Directions: Start at a brocante (antique market). We chose the one at Richard Lenoir/Jean-Pierre Timbaud. Check this website (http://quefaire.paris.fr/brocantes) for dates and locations.
Step 1: Wander through the brocante, while daydreaming. Pick a few objects you’d furnish your fantasy apartment with (or real one if you like). Don’t feel pressured to buy, but take pictures of what you like. What objects speak to you? Why are you attracted to them? What hidden treasures would you hide in that vintage chest?
Nora: There’s nothing more fun than meandering through a Parisian flea market and drooling over antiques. My eye is naturally drawn to old cameras, typewriters, forgotten photographs, and sets of glassware that make me dream of hosting glamourous dinner parties. Most recently I fell in love with a small wooden box complete with a working lock and key. But at 70€ it was just a bit out of my price range.
Annie: I have a strange love (maybe addiction is a better word) for admiring decorations and antiques, but with my apartment being 15m2 (or roughly the size of an American bathroom), there is no room for more than the bare essentials. Still, wandering through the brocante and pausing at the stacks of old, handwritten postcards, vintage chests, old suitcases, and elaborately decorated jewelry boxes made me dream of the day when I will have a big enough apartment to fit them all in. I want to fill my future chest with letters, bad poems, maps, shells, scavenger hunts for when I’m bored, keys that open mysterious doors or are just there to confuse anyone who sneaks into my chest. An old leather chest seems like a fitting container for the mementos of both travels and home, the kinds of things you can only look at once in a while in order to preserve the power of their memories.
Step 2: After this exercise (both mental and physical), take a little rest at Boot Café (19 Rue du Pont aux Choux, 75003). At first sight, it looks like a shoe repair shop that fits 3 people. In real life, it’s a coffee shop that fits 3 people. People watch and eavesdrop as you please.
Nora: I know that many Parisians speak English, but I often disregard the fact that the people around me might be listening to and understanding my conversations. But even when strangers are eavesdropping, they rarely actually engage with me. Private conversations have no place in the shoebox that is Boot Café, but the size encourages a friendliness with strangers that is not always common in Paris. Annie and I were discussing the best places to get tacos in Paris (as a San Francisco native and former Stanford student often do), when suddenly the friendly English speaking barrista jumped in to ask, “Are you guys talking about tacos? Chilango! Best tacos is Paris.” I immediately grinned and wrote down the name, explaining to him that I’m constantly in taco withdrawal. There’s nothing better than a place with good coffee and personalized recommendations. This was one instance when I was glad someone was listening to my conversation.
Annie: Boot Café is probably the ideal place for eavesdropping in English in Paris given its size and crowd. After managing to get a seat out of the 6 that were there, Nora and I were informed that our respective orders of “café crème” and “cappucino” were actually the same thing. (“But make sure not to confuse the two,” advised a cute hipster guy with faded, ripped jeans). Said cute guy went on to discuss his art collective with the barista, which led me to two thoughts:
1. What is an art collective?
2. Are they all run by attractive Anglophone hipsters?
With its restrictive size, Boot is not a place to necessarily come and write/draw/read, but most definitely a place to come either by yourself and with friends to hear and be overheard.
Step 3: Drift over to Boulevard des Filles du Calvaire to Bonton, neighbor of Merci, a French concept for children and babies. Don’t worry, there’s something for adults too. Find the Photobooth and the wigs/accessories next to it. Dress up and be a little silly. For 2 euros, you get 4 shots so choose wisely. Make sure you pay attention because the first shot comes fast. Go with a friend or by yourself. Wait patiently for the sepia-tone photos on real photographic paper to develop. A souvenir for your day.