Paris is Classier Than Us All

This should have been a long time ago. My apologies.

I’ve been so busy raising hell on the internets and working on articles and most recently, at the very dope Jean-Michel Basquiat retrospective in Toronto and speaking at Williams College, that I have not had an opportunity to tell you exactly what the hell I was doing in Paris, besides working.

And working.

my writing table at Mariage Freres. Not a bad gig, I know.

my writing table at Mariage Freres. Not a bad gig, I know.

But yes, besides testing fabulous teas and beauty products for articles, I did *manage* to have fun. (Imagine how tough THAT was.) Given that I mostly write about such serious things, I think it’s important to show that I have a lighter side as well. From finding what I think are the best macarons in Paris (sorry Ladurée) the best foie gras to the most amazing musée in Paris. And of course, affordable beauty and hair products, but I can’t really write about it JUST yet 😉

But back to macarons. Like, these right here.

the best stuff on Earth

the best stuff on Earth

The bag above is about 10 minutes old and half empty. It’s shameful – and it’s all caught on tape.

 

And of course, if you’re a tea addict like me, there’s only one real place in Paris to go for tea – and that’s Mariage Freres. There are a lot of amazing places to go for tea in Paris and one day, I’d love to do a blog post on the amazing tea services in Paris, but really there’s only one place in Paris to go – and that’s Mariage Freres. (Just in case you didn’t catch that the first time.)

there's tea, then there's Mariage Freres

there’s tea, then there’s Mariage Freres

one of the amazing teas that I sampled

one of the amazing teas that I sampled

And when I was not harassing the impossibly chic staff at Mariage Freres for samples and tea notes (“mais, je vais écrire un article, Monsieur”, I think I said about 10 times), I was more or less importing Monoprix brick by brick, or rather, shower gel by shower gel. And shampoo. And facial scrub. And hair masque. And leave-in conditioner. And toothpaste.

Side note though: Monoprix is the Target of Paris, but because Paris is so classy, imagine if Target sold foie gras and Bordeaux wines and Roger & Gallet perfume. That’s Monoprix and absolutely worth a visit.

beauty products

The other half of the haul is just too embarrassing to post, if only for the sheer amount of sh*t I had to bring back. Honestly, I’ve never really fancied myself as a beauty products writer and I don’t think I’m about to start. It’s actually a hard and time consuming job! And a lot of the products that I found for Black women and other women of color was truly off the beaten path, in the 18th and 20th arrondissements which means it took a lot of time to find them. I mean, it’s a ton of fun trying products, but you have to try each product for at least 3 – 7 days and if you don’t shampoo your hair everyday like me, some can take longer than others. So, um yes – that article is literally still in progress, or rather, in between hair masques.

Meanwhile, when I wasn’t doing my part to rebuild the French economy, I stopped into McDonald’s. Orrrrr, rather, my friend stopped into McDonald’s after tiring of hours spent at Monoprix. (I think I said,”But it’s for an article!” more than “Je voudrais”). I think at this point, it’s a rite of passage for every American in Paris to go into a McDonald’s and order a royale avec fromage as in Pulp Fiction and if you haven’t, please get it together – and watch this clip.

 

Can I just say for one minute, that McDonald’s fascinates me, for cultural and culinary reasons. I love McDonald’s – and I don’t have to be drunk to go. In fact, it’s one of my “last meals on earth” meals. But I’m under no illusions that I’m not eating food that will probably outlive me, which is why I find McDonald’s in Paris so fascinating. But leave it to Paris to give McDonald’s the majesty that its GMO food lacks. My mind was blown when I went inside and saw they had macarons at McDonald’s. YES. You read me right. Macarons in this b*tch.

mcdonalds macarons

And croissants. And pastries.

mcdonald's pastry window

And it was expensive. And there were mad people there shopping with bags all over them and it kind of reminded me of Times Squares, where everyone eats at the McDonald’s there after shopping because they’ve all spent their rent money at Zara. But I don’t think this was the case, per se. With prices like these (a full meal at McDonald’s costs about 13 euro), I think eating at McDonald’s acts as a kind of consumer good and conspicuous consumption act that can only make sense in Paris.

paris mcdonalds

And always being on a hunt for people to bother interview, I met a few subjects that were willing to give me a few quotes about the state of Parisian affairs with regards to race and postcolonialism, my favorite French subject.  The real gem was the man that stood outside of the line to the restrooms and told us all, for 20 minutes, how racist White people were in France and how we were all slaves to consumerism. The man had a point on all accounts, even if he was raving more than a little bit. He was too close for me to take a photo, but trust me, I wanted to.

Another cool thing about Paris? The street art and graffiti. On our bike ride, my friend and I kept seeing the work of Invader, whom I was unfamiliar with until this trip to Paris. This one piece that we saw on our bike ride, which was a nice consolation prize after standing in line for nearly two hours for the Picasso Museum, to no avail. (Spoiler alert: most of the Picassos you want to see anyway are at the MoMa in New York, though my personal favorite, The Old Guitarist, is in Chicago.)

space invaders

That said, bike rides: so much fun. The bike share in Paris: even MORE fun! I’m a big fan of them and often do them when I’m in San Francisco and New York. (C’mon L.A. I know you can do this.) When I lived in Paris, the woman that lived two floors below me (with her ridiculous collection of red leather bound books and the husband that she had been separated from for 14 years that came over for dinner on Wednesdays and sometimes with her boyfriend, BUT THAT’S A STORY FOR ANOTHER DAY) had a wonderful bike that she often let me borrow. So, it was great fun to ride my rented bike through the city and feel like a 21 year old student again. (But I’m much chicer than my 21 year-old self.)

 

My twin nephews just got their first set of wheels this Christmas and being that this will probably be a lifelong love with bikes of some sort, I just want it on the record that I told them NOT to ride their bikes in Paris, because it seems like a responsible disclaimer to put out there. Bike riding in Paris isn’t unsafe per se, if you’re used to riding with bikes in a major city, but pretty daunting if you’re not. And given how narrow the streets are…well, I wouldn’t say it’s for beginners, but then again, nothing is until you get the experience by beginning.  That being said, I absolutely think they’ll break my rule – as they should, which is why I also included this video for their future 20 and 21 year-old selves:

 

children's armour from the 16th century. My nephews need these for Halloween next year!

children’s armour from the 16th century. My nephews need these for Halloween next year!

powder flask

printemps window

And of course, there’s the other side to Paris that never gets written about until the banlieues burn or tragedies like Charlie Hebdo. And that’s the other Paris, the Paris of the 18th and 20th arrondissements, where many immigrants live, particularly Black and North African immigrants. It has a special fondness for me; my senior project in college was on French racism, mixed race communities and postcolonialism in Paris and so, it’s something that I intellectually revisit a lot. I did this project way before Tumblr and blogging became as huge as they are now, so it’s probably worth it to put that work online now. Either way, interviewing people of color, particularly women, was truly the highlight of this trip.

I’ve always thought it was fascinating that Paris became this refuge for so many African-Americans but was a very inhospitable place for so many people of African and North African descent. And given the subject matter that my own writing finds itself at the nexus of, it’s hard to not think and write about French racism when you know how bad it is. And many of the Black people in France are watching what’s happening in the U.S. and are in turn, speaking out about the rampant racism in their own societies. I don’t think that the search for equality in France is all that much different than what many Black people are fighting for, still, in the U.S. And I think it’s particularly important to make sure that Black oppression is put into a global context, because it happens globally and it has ramifications, globally. It’s important to look at what Paris, which functions as an example of civility and elegance throughout the world, especially the Western world, is doing with regards to its communities of color. Basically, what I’m saying is that its ironic that the most elegant city in the Western world treats a great deal of its non-White citizens horribly, in subtle and not so subtle ways. The pressure to conform to the proxy of Whiteness is all around, in subtle and not so subtle ways – like this skin bleaching cream below.

oh dear.

oh dear.

Though Paris is hardly representative of the world, it is very cool to see that the conversations of White supremacy, Blackness, anti-Blackness and inclusion are important conversations that are really on the conversational pulses of societies in Europe and from what I can see and read, elsewhere. Hopefully, this site can do its part to further continue and push that dialogue and those necessary conversations, in the states and beyond.

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