It’s hard to explain what makes Paris the most pleasant city in the world to live in. I have lived in many cities: Moscow is too cold, Cairo is too hot, London is too big, New York is too rich. Perhaps I could be tempted by Rome or Barcelona, but I suspect it is possible to tire of pasta and jamón ibérico after a month or two. I came to live in Paris by accident, almost 10 years later and I have lived in Paris longer than anywhere else.
Back in 2007, I was sceptical of the insular superiority, the busy blind waiters and the snooty impeccable Parisiennes “Non! C’est insupportable!” who cluttered the cafés. I was quickly fed up with the bland offerings of mid-range bistros, the tyranny of the verre de vin rouge and the terrible coffee.
Interesting digression: it turns out that French coffee is bad because they developed a taste for the acrid “Robusta” beans over the more chocolatey “Arabica” variety because Robusta was grown in French colonies.
“Paris must be lovely!” said friends who only ever visited for two or three days.
“Yeah, except for the food.”
In 2010, I went away for four years. When I returned, Paris had developed a whole new hipster coffee scene, everyone was eating hamburgers, the Japanese had revamped the patisserie with matcha and small plate bistros were popping up. Paris had finally got out of the Belle Époque and embraced the age of Instagram “food porn.”
To my surprise, I found I had missed Paris, and in particular the great pastime of sitting outside at cafés, a flâneur, watching the world walk by.
Yes, in Paris the parks are raked gravel instead of lawn, the pavements are blocked with motorbikes and bollards, everything is inexplicably closed on Monday or Tuesday or whatever day you have decided to visit. But. The café is all you need for what the English call “quality of life” and the French, “joie de vivre.” Café-bar-resto—they are happily ubiquitous and whatever their mien, ready to salve your tribulations, sudden rainstorm or heartbreak, with a small round table and a little sustenance to get you through the next half hour of life. I have learned to forgive the battery acid espresso;…