As a reformed carboholic, Paris is the perfect place to relapse.
With its buttery french bread and jewel-like pastries (which they proudly display in the window like the opening scene of Breakfast at Tiffany’s), its hard not to have a carb fete. But as I guiltily filled my gob with tarts and baguettes, I had to wonder how Paris sustained its quotient of such beautiful people. The streets were full of model-esque beings – so much so that as I shopped in Marais, I was almost sheepish asking the gorgeous sales boy to fetch me a larger size.
And it wasn’t just the copious amounts of bread they serve (they gave Ben a side basket of warm bread with his sandwich) but also that they seem to smoke and drink wine and coffee abundantly without much afterthought. This to me, as a Yoga twisting, clean-eating, smoke-avoiding (my mother’s nose to cigarettes is like a bloodhound) Torontonian, just did not seem fair.
Was it genetics? Was it the air? Something in the Seine?
No, no and no. While perhaps it is just as it is to be fabulous in France – I did notice a few things which I think would be excellent to integrate into North American culture. Firstly, I observed the laid back nature of the city (laissez-faire, non?). While like any other major city there is an obvious bustle in the streets, there isn’t the franticness I feel in Manhattan or Toronto. I was surprised to see that almost all businesses outside of the tourist hubs were closed on Sunday (some Sunday and Monday – and one bakery had a sign that they were closed Tuesdays and Thursdays). And when work did resume, the workforce itself seemed mighty casual. In restaurants and cafes it was common for our servers to be smoking and texting on their phones between orders. This may not seem significant, but stress is a major culprit in unbalancing our bodies. Stress dehydrates our skin through overactive kidneys as well as increase internal inflammation. My mother just did a yoga and digestion workshop which outlined how stress effects how we absorb nutrients. According to her, we ideally should do some pranic breathing before meals as it is impossible to properly digest our food if our abdominal muscles are full of tension (and mine certainly are). So, all these year of digestive supplements, food sensitivity examination and agni increasing herbs, I could have avoided with a bit of calm and breathe? (Or in the Parisian case, a cigarette?)
Secondly, I observed the necessity to stay active in Paris. Well, actually, I simply noticed myself huffing and puffing my way through the city. With absolutely no escalators in the metro and many tiny, winding, uphill streets, it is no wonder that people seem more fit. Circulation is essential to keep yourself youthful, and I found that while it may be a nightmare for anyone in a wheelchair, it was definitely invigorating for those of us trying to stay agile and our qi (chi) flowing. They even had this fantastic system in which you can rent bicycles all over the city. Not unlike the machines we use to pay for parking in Toronto, in Paris you can hire a bike by swiping your credit card for less than one Euro per hour. Not only does in promote us to be more physically mobile but also is great for reducing car usage. At home, while I think many of us make an immense effort to spend chunks of time at the gym or in our respective pilates studios, the Parisians simply have activity as a part of their life.
So Ben and I have decided – one day we are moving to Paris for good. Not only did we feel wonderful, surrounded by such culture and beauty, but think that any place in which you can stuff your face with pastries and still maintain poise is a place for us. And we have the pictures to prove it.