Skip to content

Less in Paris

delfina and her mom at cafe de flore

“On the run from a drug deal gone bad, brilliant college dropout Mike Ross finds himself working with Harvey Specter, one of New York City’s best lawyers.”

That’s Suits, one of my favorite TV shows, according to the IMDb synopsis.

suits main characters
They wear suits a lot.

A moment in Season 8, Episode 15 really stuck with me. It was a conversation between Donna (the redhead), one of the main characters, and her mom.

Donna’s dad had consistently made questionable financial decisions throughout the years. While the warmth and love in Donna’s relationship with her mom are undeniable, we can tell Donna resented all that never was between them because of her dad.

One of those things was a trip to Paris. Donna’s mom had been saving up and they’d be able to go once Donna graduated high school.

In article form, it’s difficult to relay Donna’s heartbreak over her mom’s betrayal (she gave the trip’s money to Donna’s dad after yet another quasi-bankruptcy) and how this unkept promise supposedly portrayed their entire relationship dynamic that us as viewers were getting a glimpse at for the first time.

In an interview about the 8th season of Suits, Sarah Rafferty, the actress who plays Donna, said:

“I was particularly moved by, as I always am, the passage of time and that moment when she says, “Mom, let’s go to Paris.” Just that these ideas of the things that they’ve missed and the regrets in their lives, and can we make up for lost time? Maybe that puts her in the emotional place she is in when Harvey comes to the door, like, “What have been doing all this time? The years have been passing. Let’s go to Paris, metaphorically. Let’s listen to Oprah and live our best lives and be in the moment.”

I also found the Paris moment quite moving. I was home and when the episode ended, I turned to my mom who was sitting next to me and said: Mom, let’s go to Paris.

Bon, que puis-je dire, nous sommes allés à Paris et c’etait…

Oh, désolé. I meant, well, we did it.

I heard they’d revoke my writer card if I didn’t have some type of revelation in Paris and wrote about it. So here I am.

Before (the first) sunset (in Paris)

Depths of Wikipedia, one of my favorite Instagram accounts, made me aware that Paris syndrome was A Thing™️.

Paris syndrome is a sense of extreme disappointment exhibited by some individuals when visiting Paris, who feel that the city was not what they had expected. The condition is commonly viewed as a severe form of culture shock.”

(In case you missed it: I wrote about virtue signaling & why I love finding out something has a name aka is A Thing™️.)

I shed my expectations at the plane door. No pressure.

Well, besides cabin pressure… which actually affects our taste perception and explains why millions of litres of tomato juice are drank during flights. I digress.

Game plan: No expectations, just an open mind and a desire to explore.

However, I was confronted with others people’s expectations before, during, and after the trip.

I went to get my nails done (I love this activity!) and the nail tech seemed surprised I was going for a straightforward look: dark red.

We’ve done beach waves, Lakers nails, gold foil, a three color nail design with stripes. I usually love experimenting, but I wanted something classic for Paris.

When I mentioned this and that I was going with my mom, she said: “Oh, isn’t Paris usually saved for special occasions?”

I smiled. “What’s more special than this?”

My mom and I had never traveled out of the country just the two of us.

“Yeah, yeah, of course! I just meant like, you know, marriage proposals. Cuz it’s romantic.”

Then, people said things like, “If you didn’t go to X, it’s like you didn’t actually visit Paris.”

Obviously, the nail tech and everyone else meant well. No one who shared their Paris expectations with me had a malicious intent in any way.

Paris clichés

After all, why not? Why shouldn’t I wear silk in Paris and post B&W photos in museums and paint my lips red and stop to smell the roses in Versailles and eat at restaurants that serve food on tiny little plates and have a dedicated object to get breadcrumbs off the table as people are eating?!

Clichés don’t exist. Everyone experiences everything in a different way. I was here for a day years ago (back when I lost my luggage and got lost on a train in the middle of nowhere) and while I liked Paris both times, I’m a different person now and I experienced everything differently.

You hear a lot about Paris, but there’s nothing I or anyone can say that will accurately predict how you’ll feel about the city. Don’t listen to people who tell you you should eat at X place or visit Y museum or go to Paris with a specific person. C’est pas vrais. The only thing you should do in Paris is approach the city with curiosity and see what you’ll come across. It’ll be deeper and more meaningful than anything you’ll get from a guidebook or a documentary.

That being said, shoutout to the incredibly understanding Louvre guards, the dancers, France’s unofficial cheese motto (Everything Everywhere All at Once), and the overall joie de vivre that oozes through the city no matter how grumpy people seem.

Less is best

If you were hoping this would be a “My guide to Paris” type of article, I’m sorry to disappoint you. A friend asked about hotel recommendations and frankly, I don’t know. Our hotel sucked. It was in the middle of nowhere. They would constantly run out of croissants and spoons.

There are thousands of talented travel bloggers who’ve shared their lists, tips, and all the information you’ll need to navigate Paris.

This is my contribution. A suggestion.

Do less.

Granted, this was my main takeaway from this “Anthony Bourdain’s top 5 travel tips for Paris” video.

Bourdain was a brilliant chef (so I’ve heard) and storyteller (confirmed) with an Emmy Award winning travel series where he explored cuisine, culture, and people. The care and thought he put into his work—and words—are hard to replicate. Even if you had never heard of him until now, I think you’d be able to tell he was special just from this 1-minute video.

I took his advice (Paris at my own pace) to heart and I have him to thank for an immaculate Paris experience. And my mom, bien sur.

When I returned to work, the theme of less persisted.

I discussed it with my manager. I noticed it more than ever in the work of the colleagues I look up to (they simplify, simplify, simplify). Why Bosses Should Ask Employees to Do Less—Not More, a report published in the WSJ by Robert Sutton, showed up in my feed:

“The University of Virginia’s Gabrielle Adams and her colleagues performed 20 studies and found that addition is the default mode of problem solving. When a university president asked students, faculty and staff for suggestions about improving the place, only 11% entailed subtraction—the rest were additions. People were more likely to add when planning trips, editing text, modifying vegetable soup recipes and fixing a Lego model (even though the best solution was subtracting Lego bricks). As Leidy Klotz, Dr. Adams’s collaborator and author of the book “Subtract,” puts it, we are wired to use addition as a substitute for thinking.”

We are wired to use addition as a substitute for thinking. Let that sink in.

We complicate relationships, work, travel, coffee orders, and more.

Less in Paris is my contribution. Less, but better. Less, but more. Since I just said clichés aren’t real, I’m legally allowed to mention the age old adage “work smarter, not harder” without you cringing.

In his famous Parts Unknown show, Anthony Bourdain “travels across the globe to uncover little-known areas of the world and celebrate diverse cultures by exploring food and dining rituals.”

His last meal on the final episode of the show?

Hard-boiled eggs at a friend’s house.

If you liked this, I think you’ll also like:

8 thoughts on “Less in Paris”

  1. Here! Here! a childhood of being dragged by my parents through whirlwind vacations that were densely packed with museums, restaurants, and plays where any scheduling hiccup caused us to stress about Tickets That We Already Paid For or Reservations That We Could Not Miss has also put me solidly in the Less is More school of leisure traveling.

    Better to have one good lunch that lasts an entire afternoon rather than a hectic day of rushing from attraction to attraction. You will never be able to see or experience everything in Paris or New York or London or Tokyo, so it’s a fool’s errand to cross everything off some arbitrary essentials checklist. Instead seek out fewer good experiences and be present for them as much as you can.

    I’ve also had the benefit of visiting Paris multiple times so now the last time I was in the city was while I had an 6 hour layover at Charles De Gaulle, and all I did was take the Metro into the city, have a croissant and cafe for breakfast, then an hour or two browsing in Shakespear and Co, before meeting a friend for lunch, an ice cream at Berthillon, then the Metro back. Short, civilized and still memorable.

  2. I have been trying to apply the “less” thing, while visiting, for some time now. It feels so good to read about it, and even better when it comes from a trusted source. Massive joy while reading this piece.

  3. Love, love, love your article. I just finished and enjoyed everything you write. This is a special one!
    Thanks, shpirti jem.

  4. Very much enjoyed your article. Maybe even more so that I have been doing less and took an extended break from online personal use. Your article was the first and only I read for a long time. As I absorbed the content with all the time in the world to do so. I couldn’t help but feel the special connection an article can produce in the moment with the attention every story deserves. Thank you!

Add a comment...

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *