Oh the weather outside is frightful…And, no there's nothing delightful about it off the top of my head (perhaps it's the large wool hat covering it). I love Paris in the Springtime … I love Paris in the Fall … But what the f- ...oie gras am I supposed to do in Paris in the winter? Goodbye days of strolling along the Seine, sitting on the "terrasse" of a café for hours on end, running through the Luxembourg Gardens, walking all around the city ice cream cone in hand, people-watching at Café Flore. And Bonjour to thick scarves, travel by metro, and cramming indoors. Okay okay, so there are far worse places to be in the winter (Hanover, NH immediately comes to mind). While I will have to take a hiatus from Amorino's head-sized cones of gelato, endless walks along the Seine contemplating my existence and making out passionately on the Pont des Arts for hours with tall, gorgeous French men (ok let's be honest, that's not even a frequent activity in any season), there are ways to pass the (daylight savings) time during l'hiver à Paris. Here are my top 10 ways to stay warm in Paris in the winter.
10) Drink Warm Beverages
The Classic: Hot Chocolate at Flore
The French Traditional: Thé sur le Nil from Mariages Frères
The "Yes, I'm American, so What?": Chai Tea Latte from Starbucks
The "Wow That's a Lot of Foamy Milk": Cappuccino at Les Philosophes
The Disgusting: Vin Chaud from Just About Anywhere
9) Take Line 4
Traditionally known as the Porte de Clignacourt-Porte d'Orléans line, La Ligne 4 is more famous for being perhaps a warmer location than a metal-filled beach on the Equator. Not only is the temperature always fluctuating between a crisp 150-298 degrees (and I'm talking Celsius here), but be sure to take advantage of the body heat factor as you'll definitely be pressed up against your neighbor as you cram into the cars like sardines and enjoy the "Eau de Body Odor" as you inhale the humid air.
8) Eat Comfort Food
The Classic: Croque Madame from Les Editeurs. A large slice of Poilane bread, gobs of creamy Bechamel sauce, slices of ham topped with a thick layer of gooey melted Gruyère and a fried egg. They try to give you a small side salad to maintain some degree of health and equilibrium, but don't be fooled, ask for French fries on the side instead, they will concede.
The Healthy: Fresh Soups from Cojean. Pumpkin with Vanilla, Eggplant and Coriander, Tomato/Coconut/Lemon … the varieties are endless, sinless and delicious.
The Italiano: Penne ai Bisi at L'Altro. Pennette with a thick, cream of pea sauce with crispy slices of ham served piping hot with unlimited fresh bread and parmesan cheese. Or any of their pasta dishes really, you can't go wrong – linguini with pumpkin sauce and pecorino cheese, penne with radicchio and gorgonzola, not to mention the best chocolates ever in life served with their coffee.
The Sucré: Tarte Tatin from Les Philosophes. I owe much of my happiness to the Tatin Sisters, God Bless them wherever they are, for their mere quarrel years ago that turned an ordinary apple tart upside down, carmelized it and served it hot complemented with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, has changed my life forever. Les Philosophes does a mean version, both in the traditional apple dessert and also a tomato appetizer variety.
7) Steal a Warm Coat
I am not a thief. Au contraire, I am a victim of thiefdom (thiefness? Thiefety? Oh right, theft – apologies, but my eengleesh is leaving something to be desired these days). The scene: Cuisine de Bar, rue Cherche-Midi in the 6th. Circa 2 PM on a Wednesday. The Lefflers – yes, all four were in town – sit down for a casual meal of tartines. We hang our jackets on the coat racks adjacent to our table. There are tartines, there is salade, there are cafés, and then, hélas!, it is time to go. We all retrieve our jackets from the coat racks. All of us, that is, except for me. Yes, alas, my brand new Tara Jarmon coat has been removed from its hook, and not by its rightful owner (read: moi). I will spare you the details of what followed, but the point is this. If you are cold – and lacking morals – then why not steal a warm coat? Invade the coat check at a fancy restaurant when the girl handling them is in the bathroom. Or, better yet, put on a black dress or tuxedo and stand in front of said fancy restaurant and ask "Can I take your coat, Monsieur/Madame?" then run off into the night with a warm Chanel parka (and maybe even a Hermès scarf if you're lucky). Or, perhaps easier, just have lunch at the Cuisine de Bar, you can have your pick of the season's hottest trends in fashionable insulation. Trust me.
6) Live on the 6th Floor in a Building Without an Elevator
By the time you arrive at your door, you will be ready to open all the windows, take off all of your clothes and pour ice down your back. Trust me.
5) Join a Gym
I am by no means endorsing exercise (hello, I'm French now, my only form of exercise consists of raising pastries to my lips, running to catch the bus I'm about to miss almost every morning, or punching slow-walking tourists as I attempt to navigate through the crowded streets of St Germain des Pres with 15 bags of groceries.), however, I recommend just joining Club Med gym, and standing in the main workout room. It smells like the armpit of a Frenchman who has bathed in cheese and hasn't taken a shower in 15 years, but you will sweat those winter worries away, I promise. They also have a sauna.
4) Take the Bus
This is a double whammy. Not only do the buses here all have heat (God Bless the RATP!!), but they never tend to arrive when I do and the next one can take up to 20 minutes, so it is necessary to run after said bus as fast as my heel-ridden legs can carry me when I see it in the distance. I'm proud to say I've clocked my fasted time from Odéon-the rue de Rennes Monoprix as a victorious 40.3 seconds. I will take on all challengers (or at least those wearing heels). I take the 39 bus to work every morning and, by the end of the winter, I will have calves of steel, you just wait.
3) Get a Slingbox
(see previous entry for details) This incredible demonstration of the miracle of technology is called the Slingbox, but a more appropriate name might be "Reason to Not Leave Couch Ever Again." I mean what could be better than a hot date with Dr McDreamy, with the heat turned up to maximum temp, in comfortable pajamas and a cup of hot cocoa in hand, to combat the cold? (Don't answer that, I know what you're thinking, but, admit it, it is a wonderful alternative.)
2) Shake What Your Maman Gave Ya
If staying in isn't your thing (you obviously don't own a slingbox), then I recommend a hot night at Le Baron to get the blood rushing through your veins for the following reasons. A) You can dance until the French cows come home or the fat (or more like skinny model doing coke in this place) lady sings or until you're sweating to the tune of Justin Timberlake or old school hip hop beats. B) The tiny space and large crowd ensure a minimum inside temperature of 171 degrees (298 on the dance floor). C) You'll almost definitely run into your favorite hot celebrity. I saw Romain Duris there the other night and don't think I'll be cold again until March at the latest. And D) They sell alcohol. Point finale!
1) Body Heat
Find French lover. Bring he/she home. Your electric bill will thank you.