Today we have an interview with Adam Roberts, Spotter for our Paris cityblog.
Adam is one of “second shift” Spotters. We quite recently discovered him via his Invisible Paris blog. We made met Adam in Paris a few months ago, and we’re very happy he’s sharing his beautiful photographs and funny observations on our Paris cityblog now.
Can you tell us a bit about who you are, and what you do?
I’m a 38 year old Englishman who has lived in Paris for over 10 years. The city means home, work and family, but I still manage to break through the mundane realities, the crowded Metros and grey skies, and say to myself, damn it, I live in Paris!
Professionally I’m a communicator, working as much as possible in English to ensure that I have an advantage over the locals! I’ve worked mostly in technical communications, but I’m now looking to move more towards copywriting. My dream would be to live purely from more creative writing although the reality of that existence would probably be less appealing.
Mostly you’ll find me just wandering around, observing, photographing and blogging on unseen and uncelebrated parts of the city.
Why Paris? What is a must do when you visiting Paris? What not?
The only thing I would tell visitors to do in Paris is to use their feet and eyes. I think that everyone has their own personal imagined vision of the city, and they try to make those visions a reality when they visit. In my opinion though it is better to keep an open mind, set out each day on foot and drift away from the predictable paths. It is a city that has been the scene of many studies on walking, from Baudelaire’s writings on the flâneur to Guy Debord’s theories on the dérive and I think that’s how you’ll find its real heart.
If I had to mention specific places, I would begin with the Pavillon de l’Arsenal. I love architecture and urbanisation and this very interesting and relaxing centre displays both the history and future of development in the city through maps and videos. For a quick buzz I take a lift to the top of the Institut du Monde Arabe where there are fantastic views of the river and over the top of Notre Dame towards the north and east of the city. My first and longest lasting love though has been the Jardin des Plantes, a combination of old stone and living, breathing nature.
These three are actually very close together and visiting them won’t cost you a Euro!
I don’t like telling people not to do things but personally I find the Champs Elysées and the surrounding areas very depressing.
Which prejudices about Paris is true?
Well, it is probably true to say that the city has little idea about the culture of service! Of course there are many exceptions but the moody shop owner and unfriendly waiter are not completely mythical beings.
Any prejudices that are not true?
What is not true? Well, I would argue that the city is not expensive as it is large enough to cater for all budgets. Steer clear of the immediate areas surrounding tourist attractions, have your main meal at lunchtime and look out for interesting (and sometimes very long!) happy hour prices and you can have a great time without needing to call the bank manager on your return home.
What is the most popular neighborhood to live in Paris at this moment?
Finding anywhere to live in Paris is difficult enough! The price increases over the last 10 years have put most of the city out of reach, so people have recently gathered in the East and North (myself included!). There is still a shortage of hotels in these areas though, although the new Mama Shelter (see this article) offers interesting deals.
Many of these places such as Charonne (see this article), Menilmontant and Belleville are the old villages that used to be situated just outside the city walls. They sold tax free alcohol and offered other services the city could not or did not want to provide, and much of this heritage still exists! Haussmann left these zones largely untouched too, so they offer a different and more homely perspective than the traditional wide boulevards and manicured gardens of the rest of the city, and this is where you’ll find most of the artists today too.
Which time of the year you like most in your city and why?
I think everybody knows that you have to visit Paris in the springtime! The city is pretty much closed in August and if ever temperatures go above 30° it becomes unbearable. It is not a city geared towards winter either, with a lack of warm, cosy bars when the temperatures drop. It is however perfect at twilight when the weather is warm and you can walk slowly around the city and observe life in the often amazing first floor apartments, then stop somewhere for a drink and watch stories being created!
What would you do if you had only two days in Paris?
I would eat at the Marmite Bazar (see this article) , drink at the Baron Samedi (see this article) and lay about at the Pavillon de l’Arsenal. Paris can be a stressful city as people are very rarely relaxed. It is a city of show, where you need to puff out your peacock feathers, put your intellect on display and make sure that you are being observed.
If I knew I only had two more days in the city I would want to take a positive view away with me and these are the places where I always feel comfortable and relaxed.
Is there something else you want to share?
I love talking about Paris and introducing people to parts of the city they may not know. If anyone reading this has any questions or suggestions it would always be a pleasure for me to answer them!
Read all of Adam’s articles here.
Check out the other interviews with our Spotters.