I’m sitting at a Paris cafe, using many kilobytes of my 300 megabytes international data plan whats-apping friends with messages like, “I just saw a guy in a 49ers cap and thought of you! :))” and sending emails like, “I really wish you were here in Paris with me. No really, not just an empty compliment…I wish you were here at this cafe with me, right now, so we could chat over this cafe.”
My journal pages had been filled, my books read, Facebook updated, and deep thoughts, thought. I missed my friends, especially being surrounded by so many groups of Parisians, who were obviously a) friends and b) having the best times of their lives sitting there, drinking, and laughing in Paris.
Being in Paris “living like a local” for three weeks was fulfilling and wonderful, but I wasn’t local enough to have a set of friends. I loved the city, but it was a bit of torture walking past these living cafes and overflowing bars for this extrovert, whose French is definitely in the beginner stages. Luckily, this state of being was only temporary in Paris. I found several ways to connect with nice, fun people, who in turn, joined me for some nice, fun times in Paris. I didn’t try all the tactics on this list, but do recommend them as friends had recommended them to me.
Dinner at Jim’s
Jim Haynes has been hosting Sunday dinners at his studio/ house in the 14th arrondissement for over 30 years in part because, “I love the randomness. I believe in introducing people to people.” I emailed him two months prior to my desired Sunday and he confirmed my spot almost immediately at that Sunday dinner. He asked me to confirm the day of bringing a suggested donation of 30Euros. On the day of the dinner, he emailed me extremely detailed directions and I found my way to the Alesia Metro stop and the green door of his apartment’s courtyard. Immediately, I met a person from Chicago and we joined in easy conversation. We walked to the entrance together and there was Jim – sitting on a stool, clad in a red apron, and crossing guests name off of a handwritten list.
“Gemma meet Skylar!” “Steve and Michelle, meet the other Steve and Michelle!” Jim bellowed as we made our way to him and into the salon. Overall 30 visitors, expats, and locals met and talked over salad, beef bourguignon, and ice cream. When the night wound down at 10:30, I gathered a small crew of American, British, and French people and we went to a nearby bar for beers and to continue the night. It was totally random, fun, and social. Jim’s goal of the evening had been achieved. My new friend Gemma, a Brit, mentioned that she came to Jim’s often to meet people in Paris.
Dinner or Cocktails at Pamela’s Paris Soirees
Pamela has two evening events for those wishing to connect with expats and locals in Paris. I found her events on meetup.com, but unfortunately could not attend when I was there. Skylar, who I had met at Jim’s and we had subsequent coffee together, had been to her Sunday dinner and found it a great way to meet people as well. In a different location every week, Pamela’s goal is to “to bring Americans, expats, hip French and the International Community together in a global meetup, in Paris.” Make sure to RSVP for one of the events to guarantee your spot by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Once you RSVP, you will receive her weekly newsletter that describes the details, including the suggested donation of the event.
Take a Cooking Class or Gourmet Walking Tour
It’s easy to make friends when the topic is food – you have a shared love of something always on the minds of Parisians and visitors. The city hosts several English-speaking cooking classes and walking tours. In a class, you are working towards a common goal and have to come together to problem solve, which leads to sharing the who/what/where/whys of one’s trip. On a walking tour, there are enough pauses during the highlights to ask the same questions and connect on itineraries and restaurant plans. On both, you are all foodies in Paris, and what could be more easy to bond over than how much you love the camembert you just tasted or the macaron you are trying not to screw up?
- Paris by Mouth
- Cook’n with Class (Also mentioned in this NYTimes article on learning how to cook in Paris)
- The International Kitchen – one day cooking classes in Paris
- La Cuisine Paris – Cooking classes and food tours
Attend an Event
It may take a bit of chutzpah to attend a local Parisian even by yourself and then, gasp, talk to strangers. But you’re a traveler! These situations are no different than meeting fellow travelers in a hostel kitchen. Paris is a city that lives its social life out of doors. Attending one of the many cultural events in the city, on any night of the week, can be a conduit to meeting and greeting like-minded locals and visitors.
Here are few of my favorite sources that list events in Paris:
- TimeOut Paris – The guide to “art, culture, and going out” has seasonal listings of all things happening in Paris. The Hot List shows all events for the current week.
- Shakespeare & Co. Events Page – The historic English bookstore hosts events like reading and acoustic music each night.
I also recommend subscribing to these e-mail newsletters:
Reach out to Friends of Friends
I first posted my news about my Paris trip on Facebook, which started several conversations with friends who had lived or knew people in Paris. They, in turn, connected me with their Parisian friends, and I was able to connect with a few over lunch and drinks. The travel blogger community is an open one, full of people who want to help you have the very best time on your travels. As an AFAR Ambassador, I have been fortunate enough to meet the cream of the crop, including Lindsey Tramuta, author of the excellent expat-in-Paris blog Lost in Cheeseland. We met for coffee, had an excellent time together, and agreed that if I had more time, we’d be hanging out a lot more. Lindsey also wrote a great article on finding friends in Paris on her blog.
Another alternative is to bring your social life with you to Paris. My mother and friend from high school joined me for a week and two friends from Holland came on down for the weekend. Their presence made me feel very “at home” in Paris.
Helpful Paris Links on Take Your Big Trip:
Take A Tour:
A great way to also meet friends in Paris is to join a tour – at least for part of the trip. I can recommend these G Adventures trips because they capture the best of France and can be taken before a trip to Paris.
France & Italy Adventure–-> “Sip wine in Burgundy, feast on local delicacies in Provence, follow scenic tracks along Italy’s Cinque Terre coast and raise your glass to the best of France and Italy. Over 14 well-paced days, travel from Paris to Rome and savour the region’s cultural and natural highlights. Your expert CEO will take the hassle out of travel and leave you with plenty of free time to explore. Witness the charm of Beaune and Florence’s great masterpieces, relax on the beach and fall in love with the beauty of this region.” Learn More About This Trip >
Loire Valley Cycling –> “Each summer, the Tour de France races across the country, giving a select group of very talented cyclists a chance to see the country from a blurry perspective. On this cycling tour of the Loire Valley, knowing the difference between a front derailleur and a rear dropout isn’t necessary. Hop on a bike and experience ornate chateaux, rustic markets, vineyards, and rural Gallic charm. Think of this as the perfect combination of slow food, fine wines, and remote country tracks ideal for seeing the inspiring scenery.” Learn More About This Trip >