The travel writing sub-genre of traveling “like a local” seems to me fraught with problems, the biggest being that locals do not really do things that are interesting for travelers. When you live somewhere, you have to run errands, you have to go to work, you have to see your family. I understand the desire to travel in what feels like a “more authentic” way (or at least just feel like you’re smarter than the tourists who spend 3 hours in line for overrated money traps) but the truth is that traveling is not an authentic experience based on doing exactly what the locals are doing. When you travel, you are by definition an outsider.
This weekend I was in Paris to visit a friend, a local (a born-and-raised local, not an expat), and all Saturday we did truly local things. We woke up from our Friday-night Pompidou bar hopping very hungover, so we ate some amazing dumplings at a small Chinese restaurant. She bought a SIM card for her new phone after forgetting her account number and password. We went shopping at the mall because she needed a dress for New Year’s Eve. (And I ended up buying a dress I didn’t particularly need, but it was so pretty!) We went to an exposition of independent French wineries (which was amazing not just because the wine was excellent but also there were SO MANY attractive guys, hashtag the thirst is real). We went to an Italian place around the corner for pizza. (And then we each at our own pizza) Everything was in French, which I tried my best to understand and even more terribly to speak, and very authentic. But if you came to see Paris, it would be a let-down. You might even think that it’s just another city, full of people who happen to speak French and eat a lot of very delectable pain au chocolat.
On Sunday I took some time to go to the Musee d’Orsay by myself (on my friend’s recommendation because it’s her favorite of the museums in Paris) so I did spend some time in the center, walking around Champs-Elysees and seeing the things that make Paris so beautiful that a Nazi general thought it would be a crime against humanity to destroy it. (Although he was somehow ok with murdering 11 million people?) But after my brief foray into the real-life museum that Paris can be, I went back to Ivry-sur-Seine and bought a chicken baugette from the bakery and watched Broad City with French subtitles until it was time to catch the bus to the airport. You know, like the locals do.