Leaving Food Crumbs Around Paris

Fifteen years ago, I was in my late twenties and munching my way around Paris.

I really do mean it quite literally. I had a habit of snacking while walking. I’d even go as far as to claim that snack-walking was my hobby. Conveniently burning away the calories while exploring the endless charms each arrondissement had to offer, that unique ambiance you can’t really put your finger on, but when the sun lights a building in a particular way and the air is crisp and warm at the same time. That family walking into the flower shop right there, the boulanger who always says Bonjour when I pass, the old lady who is pulling her shutters closed, leaves falling as I walk past the school with polite French kids who only skip around loudly when they are told they may. Entering the postcard shop I always enter and buying the ones I didn’t buy last time.

I didn’t mean to burn calories, I just couldn’t stop walking. How could I commute to work with the métro in this lovely city, I would miss all the fun! And the snacking, I didn’t mean that either. Paninis, crêpes, Mon Chéri chocolates, pain au chocolates or those lovely ones with raisins, ooh – I always had some treat or other traveling towards my mouth.

Early on, I was quite aware that this was not a particularly French thing to do, as I kept getting calls of “Bon ap’!!!” accompanied by snickering wherever I went, and I could feel all eyes on me. But I embraced my non-Frenchness, maybe they thought I was American (sorry, guys!), who cares. It even came to my attention that no French people, ever in the history of time, were to be seen with takeaway coffee on the streets. They all had time to sit down and enjoy it properly. Walking around carrying a hot beverage was a disgrace, as far as I could tell.

On the other hand, my French colleagues were already ordering lunch delivered to the office back then, and that didn’t start happening in Helsinki until the pandemic hit. We even had Christmas lunch delivered one year. The company was treating us to a special festive meal and we were given a menu of three options to choose from. I don’t remember what I chose but I remember all my colleagues chose a dish with some kind of delicate bird – my French readers will certainly know what it was. To me, it had sounded too exotic, but when I saw the dishes arrive, it was clear my dish wasn’t as tasty as theirs. They’d automatically known the hidden correct answer to the multiple choice questionnaire of what to order in France for Christmas at work. Another fail for me in the eating department! I told myself, never mind, I’m not French anyway!

Je t’invite, I invite you – I like the word play of how a French person tells you they will pay for your share. In Finland, even if you are invited to an event or a dinner at a restaurant, it is usually assumed everyone will pay for their own share, so an invite does not, in my mind, automatically mean I am being offered something. There were other words too that I rolled around in my mouth (between snacks), false friends like baskets, which meant sneakers, and people, which meant celebrities.

My almost-French-looking skinny Finnish friend, who had lived in Paris longer than me, liked shopping in the tiny Finnish food market which shipped in fresh salmon and the daily newspaper, and sold Finnish staples like rye bread and salty licorice. I didn’t miss Finnish food because I was in France to experience France. My dear friend never snacked on the street like me.

But I didn’t always snack alone. A Hungarian girl from work would walk with me in the tiny green parks nearby, after work, and we’d drink sweet Tunisian mint tea in tiny coffee shops and lick our fingers after sticky Chinese food. At her place, we’d watch her cat dive into paper bags again and again, as if it was the funnest thing in the world. I’d leave with a runny nose, since I was allergic to cats.

My other friends, mostly from work or met through mutual acquaintances – Finnish, French, Czech, German – took me to nice places for drinks and to clubs to hear live music and dance. We went running and had picnics by the Seine, there were apéros and museum visits, and I had a favourite bookstore. It always felt like a very safe place and I hadn’t a worry in the world. Before Paris, there’d been Montpellier, and a lot of familiar faces from those days were still hanging out in France too, some of them really settling in, getting married, and flaunting Facebook photos of sunbathing on a yacht in the Côte d’Azur. I’ve lost touch with them all, since I stopped using Facebook.

But for a moment, Paris was mine and life was treating me deliciously.

What were you doing 15 years ago?

84 responses to “Leaving Food Crumbs Around Paris

  1. That was a lovely walk through your days in Paris Snow. The little snippets of people and encounters brought everything to life. Well written! I enjoyed reading it with my first coffee of the morning 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Lovely memories. I was too busy smoking in the streets to be able to snack as well. 😉 No, not true, I always preferred to have a gelato while walking and still do, since I stopped smoking in 2007. Fifteen years ago, in 2006? Hm… Nothing solid comes to mind. I suppose I was waiting for my life to begin.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Wonderful story this is. I can séé you walking and munching in Paris, and diving into life there in this lovely age of late twenties, when the mind is as open as can be and the body never protests. And I agree, Paris is a city to walk in. It’s not overly large and around every streetcorner there is something pretty or interesting wating. The city has an open feel, as if something of the bright blueness of the south is already seeping in. Fifteen years ago I made a long trip through the USA, that is still very present in my recollection. It made me understand the country (much) better, like every trip in every country does – the reason why traveling is so much fun.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I know exactly what you mean by the bright blueness of the south seeping in – those are the moments that feel special, that give you that feel of wow, I’m here right now. The thrill of something new yet oddly familiar, the sweet warmth of the sun earlier in spring than you expected it, the terraces open year round, the freedom of choice. And yes, in my twenties I didn’t worry. I trusted things would go my way. Now, it’s different: I know too much about the world and I wish I didn’t.
      Long trips are priceless and live on in our memories. And I agree, they help you understand so much better.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I also love walking around Paris and usually also snacking to offset the hunger that quickly arrives which is apparently not the French way (but so many things to eat in a short time when visiting!). Some things are best left in the past in their original state with the same whismiscal feelings. 15 years ago, I went to Europe for the first time. And so started my love for travel and seeing beautiful places.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes! I feel like Paris was made for long walks! That’s the whole point of going there, in my opinion. A few times I did a weekend trip there and it was pouring rain. I had packed lightly so I didn’t want to get wet, and I felt like I was really missing out, those weekend trips didn’t turn out like I’d imagined: walks, picnics, sitting in a park or by the Seine just watching people go about their lives… So I’m glad I got to spend longer periods of time there, with plenty of sunny weather too 😋 Here’s to seeing more beautiful places in the future!!

      Like

  5. What a lovely post! I almost felt as though I was walking the streets with you! …and I’m all good with walking and eating! and sitting and eating 😊 And drinking tea and coffee and anything with ice cream! …15 years ago? I was working and living where I am now, probably planning my next vacation somewhere with a beach attached 😁

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I´ve never been to Paris, so it´s quite dreamy to be taken into your memory lane of the city of love.I wish to visit this city soon. A walk is always better with a snack! Lol
    Hmmm 15 years ago , I am still in Kuwait, sitting in a lab and still have no idea what Winter with snow is.
    Quite funny, I took a semester of French lessons way back in Ph but now I am still struggling with my newfound language-Deutsch!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Your German seems to be quite proficient so well done for that! Amd now you are so close to all the European capitals! Have you managed to visit any, before Covid? Well, The Netherlands obviously, but other countries nearby? 😊 With a small kid it’s a bit trickier. We haven’t traveled with the boys yet, they’ve only been to Estonia for a day.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you! But Oh no, I still have a long way to go to master it.Right now I am not putting so much stress about it but I am trying to learn it everyday.We went only to few countries, but then with limited vacation days and Natalie was before often sick it´s hard, let alone I haven´t even been able to completely explore Germany.
        I´ve been convincing my husband to visit Helsinki :´))) and you know that my daughter is crazy about Samu Haber from the Voice of Germany Haha

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hope Natalie is healthier now? I didn’t know there was a Finn on your tv (and I barely know who that is 😂). I’ve never been a fam of Finnish pop culture (incl.music), I prefer sunnier music like samba for example! And French movies are my fave. Germany is a large place, lots to explore, I’m sure! I’ve only been to Hamburg and Berlin. Oh, and a small town near Frankfurt for a few hours. I bet all the German areas are quite different from each other. Anyway, it would be great if you visited! 🤗 I’m looking forward to meeting up, hopefully Covid will be over soon and life will go back to normal. Kids are missing out – this pandemic has been going on for already like 1/3 of my boys’ lives so far! They probably don’t remember pre-Covid days! So odd.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Hope fully too!
            She has this thing of wanting to join the the voice kids Germany..Hehehe i think all children wants to join only if they have the voice and talent! He´s a coach there but he speaks not so good German but very fluent in English so Natalie likes the way he behave, I guess children finds it funny.
            Yes, we can only hope that traveling will be safe soon and we can stop worrying.But as of this time…we are far from it.

            Liked by 1 person

  7. What lovely stroll, back in time, through Paris. I’m in total agreement with it being a city to explore on foot. There’s something around every corner. I’m also with you on the snacking. I spent a lot of time going in and out of bakeries!
    15 years ago, I was living in a small town in Washington State. I’d just bought a house and was starting to put in a tropical garden with plants that would survive that climate!

    Liked by 2 people

    • A tropical garden always sounds good, I’m trying to grow one too (indoors). Well, more or less. A real garden would be great.
      And yes, bakeries! Fresh baguette anytime. Over here, nobody visits a bakery daily for bread and bakeries are actually quite hard to find

      Liked by 1 person

      • Funny that I don’t have a garden here though. I guess I can see everyone else’s. I hope your indoor garden does well. It’s been years since I had a really good fresh baguette.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. 15 years ago? I was probably having the time of my life – meeting a lot of new people from around the world and going out. Life was definitely much easier back then.

    The only time I snacked while walking was when I was a kid, walking back home from the bus stop, finishing chips and other not-so-nutritious foods before I got inside the house. Nowadays, I like to keep my eyes open for my surroundings, so I would either miss my mouth while feeding myself or break my ankle by stepping wrong.

    I remember when an ex-co-worker of mine came back from visiting Paris, there were two things they noticed most – 1) no one wears scrubs outside (I always wondered how nurses wore scrubs outside, getting them dirty and then providing patient care in them…) and 2) no one seems to be commuting with a drink in hand (here, in the US, that is unthinkable).

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I enjoyed the mental picture of you munching your way around Paris! I don’t tend to eat while walking very often (in spite of being American – haha), but I do remember one trip where our family of five bought a few baguettes and were simply unable to get them back to the apartment and just started tearing into them right on the street. Yum!! I’m sure the Left Bank locals thought we were heathens!

    Fifteen years ago I still had all three kids at home – yikes – that seems like both forever ago and just yesterday!

    Liked by 2 people

    • An empty nest, so bittersweet – in the midst of playschool and work chaos, I can’t imagine how it’ll feel when the kids are all grown up and start their own lives! Luckily you have nice memories to bring back to mind, like that baguette moment 😊 Hopefully we’ll get to travel with the boys too, when things get back to normal!
      (Ps. Everything American is very popular over here in Finland!)

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Alison! I can barely remember any if it anymore, so much has happened since! I wrote a few posts about it when I first started blogging (years ago) and I’m glad I did because I’m all drained out for Paris stories nowadays!
      Take care!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. OMW that made me think to many more years ago than that double + when I was au pair in Paris and also walking the streets and had to have a pastry a day.. I eventually started walking with no money in my pockets.. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  11. True, people tend to not eat on the street in Paris. Or between meals either… (Ah! le parfum d’un baguette toute chaude…)
    15 years ago? We were here. I was trying to keep my market research agency afloat. Lots of hours…
    All well with you “Lumi”?

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’ve been in Mexico that long? So it truly is your home – after all that globetrotting in your childhood, I’m not surprised it’s not in France. ☺️ We are okay, thanks – you and your daughters, all good now? We are pretty much back to normal here but the Covid situation is much worse here than it was last year.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, it’s a lifetime. And my Gipsy mind urges me to find other destinations… When we can fly again. All good thank you. My wife and I got our first shot yesterday. Pfizer. Which changes perspectives. I understand vaccination in Europe is very slow. And that there have been issues with Astra-Zeneca.
        Stay safe. You did catch the bug, right? This should keep you safe for a little while. Though not 100%.
        🙏🏻

        Liked by 1 person

          • Vaccination will help. Now, a treatment is direly needed. And there is zip.
            It may go on. And on. I may have told you: my grandmother lost a sister and a very close cousin to the Spanish flu in 1918, and another sister to TB early 20’s. And people moved on. We will have to. Meantime… stay safe “Lumi”.

            Liked by 1 person

  12. What could be happier than snacking while walking on the street right, hehe? I could imagine how you navigate the streets in Paris with crumbs trail following you behind. Here, its a norm that people snack anything you could imagine, on the street and in the car too…oops. Thank you for sharing your moments in Paris.

    15 years ago, I was busy hiking in the mountains, exploring the world beneath the waves, backpacking to South East Asia and pretty much learning to become who I am eventually.

    Liked by 2 people

      • I like having momos on Bangalore’s streets( these are stuffed dumpling with very spicy red chilly chutney ), paani puri, bhel, another thing I like is the 100 variety dosa stalls where they customize dosa stuffings as per your demand. Then there is desi chinese food like noodles, etc and local dishes like bisi bele bath, medhu vadas etc. available on the streets. I am sorry these may be very novel names for some, but it would require quite some words to describe these street snacks in English.. 🙂 Love from India. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  13. My trip to Paris was much too short, but I LOVED walking everywhere! So many hidden treasures to pass along the way. 🙂 15 years ago, I had three kids ranging from 2 1/2 – 6, busy with all that entails, still living in my hometown in my first home thinking I’d never leave….now we are three cities and six houses later, have done lots of traveling, and are beginning to empty our nest and think about how life is shifting once again. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh what a thought! I’m going to hang onto that! 😉😋 Areas most visited: the 14th, Opéra, St-Germain-des-Pres, Levallois. Walking from Opéra to Levallois took a good hour, that was one of my home-from-work walks for a while

      Liked by 1 person

  14. This blog reminds me of the Netflix series ’emily in Paris’….do watch it…am sure you can relate to it….it’s also about a non french girl(American in this case) going to work and live in Paris…and how she finds friends, love and acceptance there. 💖💖

    Liked by 2 people

  15. I love this piece – could we republish it please? Of course all links and credits to you. We are a new online magazine for women who are past small children but not ready for an old folks home. We search the internet for well written gems that we can share with our readers. Pls take a look and let me know if you are happy to share. Thank you C&L

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Pingback: Leaving food crumbs around Paris – and in other news·

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