the practical Parisian

After a couple of months in Paris, I have had some interesting observations about living in the city.  None of my discoveries are rocket science, but they are unexpected and give me a laugh.

I thought I would be immersed in culture of relentless perfection, a fashion utopia.  To a certain extent that does exist, but I assure you, I am not running in those circles.  My world is one of cramming myself in a packed Metro, regularly walking from one end of the city to the other while trying to step over the rarely picked-up “doggie doo” and incessantly trying to tame my hair in the face of wind, moisture and, well, the overcrowded Metro.

In going about my days, I have uncovered some Parisian truths…

Number One:

You cannot survive the daily grind wearing gorgeous couture heels from Lanvin, Louboutin, Chanel etc.  That’s a fairy tale and it’s lovely to think about, but no one is strolling through the Tuileries in Christian Louboutin’s Pigalle Follies superfine stiletto.  I have spent too much time reading Vogue magazines.

Walking on cobblestone, inclement weather, endless hours at museums, or trying to stand in a moving Metro all call for a substantial shoe.  One with thick rubber soles, a wide base for stability and made in a material that you can wipe off the grime of the streets.  Such shoes are not the height of fashion.  Sadly, I know this first-hand.  I purchased a pair of sturdy walking shoes a few weeks ago.  I mentioned to the young sales woman the shoes looked very masculine.  She very sweetly assured me they were quite feminine and very beautiful on my feet.  (J’adore le Français.) Nonetheless, I think I own a pair of men’s corrective shoes.

Number Two:

It doesn’t matter the season, you are going to wear a scarf.  The material, weight and volume of the scarf is up to you and your need for warmth.  Once you become used to wearing a scarf and happen to skip a day, you realize what you are missing.  It’s like forgetting to wear a wrist watch.  You feel the void.

In the winter months, the French bundle themselves up resembling Ralphie’s little brother, Randy, in “A Christmas Story”.  I am a bit amazed, but there is a real sense of a dire chill.  The type of chill that might grab you and never let go.  Oversized heavy scarves similar to my grandmother’s knitted afghans are wound around people’s necks.  As far as I can tell, it’s difficult to move and probably a little difficult to breathe.  Again, it’s not what I would call fashionable, but it is practical…I think.

Number Three:

The third truth is bedhead may be a national hairstyle.  I have studied this one for years and I can not find proof to refute my theory.  My observation is in no way a criticism of the French, I find it surprisingly charming.  It is sort of a uniting force between all people in Paris.  At first, I thought it was the younger generation’s style.  With additional research,  I no longer believe that to be the case.

I think there are individuals, let’s call them Bedhead Purists, whom whisk out of slumber to throw on clothes, brush their teeth and run out the door in the morning.  I also think there are individuals who do their best to present a fresh and polished look each day, at which time the weather in Paris takes over.  Brushing your hair is sort of futile as is pulling back longer hair.  Whisps, curls or clumps of hair break free in the misty rain, not to mention the windy streets or during the rush of stale air as a metro train pulls into the station.  I have arrived home on more than one occasion to find my hair styled at angles and in arrangements I could never create on my own.  It is best described as bedhead without a healthy night’s rest.

There are more truths to be discovered.  I find joy in these realizations.  Turns out, Parisians are real people just like the rest of us.  I am happy to know Paris has a practical side and sometimes comfort, warmth and convenience wins the day. Ç’est le vie!

My new “corrective” shoes.


2018-09-02T12:57:16+00:00March 11th, 2018|Categories: La Ville, Uncategorized|16 Comments


  1. Tom Cowhey March 11, 2018 at 12:27 pm - Reply

    I have a pair just like them! : )

    • Gretchen March 11, 2018 at 12:57 pm - Reply

      Okay, so maybe I do have good taste!

  2. Ginny Yulich March 11, 2018 at 2:24 pm - Reply

    Hi Gretchen!! I love reading about your adventures!! I hope it is everything you had hoped it to be!!

    • Gretchen March 11, 2018 at 2:51 pm - Reply

      Hi Ginny!! Thank you for your message. I am having a wonderful time. You know you are my original adventurer! I always love talking travel with you. XOXO.

  3. Sandy Cliff March 11, 2018 at 3:24 pm - Reply

    Are you sure those shoes don’t belong to Buck Rose? Aunt S

    • Gretchen March 11, 2018 at 5:28 pm - Reply

      Aunt Sandy, it is quite possible….xoxo.

  4. Jon March 11, 2018 at 5:19 pm - Reply

    Love your blog…Living vicariously through you. See you at Jarrettown when you return…🤗

    • Gretchen March 11, 2018 at 5:30 pm - Reply

      Hi Jon! Thanks! Good to hear from you – Yes, we will have a ton to catch up on : )

  5. Schwei March 12, 2018 at 1:07 am - Reply

    Hey now!! Remember what Michael Jordan expressed, “It’s not about the shoes. It’s about what you do in them.” Keep on ‘slowly strolling in the sweet sunshine…’

    • Gretchen March 12, 2018 at 7:43 am - Reply

      Schwei, excellent reminder!

  6. Robin March 12, 2018 at 1:31 pm - Reply

    Great post, G! Brought a big smile to my face this morning. Love the shoes. They are styling.

    • Gretchen March 13, 2018 at 11:45 am - Reply

      Thanks Rob! The shoes have grown on me for sure. I am actually thinking I need another pair in brown : )

  7. Julie Cohen March 13, 2018 at 11:40 am - Reply

    Looks like I’m coming to my shoe nirvana! (I tried to add a photo of my shoes but don’t think I can!) LOVE your new shoes, Grechen!!

    • Gretchen March 13, 2018 at 11:47 am - Reply

      Julie, you are the best medicine! Yes, I can show you some very classic, well crafted shoes. This style has definitely grown on me – plus my knees and hips are happy once again 🙂

  8. Martika Ballmann March 13, 2018 at 11:54 am - Reply

    I love the shoes! I very much enjoyed your post-as always, especially after having spent a week in France. I had dreams of looking very chic everyday but came to realize very quickly-scarves are not just meant to be trendy! 🙂 I also remember, while studying there in college, I found these amazing leopard print heeled booties. It wasn’t until I fell down a flight of steps in the metro that I realized how impractical these are, and heels in general in the city.

    I found solace in the bedheads, and would find myself to be one of them as well, as it is hard enough to manage growing out a bob back home, let alone without all of my hair products and only to be outdone by the wind anyway. 🙂

    • Gretchen March 13, 2018 at 3:39 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Martika! You sound just like me… I really had visions of glamour for myself in Paris. It’s not working out that way. I look forward to meeting up with you at some point. Take care and please stay in touch!

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