French New York

By Megan Snedden

Some may say New York City lacks the necessary Francophile accoutrements to be considered Parisian. Instead of rues there are avenues, geometric high rises dominate the skyline, and there’s the constant hustle and bustle paired with the hum of subway trains rumbling below.

Since Marie Delecourt—author of the blog Paris in New York—moved to the U.S. in 2000 she has missed many things about France: the redolence of fermenting grapes in Épernay where she grew up next to the Moët & Chandon champagne factory; the romantic curves of Parisian architecture; and the ubiquity of alleyway cafés and corner bakeries. “It was difficult to adjust to the fast pace and the harshness [of New York],” she said. “Immigration is not easy because you have to cut out a part of who you are to integrate in the new country.”

But as a cosmopolitan metropolis, New York City is so diverse that just about anyone from anywhere could rediscover the idiosyncrasies of home and construct their own cultural enclave around them. Delecourt used to take periodic trips to France and return to New York with suitcases full of her favorite products, but she has since explored every nook and cranny of Manhattan to find them here, documenting the pursuit on her blog.

Here are six ways to feel French in New York City, recommended by Delecourt, the New York in French community, and the French Institute Alliance Française:

  1. Bon appetit! It’s easy to eat like a Parisian in New York: Sip on brut cuvée or sparkling rosé at Flute Bar and Lounge, grab a fresh baguette at Francois Payard Bakery, or for a wide selection of low-priced fromage visit East Village Cheese. Don’t forget about the myriad of French eateries throughout the city—Epicerie Café Charbon, L’École Restaurant at the French Culinary Institute, and Balthazar to name a few.
  2. Trés Beaux-Arts: Amidst New York’s brick-faced, English-style buildings you’ll find grand façades rooted in French Beaux-Arts. Characterized by grandiose pavilions, tall parapets and columns, classical detailing, and arched windows, many of the Beaux-Arts style buildings were constructed by American architects who trained at L’Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris from the 1890s until the First World War. Marvel at the New York Public Library, Grand Central Terminal, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art or visit the Beaux Arts Alliances for lectures and walking tours of the city that highlight this architectural movement.
  3. French cinema: Take a free cinematic tour of France en plein air by catching a French summertime film screening in New York City parks during the Films on the Green series, co-organized by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy.
  4. Walk like a Parisian: Meander the cobblestone streets of 9th Avenue in Chelsea and dine at Pastis French Bistro. Then, peruse Chelsea’s High Line, which is similar to the Promenade Plantée in Paris. Both structures are tree-lined parkways built on former railway lines that run across rooftops in the city.
  5. French indulgences: Spoil yourself with macaroons and hazelnut mousse at Francois Chocolate Bar, located on the fourth floor of Mauboussin, a Parisian jewelry boutique. Then, pop into the nearby French Institute Alliance Française and browse their list of French cultural activities or head over to The Paris Theatre to catch a French film.
  6. Picnic in the park: Grab a crepe Suzette to go from Creperie NYC in the West Village then enjoy it under the Washington Square Park arch, which echoes the tunes of street musicians. New York architect Stanford White modeled the arch after the Arc de Triomphe.

Megan Snedden is a California-born writer and adventurer who currently lives in New York City. Connect with her on twitter @megansnedden.

Photos: Above, Ashish Bajracharya/My Shot

Comments

  1. [...] have the French experience? Well, if you can make it over to NYC, you’ll be able to enjoy these six ways of feeling French in New York (a somewhat unlikely surrogate, I know). For more, be sure to check out Marie’s blog, Paris in [...]

  2. [...] post is part of an ongoing series for National Geographic Traveler that’s about exploring New York City through an international lens. Each write-up tells the [...]

  3. D. Hawks
    Southern California
    July 25, 2011, 11:28 pm

    Intelligent, well worded article that blends perspective with the practical “to do” list for those seeking a Parisian polish on the Big Apple. Good Job to Ms. Megan Snedden!

  4. Daniela
    Mexico
    July 22, 2011, 2:13 pm

    It is totally true! I lived in Paris por one year, and New York has its own parisian life too. Chelsea has that sense of passion and it seems your are living “La vie en rose” aswell. I enjoyed having lunch at Balthazar and the food was fantastic. L’Ecole was very good to, but much more expensive. Chef Herve, happens to visit his customers and treat them nicely .

    It is wonderful to know that you can have any cultural life you want living in New York. Its certainly true that New York is the dream city, where anything is possible.

  5. Greg Zuccolotto
    San Clemente, CA
    July 21, 2011, 10:29 pm

    Wow!…….makes me want to rediscover New York and find its hidden European flavor!

  6. Karen Fischbeck
    Riverside, Ca
    July 21, 2011, 11:48 am

    Awesome job Megan! I have never been to NYC. With all the wonderful information you have provided this will be a vacation I will have to plan. Thank you for this amazing article :)

  7. Mary Snedden
    Riverside, California
    July 20, 2011, 9:29 am

    Never have I been more proud of you. What an amazing writer you are. One day I will go back to NYC for a visit knowing exactly where to go for a fantastic crepe and drink in the feeling of the city .