My most enjoyable afternoons in Paris are typically those without an agenda, meaning I can wander and explore to my heart’s content. Whenever in the 3rd, I will make a point to stop by Merci, a three-story design concept shop known for its sweet little red car, as well as its ever-changing fashion and design collections. Its café, located right next door, has 10,000 used books that you can choose from while enjoying a light fare. After having a coffee, I walked towards the Bastille, in the 11th arrondissement, where I pleasantly discovered two passages, the first being Cour Damoye. The cobblestone street is home to beautiful architecture; traditional lampposts and tall white houses covered with ivy make this street picture-perfect. Farther along, I stumbled upon Passage l’Homme, a beautifully lush alleyway with a plethora of plants. The sun had just come out after a rainfall, creating an amazing abundance of sunlight. I continued on my walk, and ended up along the Seine where summer is in full swing thanks to the Paris Plages, make-up beaches equipped with sand and deck chairs, and ice cream vendors too – nothing better than a cold glace (ice cream) after a long day of walking.
I enjoyed a part of the weekend in Paris, where I got to catch up with good friends over French food – nothing better than that. For brunch one morning, my friend Lizzie and I met at a nearby Pain Quotidien on the ancient Rue Lepic, one of favorite streets in Paris (it leads up to Montmartre, which I made my way up to afterwards). At the corner of the bustling Rue Lepic and Rue des Abbesses, the café is perfect for people watching over a simple, yet delicious breakfast of warm croissants, good espresso and granola parfaits. Bon app!
The Jardin du Luxembourg may be my favorite park in all of Paris. With such close proximity to the Latin Quarter, it makes for the perfect stop after a day of wandering. After browsing the Abbey Bookshop, a charming English bookstore overflowing with used and new books, I headed over to the Jardin with a new book to read and a few hazelnut chocolate truffles to satisfy my constant, never ending chocolate cravings. The park’s tree lined walkways are spectacular and more colorful than ever this time of year, and the warm fall weather encourages both locals and tourists alike to relax in the sun for a bit and perhaps even sail a toy boat in the Grand Basin.
Going to a café is one of my favorite simple pleasures, as it’s the one time during my day when I feel like I don’t need to work through my to-do list, and can allow myself to just be present in the moment. It’s not a traditional comparison, but I’ve started to relate my café outings to yoga, as it gives me the chance to pause for a moment, decompress and reflect – with the minor difference that in lieu of achieving this during downward dog (or "chien tête baissé" as I’ve learned here in practice), it’s while sipping un café au lait. Although I’m not focusing on deep, five-count breathing in and out through my nose, while engaging my uddiyana bandha, it’s a form of mediation nonetheless, because I learn to let go. This state of mindfulness allows me to “clear the clutter” and be fully drawn into my current environment; an intricate blend of other lives, cultures, languages and habits. It’s refreshing and feels self-indulgent, yet also very humbling and natural all at the same time. One of my favorite yoga instructors frequently reminds us that our time at the studio is about taking care of ourselves and that we don’t have anything, nor anyone to worry about during the next 75 minutes of practice. I’m not sure why it can be so difficult at times to do something for ourselves that is in fact so very much needed, but I am often guilty of needing to be told that it is OK. Similar to how those 75 minutes of sweat (did I mention that it’s hot yoga?) and mediation are solely meant for me, going to the café is too, but with a whole lot less sweat. Namaste.