Playing Tourist in a Familiar Place


As we all know, it’s one thing to visit a place several times, but quite another to actually live there. Like so many others, I’ve fantasized about life in France—and specifically, in Paris—for years. But now that I’m fortunate enough to live just 40 minutes south of the City of Light (thanks to France’s fabulous high-speed rail lines), a trip into “the city” still thrills me each time I travel into the Gare de Lyon station, a turn-of-the-20th century wonder that transports passengers between Paris and central and southeast France, the French Riviera, French-speaking Switzerland and bella Italia.

Yes, I am still in the “honeymoon phase” of this “French move” thing, when every little experience fascinates and pleases me. I know—I’ll get over it. But let me enjoy this for now.

Because traveling to Paris from my new hometown of Samois-sur-Seine requires a bit of planning, I try to take full advantage of the time I spend in the city. And I’ve made it a personal goal to get into Paris at least once a week, if I can. While I’m absolutely loving peaceful French village life, I’m still a big-city girl at heart and thrive off the frenetic energy and bustling pace that a world-class metropolis provides. So even if I’ve got freelance work-related appointments or interviews scheduled in Paris, I build personal pleasures into my day. And because I’ve previously made lots of trips here, I’ve got a good feel for the city’s fabulous, get-anywhere-in-no-time Metro subway system and its often confusing streets. So these days I spend more time heading where I want to go, rather than getting hopelessly lost and trying out my bad-but-slowly improving French on unsuspecting Parisians.

On a couple of recent day trips into the city, I’ve had a chance to meet up with some former corporate colleagues; stop in at the elegant Mark Clément Coiffure salon owned by an African-American stylist from Los Angeles (about which I’ll write much more later—merci beaucoup for the write-up, Prissy Mag!); and pop into WH Smith Paris for its vast selection of English-language Travel books. And just this past Saturday night, I traveled in to the artsy Montmartre district to catch the FABULOUS acoustic guitar set from folk rock singer/songwriter Hannah Judson (a former Chicago woman, no less!) at the standing-room-only, cave-like Au Petit Théâtre du Bonheur.

So while I was in town, I made time to FINALLY visit the famed Jardin des Tuileries (Tuileries Garden), a gorgeous green space that often makes it onto tourists’ must-see lists. Right across the street from WH Smith, the Garden was conspicuously quiet and free of the crowds it likely woos during warmer months. After visiting my former colleagues, I stopped in for a relaxing, splurge massage at Lancôme’s signature spa on ritzy rue du Faubourg-St-Honoré, as this spot has been on my own must-do list whenever I’ve visited Paris in the past. And as I always do when in this part of town, I paid a pilgrimage to Ladurée, that mecca of macarons on nearby rue Royale, where even its WEBSITE is an adventure in pleasure (be sure to turn your computer sound “ON” first!). And even though a couple of my visits have been on gray, overcast days, I’ve allowed myself time to wander through Paris’ magical streets, just as I do when I’m here for a days-long visit.

I’m curious: how do YOU embrace the “tourist” in you when you travel to places you know well, whether you’re visiting for business or pleasure? I find it’s a great way to keep appreciating the charm you fell for in the first place.


About Maureen Jenkins

Maureen Jenkins is a food/travel writer and communications professional who's visited nearly 35 countries and territories, lived in Florence, Italy, and recently spent a year living in a charming village near Paris, France. The self-proclaimed 'urban travel girl' talks travel, food and wine – abroad and in Chicago – in "TCW Travel Connection.” Read more of her thoughts on living globally at