Why J’ADORE Paris // a personal story

I get asked all the time why Paris is my favorite city in the world. Asking me why I love Paris is about like asking me why I love my daughter! There are too many reasons and not one is lesser or greater than the one before it. What I don’t like one bit is when tourists assume Paris will be one way or another, then find themselves hating Paris for not living up to their American standards. That’s when Mama Bear comes out. If you don’t like my kid city for who she is, fine. But give Chayce Paris a chance before judging her, okay?

I happen to believe Paris is the most magical place in the world. It may sound cliché, but it is perfectly true. Imagine yourself blissfully lost on one of Paris’s windy cobblestone streets. Your intent this morning was to stroll through Montmartre, then hike the indomitable steps of the Sacré-Coeur, but you’re now certain you took a wrong turn on the rue something or other. Textile stalls line the block, but their proprietors haven’t opened up shop. Your map seems useless and your tummy is growling. Up ahead is a small bookshop where you know you’ll find a million hidden treasures, but immediately to your left is a hunter green canopy and in gold leaf it tells you what you will soon discover to be the most splendid words in the French language: La Boulangerie. The street is perfumed with the decadent smell of newly baked bread that rose to perfection all night. The books and the Basilica will have to wait. You were meant to wander here.


The boulanger greets you with a hearty smile and kind eyes. An older couple chat closely and quietly en Français at one of the three tables in the tiny shop. The wife notices your reticence at ordering (or is it that you simply cannot decide?) and introduces herself, thankfully, in English. She and her husband spend most of the spring and summer in France, so she graciously translates between you and the baker. After a hearty chuckle, the baker passes you two small loaves of his breads {delicately wrapped in a linen-y craft paper and placed in a paper sack} and a scribbled note you can’t read. The lovely Englishwoman instructs you to take these gifts one block over and to pay the baker six Euros. The woman’s husband tells you to trust this advice and, thankfully, marks the way on your map to the Sacré-Coeur.

Outside, you can’t resist bringing the opening of the paper sack to your face.


You follow the baker’s instructions.

He has directed you to a cheesemaker’s (even smaller) shop. There is no ringing bell when you open the door. A stout madame offers little greeting beyond a “Bonjour.” She probably assumes you are a lost tourist who will leave once you discover there are no deli meats to compliment her fromage.  You present her with the baker’s note and a warm smile dances across her face. Through robust bouts of laughter, she regales you unendingly—in French—with what, you can only presume, is the story of the cheese you will now be buying from her (????? YOU THINK ?????). Or maybe it’s a story of the baker. Or of her grandchildren. You smile and awkwardly laugh along with her as she procures two plastic-wrapped dollops of milky-white goodness and a small carafe of wine half-corked. “You toast to happy accident!” This is the only English she will speak today or, perhaps, for a month. She swats your hand angrily when you dig for your money pouch. “Non! C’est un cadeau! Bon appétit!

Merci beaucoup.

There are many tourists in the garden fronting the Basilica where you stop to enjoy your gifts. Cameras, t-shirts, tackiness abound.


You are not one of them.

You’ve been merrily adopted into a special, beloved fold. The culture you thought abrasive and rude turned out to be genuine, gentle, and most generous. You lift the carafe to the Basilica and to happy accidents. And, also, to the baker, to the cheesemaker, to French-speaking Brits and to Paris.

Aller à Paris!


NOTE  //  The Sacré-Coeur is one of my favorite sights in Paris–even though the tourist booths (and tourists) are pretty cheesy. Climb the steps when you go! It is so worth it. It is open daily and admission is free. / If you would like to enjoy a baguette in Montmartre (the neighborhood where the Sacré-Coeur is located), I must recommend that you visit Pascal Barillon at Au Levain d’Antan. / For cheese, my neighborhood choice is Par Ici Les Fromages on rue Caulaincourt.