing things.

5. What traditions does Paris seem to still cling to?

With regards to timeless traditions, many of the artisan and culinary skills, like craftsmanship, baking and cooking, are being preserved by young people. It’s not that they wanted to jettison all signs of the past but rather use old techniques to modernize a given craft. So savoir-faire is something all French people prize and try to protect ferociously. Their customs, like spending hours at the table, pre-dinner aperitifs, lengthy vacations, will never die.

How to experience Paris like a local.

A sample of small plates at Le Mary Celeste, an oyster and small-plates cocktail bar.  The rotating menu uses local ingredients for dishes so globally inspired, you can’t identify exactly where they came from. Photo courtesy of Charissa Fay.

6. What are your favorite emerging culinary trends in Paris?

I am a big fan of two things: the return of classic dishes but done better, with quality ingredients and with simplicity (and sometimes even interpreted by foreign chefs). Traditional dishes – stews, grilled meats, etc. – were of mediocre quality for the first years I lived here. Unless you were going to spend 50 euros minimum on a meal, it would probably end up being disappointing.

The good quality of hearty French dishes is a refreshing, recent development. But so are the bistronomic dishes  – inventive but not pretentious fare that plays up forgotten vegetables with spices, light sauces and foreign flavors. The sheer diversity and number of street food stalls and casual eateries is exciting because it means I’m not want for anything.

7. How can Epicure & Culture readers discover the innovative aspects of Paris?

I hope my book will be a solid introduction to the city’s innovative side and how to easily explore it. When it comes to exploring Parisian cuisine, the best thing to do is to follow local journalists and even chefs who are sharing their discoveries and updates about the food scene on social media and in their work for the press.

8. How can Epicure & Culture readers connect with emerging, innovative trends in their own home cities?

Start with local newspapers and blogs to get a sense of what is trending nearby. Instagram might also be a useful resource to track the latest discoveries in town. I also follow tech and innovation accounts on Twitter that document new movements in Paris and I follow French journalists who cover everything from food to business.

How to experience life in Paris like a local.

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Katie Foote may be a physicist by trade but she travels the world any chance she can get. After four years of semi-nomadic life as she finished her PhD, she's recently moved to Auckland, New Zealand. Despite beginning a more traditional life, she has insight on how to travel the world on a graduate student budget (cheap!), explore off-the-beaten-path destinations and authentically experiencing new places by connecting to locals. When she's not doing physics or globe-trotting, she likes to swim, do yoga and hike (or "tramp" as they say in New Zealand). Check out Katie's blog to follow her adventures around the world.

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