Paris France, continues to be one my favorite places on the planet.
At the age of 38, I visited Paris for the first time. As a die-hard political/community activist and a committed workaholic, I was snobbish about the idea of devoting time to non-productive activity such as leisure travel. In my classic American fashion, I thought, “What, me relax? As a recovering Catholic with free-floating guilt, exacerbated by ingrained perfectionism, I figured I’d relax after achieving my career goals which included full equality for my race and gender. That was the attitude I took with me to France, a country where leisure and artistic pursuits are considered noble and laudable in their own right.
Paris provided me with a unique cultural shock which, once I adapted to it, became a delightful revelation. Americans “live to work” – the French “work to live”. Paris taught me the importance of bringing balance to my life, of making time for beauty, music and play. I discovered an entirely different way of being alive and it instilled in me a new joie de vivre (the joy of living). Paris, its people, its museums, cafes, languorous night life and savoir faire, slowed me down and softened me up enough to finally see and feel how short, fleeting, unpredictable and precious life really is. Paris showed me that I could get far more pleasure from life than I had been allowing myself to have. I knew before my visit was over that even when I returned to America, my life would never be the same. And I was right.
It was in Paris that I first discovered that travel was the music of my soul. Travel, with its unparalleled ability to bring magic and joy into my life propelled me to launch a new career as a travel writer. I claim Paris as a kind of birthplace of my creative spirit, my lust for personal freedom and for making me a traveler for life.
And to think that my reluctance to travel there almost kept me at home. As an African American, I instinctively projected onto other European countries, like France, the racism I had experienced in my own country. I assumed that France would turn out to be another country full of white people who, by means both subtle and overt, would make me feel like a less than welcome stranger in their homeland. My apprehensions about vacationing in France were quickly quelled as I came to realize that much of the racism that I experience in America would not be replicated in Paris.
Before taking that soul-defining trip, I was skeptical about the wonderful things I had heard from African Americans that I knew and loved about this magical city called Paris. However, when a dear friend and her professor husband went to live there again, for another one of his 6-month sabbaticals, they invited me to share in their French lifestyle and I decided to give it a try. Within hours of arriving there I fell in love with Paris and Paris fell in love with me and I have been traveling there regularly ever since.
Bonne Journee, Elaine Lee
“No city seduces as skillfully as Paris. With a sly, knowing wink, the City of Light steals your heart with one clear, small joyous moment after another. Linger too long on the Pont des Arts and passion may nudge your slumbering spirit awake, or kiss your lips, or turn you into a whimsical work of art”. H. Thompson
“It’s true, Paris is where I became possible. Its where I became free.” Janet McDonald
“I have become parisianized…the great merit of the place is that one can arrange one’s life here exactly as one pleases…there are facilities for every kind of habit and taste, and everything is accepted and understood.” Henry Jame (1876)
“I cannot tell you what an immense impression Paris made upon me. It is the most extraordinary place in the world!” Charles Dickens (1844)
“Open my heart and you will see engraved inside of it, Paris.” Paraphrased from Robert Browning Quote
“If I had to choose between heaven and Paris, Paris would win every time.” Ossie Davis
“I love Paris because Paris loves me!” D. Long
Below you will find a list of books, websites and tips compiled by Elaine Lee that might help you plan a journey there.
BLACK PARIS WEBSITES/Tours
Check out the happenings at http://maisoncna.org/ The website sometimes has listing of afrocentric events in Paris
www.walkingthespirit.com – guided walking tours of Black Paris
www.discoverparis.net – Personalized Itineraries for Independent Black Travelers
Little Africa Paris Guide Book and Tours – http://littleafrica.fr/la-home/
Meeting Places/Groups (Ex-pat &/or English speaking)
- Storytelling Evenings by Bernadette Martin
- Salon Sessions – Rose ReyesPolyglot Party
- Lost in Frenchlation – Manon and Matt
- Internationals in Paris (Meetup)
- Adrian Leeds – Après Midi
- Facebook – American Expats in Paris
- Women of Paris Tours, Heidi Evans
I buy a lebara sim card and pop it in my iphone and buy their international plan that $24 for 30 days…almost unlimited calling to usa and in france.
Take a boat ride down seine at twilight then you can get day light one way and nite light on the way back. if that is not possible then a day trip is great! Batobus : http://www.batobus.com/english/index.htm
Best bus routes – #69 and #42 – you will get great tour of the city!!!
I get money via atm’s in Paris, unfortunately most banks charge a conversion fee but its better than trying to deal with traveler’s checks or changing money over here. Find out what your bank’s sister bank in Paris to reduce the amount of bank fees.
Use a credit card that doesn’t charge a foreign conversion fee, so it might behoove you to order one before you go.
Learn french via your ipod – google translate – i also listen to micheal thomas “learning french” cd’s or on my iphone
Consider visiting a traditional north african steam bath Hammam les bains maures, they have one for women and one for men. 54 boulevard de la Chapelle;(18th) lesbainsmaures.com or Ban Mai Thai –99 rue de la glacière. they have $55 specials before 2pm.
I enjoy visiting the antique markets/brocantes.There are weekly pop up ones- https://vide-greniers.org. When visiting established ones like clignancourt be sure to time it so you can visit Chez Louisette for lunch and check out their French campy singers. It’s like stepping back 30+ years. So fun!
Info for Americans in Paris can be found at the American church resource center and fusac.fr
Alliance Francaise is a resource center for people who want to learn more about France, the French and the their language. They have centers in France and in the USA. www.Alliancefr.org
Sampling of some of my favorite African, African American and Caribbean Restaurants
Villa Maasaï, 9 Boulevard des Italiens, 75002 Tel: 33 1 42 33 16 03
Armelle et Henri – Caribbean Cuisine, 3 rue Aduran, 75018 Tel: 01 42 52 36 97
The Equator- African Cuisine, 151 rue Saint Maur 75011, Tel: 01 43 57 99 22
La Petite Dakar- African Cuisine, 6 rue Elzevir, 75003, Tel: 01 44 59 34 74
Afriknfusion – 4 spots in Paris
Chez Omar, North African, 47 Rue de Bretagne, 75003, Tel: 01 42 72 36 36
Below is a list of some of my favorite other restaurants
Cafe Janou – Traditional French with delicious “all you can eat chocolate mousse” for dessert – In the Marais
Restaurant Coreen – Korean Faire – try their amazing fried chicken wings! 6 rue Blainville (75005) near Mouffetard
Nouri Lebanese Restaurant has amazing chicken sandwiches. 27 avenue Marceau (75116) near Champs Elysees – they actually have several locations.
Mirama has yummy soups and delicious basic chinese food. 15 rue Saint Jacques (75005) near Saint Michael metro
La Closiere de Lilas, 171 boulevard du Montparnasse, (75006) nice place to stop for a drink—it was one of Ernest Hemingway’s favorite hangouts.
Le Relais de Venise is a my favorite steak house, yummo! 271 Blvd Pereire near metro Port Maillot. Its usually very crowded so you have to get there for lunch or before they open up for dinner at 5pm otherwise you will be waiting.
La Couple has good French food in a upscale dining environment – 102, bd du Montparnasse(75014) Subway : Vavin
“Since Paris is so expensive, I usually stay in apartments where I can cook my own meals. I enjoy exploring Paris’s numerous neighborhood farmers’ markets where the food is more affordable than grocery stores. I rarely dine out but when I generally eat at cheap ethnic restaurants”.
I usually visit one of the popular jazz clubs (duc lombards, sunrise or new morning) and pick up some of the entertainment guides/pamphlets that are in English. They are usually published monthly. If I can’t find a Lylo guide then I also check Lylo.com. They have daily concert listings on their site as well as a listing for free concerts.
I also like https://www.sortiraparis.com for event listings.
http://www.parisvoice.com – Webzine, entertainment and info site in english
A fun club scene with a lively cabaret show that includes patrons dancing on the table tops…is trois mailletz. its located in the latin quarter. http://www.lestroismailletz.fr/
Le Comptoir General: West African restaurant, bar and a cool oasis like place to hang out. 80 Quai de Jemmapes 10th arrondissement
My favorite Karaoke bar is the New York Cafe – 60 Rue Mouffetard – 75005
Friday Night you can hang out with the Uruguayan community and get a delicious steak dinner, live band and dancing for $14 – starts about 8-9pm – Associan Amitié France Uruguay, 21 ter rue Voltaire 75011 phone -01 43 72 15 73
Sampling of Jazz Clubs – Jazz was introduced to France by African-American army band musicians during WW I and the love affair continues today. For the latest jazz happenings, check out www.parisjazzclub.net/en
- The Duc De Lombard (named after Duke Ellington), 42 rue des Lombards, 75001
- The Sunrise and the Sunset Club, 60 rue des Lombards, 75001 (i like their open mics)
- Baiser Salé– 58 Rue des Lombards, 75001 – (i like their open mics)
- 38 Riv Jazz Club – 38 Rue de Rivoli, 75004 – (i like their open mics)
- The New Morning, 7 rue des Petites Ecuriers 75010
- Caveau De La Huchette – 42 rue de la Huchette, 75010
- Petit Journal Montparnasse 13, rue du Commandant Mouchotte, 75014
- Le Bal Blomet-33 rue Blomet, 75015
- Jazz Club Etoile- 81 Bd Gouvion-Saint-Cyr, 75017
Salsa in Paris Paris has a smoking salsa scene but i can’t seem to find a great website for you.You could visit master salsa teacher, Terri’s website www.salsalianza.fr or visit https://salsa.faurax.fr/index.php/dpt/75
My FAV – Upon the return of warm weather, dance reasserts itself on the banks of the Seine. Every evening at 18h from June to mid September, small arenas on the quai Saint Bernard, near the Square Tino Rossi, close to the Institut du Monde Arabe, you can dance Salsa, Tango, Folk, Latin or Folk dance and much more. Add a picnic basket and you’ll have the most memorable evening in Paris. Esplanade du Quai Saint Bernard – Best salsa nights are Thursday – Saturday starting at 8:30-11, Sunday times vary.
or try one of the following clubs that he suggests you try.
thursday and monday-la pachanga, rue vandamme in the montparnasse area
tuesday, le balajo, rue de lappe in bastille area
Wednesday and other nights as well – Cubana Café, 47 Rue Vavin, 75006 Paris, France
Radio and Television
89.9 – TSF JazzThe only French station devoted to jazz 24 hours a day!
92.6 – Media Tropical – Music of the French Islands. Their Web site provides info on major festivities and cultural happenings. www.mediatropical.com
97.8 – Ado FM – This station plays R & B.
101.5 – Radio Nova Round-the-world music. Pre-recorded, little talk or advertisers. Local events and happenings.
106.3- Fréquence Paris Plurielle Rap, soul, R & B. Community radio, cultural programs, political debates. 10a.m. to noon, focus on the Black community.
107.5 – Contemporary African music broadcasting. African news and events. www.africa1.com
France 24 -France’s new 24-hour cable news station has one channel in English. www.france24.com
Housing is often the most expensive part of a journey to Paris. If money is an issue, consider sharing or swapping an apartment with a French person/family by joining a home/hospitality exchange club such as intervac.com or homeexchange.com, which has quite a few Parisian members.
If you have a bit more financial latitude, why not consider renting an apartment.
Here are several short term furnished apartment websites that you can use to accomplish that task:
- Award-winning Responsible Travel company, Untours (Tel +1 888-868-6871) which arranges flights and two-week stays in Parisian apartments.
- Cross-Pollinate (www.cross-pollinate.com) is a small accommodation agency with B&Bs and private apartments all over Europe. They personally inspect all properties which have good value and reflect what living in those cities is like. Prices tend to the budget side and the list is small and manageable.
- Feels Like Home in Paris (www.feelslikehomeinparis.com) is an agency I can personally vouch for. In addition to a number of high-quality and luxury furnished apartments in Paris (€550-€2000/week), they also offer travel services such as guided tours, cooking classes, and and wine tasting.
- RothRay (www.rothray.com) has been around for awhile; they own and exclusively manage ten quality properties in central Paris, most in the Marais, with a minimum 7-night stay.
- Paristay (www.paristay.com) It’s pretty clear what you’re getting, with less of the “fluff” you see on sites aimed at tourists.
- Rendez-vous à Paris (www.rendez-vousaparis.com) has a handful of carefully-chosen properties in prime central Parisian locations at €100-€400 per night).
- Ah! Paris (www.ahparis.com) lists a large selection of rentals with reasonable all-inclusive per night rates (€80-€280 per night) without additional commissions or fees.
- Haven in Paris (www.haveninparis.com) has furnished luxury vacation rentals or corporate apartment and villa rentals in Paris, Provence & Tuscany.
- Paris Perfect (www.parisperfect.com) offers luxury Paris apartment rentals with central locations, Eiffel Tower views, balconies, etc. for up to 8 guests.
- Of course there is always airbnb but they have gotten rather expensive over the years and the selections are scarce. Also consider craigslist new york…lots of new yorkers have apt is paris that they rent out through craigslist new york.
Hotels – If money is not an obstacle and/or you prefer residing in a hotel, consider the following:
- • Murano Urban Resort, 13 Boulevard du Temple, 75003 Tel : 01 42 71 20 00
- • L’Hotel, 13 rue des Beaux Arts, 75006 Tel: 01 44 41 99 00
- • Plaza Athenee, 25 avenue Montaigne, 75008, Tel: 01 53 67 66 65
- • Hotel Parc Saint-Severin, 22 Rue De La Parcheminerie, 75005, Tel: 01 43 54 32 17
- • Hotel Massenet, 5 bis, rue Massenet, 75116 Tel: 01 45 24 43 03
- • Hotel des Grand Ecole, 75005 Rue des Cardinelle Lemonias 75005 Tel: 01455679
- Hotel Muget 11 rue Chevert 75007 Tel : 01 47 05 05 93
- Hotel Alcyon, 17 rue de Prague 75012, Tel: 01 43 43 66 35
- Hotel College de France, 7 rue Thenard, 75005, Tel: 01 43 26 78 36.
- Hôtel Résidence des Gobelins 9, rue des Gobelins, 75014 Tel: 01.47.07.26.90 Owned/managed by a Jamaican couple.
- Hotel Minerva 13, Rue des Ecoles 75005 Tel: 01 43 26 26 04
Street and covered food markets provide a splendid, tempting array of all kinds of food and are popular with both local Parisians and tourists alike. The real street food markets usually start between 07:00am to 08:00am and generally start to close down at around 13:00. Some of the most popular Paris food markets include:
- Bastille – Bastille Square, Boulevard Lenoir, open Sundays and Thursday – my fav!
- The African Market at Chateau-Rouge
- Belleville – Boulevard de Belleville, open Tuesday and Friday
- Buci – Rue de Buci and Rue de Seine, open Tuesday to Sunday
- Carmes – Place Maubert 5e, open Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday
- Convention – Rue de la Convention, open Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday
- Dejean – Place du Château-Rouge, open Tuesday to Sunday
- Enfants-Rouge – 39 Rue de Bretagne 3e, open Tuesday to Saturday
- Monge – Place Monge 5e, open Wednesday, Friday and Sunday
- Montorgueil – Rue Montorgueil 5e, open Tuesday and Sunday
- Mouffetard – Rue Mouffetard 5e, open Tuesday to Sunday
- Place d’Aligre – 12e M° Ledru-Rollin, open Tuesday to Saturday
- Port-Royal – Boulevard de Port-Royal 5e, open Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday
- Porte-St-Martin – Rue de Château-d’Eau 10e, open Tuesday to Sunday
- Raspail – Boulevard Raspail, open Tuesday, Friday and Sunday
- Rue Lévis – 17e M° Villiers, open Tuesday and Sunday
- Rue du Poteau – 18e M° Jules-Joffrin, open Tuesday and Saturday
- St-Germain – Rue Mabillon 6e, open Tuesday and Sunday
- Ternes – Rue Lemercier 17e, open Tuesday and Sunday
BOOKS ON BLACK PARIS
– Paris Noir: African Americans in the City of Light by Tyler Stovall, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1996, 366 pages, $24.95. (Chronicles the life and times of the African American presence in Paris)
Soul on the Seine: Your Hip Guide to Black Paris Book by Robin Bates, La Jolie Noire Publications, 200 pages, February 2008, $15 (It is a unique travel publication that looks at a modern, urban Paris from an African American perspective.)
– Black Girl in Paris by Shay Youngblood, Riverhead Books, 2000, 256 pages, $12.00. (An intriguing examination of the twentieth century African-American history in the French capital through the dreams of a young expatriate)
– Eugene Bullard: Black Expatriate in the Jazz-Age Paris by Craig Lloyd, University of Georgia Press, 2000, $26.95 (profile of a jazz drummer and freedom fighter who live in Paris during the early part of the 1900’s)
– Black Paris: The African Writer’s Landscape by Benetta Jules-Rosette, University of Illinois Press, 2000, $17.95 (Focuses on the Parisian Negritude movement from the perspective of writers of African descent. Includes interviews, poetry and insightful essays)
– Richard Wright’s Travel Writings, edited by Virginia Smith, University of Mississippi Press, 2001, $18.00 (Chronicles the author’s travel writing from 1946 to 1960)
– Kattraxing Through Paris by Kat St. Thomas, Regent Press, 2002, $20 (Veteran tour guide provides the inside scoop on travel to Black Paris)
– Paris Reflections: Walks Through Black Paris by Christianne Anderson and Monique Wells, McDonald & Woodward Publishing Company, 2002, $17.95 (The book outlines six detailed walks through Black Paris)
-When African American Came to Paris by Joanne and David Burke. It also has a companion film.
-Little Africa Paris Guide Book and Tours – http://littleafrica.fr/la-home/
-Another book to consider is mine, of course! Go Girl: The Black Woman’s Book of Travel and Adventure by Elaine Lee. Included in its 52 RIVETING TRAVELS TALES are four stories about traveling and living in Paris.
Here are a few GENERIC Paris, France travel books that I found helpful:
– When In France by Christopher Sinclair Stevenson
– Walking Paris by Christopher Turner
– A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
– Paris Handbook by Lonely Planet
Bicycling in Paris –
If you watched the Tour de France arrive in Paris, you may have seen the 365 Vélib riders cruising down the same route along the Champs-Elysées, a symbolic gesture to celebrate one year of municipal bike service. Aside from three deadly accidents and the high cost of repairs and theft, the Vélib has been a huge success, and has migrated to 16 other French cities. The site www.mdb-idf.org (under “Pratique” and “Vélocistes Parisiens”) has bike rental shops listed by arrondissement. Another great site is www.gepetto-et-velos.com, who h ave two locations in the Latin Quarter. The Roue Libre site (www.rouelibre.fr) seems to be under construction, but they have two shops, one at the Forum des Halles (on the Rue Rambuteau side) and at the Place de la Bastille (on Boulevard Bourdon) with inexpensive daily, weekly and monthly rentals.