French Girls Wear Vans

In I tried... on July 25, 2011 at 9:26 am

I‘ve been won over by the shoe that’s in every French coquette’s closet.

Is it that generously-thick white rubber sole that does it for me?

The tomboy colours?

The fact that they instantly de-slutify the most teetering-on-the-edge-of-sluttydom outfits?

Or is it just that ‘je ne sais quoi’ that a French girl brings to a pair of plimsoles?


I get a little anxious when I haven’t produced a Paris article in a while. I worry that I might be getting too comfortable. Getting too used to it. Losing that fresh perspective.

Yeah …. not really.

I hopped on the metro the other weekend to meet a friend across town. I changed lines at Jaurès and walked down the staircase to my lower ground connection and found this going on in the middle of the metro station:

Sponsored by Paris’ public transport RATP, organizers had turned this metro platform into a dance hall for the afternoon. Totally random? Yes. Totally charming? My toes were tingling.

I might take the opportunity to point out that I filmed this with my 8MM vintage video camera iPhone application. Pretty spiffy is it not?!


I remember long before I moved here, in my late teens, I came to Paris with some friends for the weekend. Being half-French, they thought I would know all the Paris hotspots.

And so I kind of let them think that.

Even though I didn’t know squat. Didley.

A Paris study abroad summer session a few years earlier hadn’t exactly paid off in that department and was spent mostly in local cafés not more than 500 feet from campus.

But of course, I wasn’t going to let my friends know that. Oh no.

I had a grand master plan that would have them thinking I was a social butterfly of Paris. Fluttering about from bistros du jour to discothèques très chic.

After secretly trawling through Asmallworld’s city guide (some of you may recall this silly website that basically did nothing), I booked us a table at Paris’ swankiest ‘in-place’, taking all credit where credit was due for scoring us such a hot ticket.

Ready to party, we arrived at the chosen venue, La Maison Blanche on Avenue Montaigne. The entrance seemed unusually quiet but I was certain this was the place to be and swanned through the lobby.

When we finally arrived inside the sparkling white grand salon, you could’ve heard a pin drop. It was immediately clear that this was more of an empty ballroom than a buzzing young hotspot.

I remember the echo of an old lady’s soup spoon clanking against the china as it dawned on me that I had monumentally failed at showing off to my friends who were already giving me death stares.

Once seated at our table, I sheepishly turned to the waiter pouring the 15 euro Evian bottle into my glass and quietly asked, “Ou est le discothèque?”

His face turned to utter confusion and I quickly dismissed the question. Then proceeded to hide behind my menu and sink in my chair. A similar humiliating scenario was repeated at pretty much every venue I took my friends to that weekend.

Oh dear. I was a bit of a twat back then.

But look at me now! All Paris-savvy and stuff. And less twatty.

Remembering this story and coming to terms with the strange little person I used to be has prompted me to come up with a few tips should anyone find themselves in a similar situation and mindset.

If you’re in Paris and in charge of coming up with a savvy choice of venue to impress, here are my fool-proof suggestions for success…

To Make You Look ‘Avant-Garde’: DERRIERE 

Quite possibly the city’s most eccentric restaurant, the idea is you’re supposed to feel as if you’re in a shabby chic, boho Parisian apartment. Guests dine, drink and flirt in various bedrooms, around a ping pong table or in the smoking room through an antique armoire trapdoor. I sound mad, but so is this venue. You’ll get serious points from whoever you’re trying to impress for the cool crowd and avant-garde feel.

69, rue des Gravilliers, 75003 Paris (

To Make You Look Like a Parisian City-slicker:

A bustling and trendy French brasserie with an underground cave that turns into a nightclub after midnight where anything goes…

12 rue de la Fidélité, 75010 (

To Make You Look like an Authentic Frenchie: CHEZ LEMA ET MIMILE

Proudly bring guests to this restaurant and show that you really know the true beauty and charm of Paris. Locals flock to the outdoor terrace here in summer because it’s one of the most picturesque al fresco dining experiences, transporting you to a southern French village. After dinner, you can take your guests for a stroll around the nearby Rue Mouffetard, which couldn’t be more charming and French if it tried… 

32 Rue Tournefourt, 75005 (

To Make You Look Like a Parisian Hipster: LE VERRE VOLE

Squeeze into this tiny wine bar/restaurant just off the banks of the Canal Saint Martin, amongst actors, tango dancers and other interesting young locals and prepare to embark on an adventure. Evenings here are unpredictable; probably something to do with the fact that you’re surrounded by walls lined with shelves and shelves of wine.

To Make You Look Like You Hang Out With Industry Big-Wigs: HOTEL L’AMOUR BAR/ RESTAURANT

This place pretty much serves as a headquarters for the hottest names in the fashion and art scenes. That means very good-looking people, very iffy service and the inescapable feeling that Carine Roitfield could walk past you any second.

8 Rue de Navarin, 75009 (


Let’s be honest. If you don’t have a creative bone in your body, you probably don’t get up and move to a city like Paris. However if you do have a little artiste within, you come to Paris to explore that side of you in every possible way.

I’ve come across the Marché St Pierre in the 18th arrondissement. A step back in time, this fabric market has existed for 60 years.

Here, over several floors you will find fabrics, materials, accessories and little bits & bobs to embark on a creative summer hobby. Pick up a Liberty fabric starting at 4.99 € per meter, exotic lace or rare buttons

(Open Monday to Friday, 2 rue Charles Nodier – 75018).

Here’s is a little D.I.Y. inspiration from one of my super secret sources that I’ve selflessly decided to share with you…

Brought to you by two very talented ladies of the online treasure trove, “Honestly… WTF”

Click below to discover this site


And before I send you off…

I came across this rather amusing, if not slightly disturbing musical animation about how much the Frenchman loves and needs his coffee.

I’ve provided the version with English subtitles, so no excuse to not learn a few French phrases…!

  1. OMG this has got to be one of the longest blog posts I have ever read. but in a good way. there is so much information here. If I ever go back to Paris, I am definitely checkin out the cute restaurant apartment.

    As an American, we love Vans too 🙂 they’re so indie.

    -Bianca at

  2. Great suggestions – good to know where to go out when guests are visiting since I can’t afford to go out the rest of the year!

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