மாலை வணக்கம் (maalai vaNakkam), Buenas Noches, and Good Evening from New York City :)
I’ll be sharing a thing I did, a tweet I loved, and a thought I had. And this edition - I’m experimenting with bonus module - tips.
A Thing ✈️
I just got home from 8 days in Paris, France.
My expectations were low. I never wanted to go to Paris. My cousin and my girl persuaded me to go.
I’m glad they did.
Here’s everything I was wrong about:
I expected the people would be rude to me.
I’d heard from many of my American friends that the local people were rude to them.
But this was not my experience.
People put us on the VIP list at clubs. Bartenders went out of their way to serve us. My birthday steak was twice the size of the other plates I saw in the restaurant.
The local folks were genuinely curious and excited to talk to us.
I expected that the people would be annoyed that I didn’t know French.
Parisians generally start an interaction with Bonjour (Good Day - if it’s light out) and Bonsoir (Good Evening - if it’s dark out). The first stage of speaking any new language is just to repeat it back. Repeating it back helps my brain switch languages.
Luckily all the work I’ve done mimicking came in handy here.
After that, it usually followed with me saying “Parlez vous Anglais?” or them continuing in French.
Either way, it showed respect that I at least tried to speak the language.
Not to colonize the conversation with English.
In the cases that they didn’t know English (like at the dry cleaner), I used the Google Translate conversation mode to navigate the situation.
And everyone was super cool about it.
I expected the food to be meh
The bread, butter, and cheese were memorable.
At random corner cafes, we ordered plates of cheese (and bread) that were more flavorful than fancy French restaurants I’ve been to in the USA. European butter is closer to 90% fat per volume vs. USA butter at closer to 80%.
This imparts an unctuousness that you have to taste to believe.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. When the basics are elevated, the more complex plates get a boost too.
I expected the Louvre to be whack
I don’t even like museums - yet I spent 5 hours at the Louvre.
The Mona Lisa is smaller and less intricate than I expected. I rattled my brain for why this, among larger and more intricate paintings, has the world in a choke hold. Katelyn Bourgoin, author of Why We Buy Newsletter, shared that humans are tuned to faces. When we deem them as trustworthy and looking off, it peaks our curiosity as to what they’re looking at.
You’ll notice this trick in Youtube thumbnails where humans are looking at the call to action.
Except in this case, it’s a never ending conversation that will never be settled.
I expected the Tamil people wouldn’t understand me (or visa versa)
It was my first time ordering at a Tamil restaurant where English was not a fallback language.
I spoke only in Tamil and it went so well. I was proud as fuck.
La Chapelle owes much of its current cultural character to the 1980s when large numbers of ethnic Tamils fled the violent ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka and landed in France. While the French prefecture (immigration authority) was at first reluctant to give the Tamils asylum, the Office for the Protection of Refugees opened its doors to the refugees in 1987. Now, over 100,000 Sri Lankan Tamils live in France, with the majority residing in Paris.
It was so dope to hear my mother tongue being interleaved with French. It made me realize my people are all around the world - ready to welcome me with open arms.
I can’t wait to go back to Paris.
A Tweet 🐦
When I first wrote The “Thing” this week, it was a chronology of things I did in Paris.
I had bookmarked this Adi Verma tweet.
One idea per piece. So I focused on how I was wrong about Paris with stories. Said another way, I can’t tell the future.
My expectations are often wrong.
Admitting I’m wrong is the fastest way to becoming better.
A Thought 💭
I just took 4 weeks PTO.
I detached so hard I forgot I had a job.
Here’s how I prepared to forget:
Delegated all the meetings I run to a trusted coworker
Wrote down all the initiatives on-going on a piece of paper (with action items from my side)
Number 1 gave me the confidence that the in-flight initiatives were being pushed forward.
Number 2 saved me from the nagging feeling that I would overlook something once I got back.
When I looked at Number 2, I felt that if I accomplished the items - I could make a good case for a promotion.
I used to go on PTO with no preparation.
This led to most in-flight initiatives making slow or no progress until I got back.
But by trusting my coworkers, I can multiply my impact while decoupling it from time.
Give this a try next time you go on PTO and let me know how it goes :)
I used to do minimal research before traveling.
Now I watched a few hours of Youtube, take notes on paper, and put the locations on a Google Maps list.
One theme I noticed from the Youtube hours was that you should book some things in Paris ahead of time.
Booking The Louvre will save you 4 hours of waiting in line.
You can’t get into Le Jules Verne without a reservation.
I’m capturing the decisions from that research as a form of documentation.
I hope it helps you enjoy Paris someday, too.
Rue du Maruiel | 51 Rue de Malte, 75011 Paris, France
The room was spacious and clean. The staff was helpful and detail oriented.
I decided to stay in the western 11th district after a few hours of watching Youtube.
A mistake many first time tourists make is they want to stay next to the attractions.
However, Paris’s metro is easy to navigate and Uber’s are much cheaper than NYC.
The 11th district had a good mix of chill cafes, bakeries, and a peaceful canal that didn't feel too touristy.
Skip the hotel breakfast and enjoy a bakery instead. It will have more options and about half the cost.
Utopie | 20 Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud 75011 Paris
Always busy but the staff handles it with grace. Strong with the savory and sweet baked goods. I got a lime tart here with the right amount of tang and a buttery, graham cracker crust. It reminded me of a dantier key lime pie. I went there 3 times in 8 days.
Rue du Nil | 3 Rue du Nil, 75002 Paris, France
Hearty cheese bread, brie&blue cheese focaccia, and more savory goods. A few sweet ones. I went here twice before finding Utopie (2 minute walk from the hotel).
Recommending restaurants is my love language.
Le Machon d’Henri | 8 Rue Guisarde, 75006 Paris, France
I celebrated my 33rd birthday at this French restaurant. They had all the foie gras, bone marrow, and beef I was looking for. If you’re looking for a beefy, rich French meal this could be it. I was surprised to overhear the chefs speaking Jaffna Tamil.
Le Jules Verne | Eiffel Tower, 2ème, Av. Gustave Eiffel, 75007 Paris, France
I booked a dinner at Le Jules Verne restaurant in the Eiffel Tower on recommendation of an old coworker (shoutout to Q). I expected it to be kitschy - like eating at the restaurant in the Needle. I was beyond wrong. It was a 3.5 hour, exquisitely-timed, 7-course tasting menu (with matured cheese) masterpiece. It felt like being part of a choreographed dance. Our dinner was at 815pm so we experienced the transition from day to night overlooking the city.
Muniyandi Vilas | 207 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis, 75010 Paris, France
This the spot in La Chappelle where the chef was making parottas in the window. The parottas were flaky and soft with the right amount of char to balance the interior. I ordered the Parotta plat (பரொட்ட கோப்பை) - with cabbage (கோவா), spinach (கீரை), chickpeas (கடலை), and goat curry (ஆட்டி இறைச்சி கறி). The veg curries were the milder compliment to the extra spicy goat curry I ordered. The place was packed for a weekday 2pm lunch.
Babylon Biss | 34 Rue Tiquetonne, 75002 Paris, France
I ordered the Creole black pudding with rum&ginger. They used fresh squeezed ginger in their drinks. I will adopt in my home drink making. The walls were decorated with sculptures and animal print. Open from 8pm - 8 am. Afrobeats filled the room at the right volume to converse. The walls were decorated with famous American musicians who had eaten there - Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Snoop Dogg, among dozens of others.
Big thank you tofor inspiring me to share what I enjoyed in Paris. She's one my favorite creators. She has lived in Paris since 2019. She creates and curates exquisite works and even learned French!
She’s releasing a Visitor’s Guide to Paris to her newsletter subscribers soon. I’m pumped for its release. Subscribe so you don’t miss it!
If you’ve been to Paris, it’d be dope to hear what you enjoyed in the comments.
P.S. I renamed the newsletter from “TTT Newsletter” to “Often Wrong Club”. Learning and growing comes faster to those open to being wrong. Every edition is an invitation for you to grow with me.
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“When the basics are elevated, the more complex plates get a boost too.”
Love that you loved Paris. Living there was one of my coolest life experiences, so much culture to soak up.
And very cool about your connection to La Chapelle!
Damn it felt good to read a perspective on Paris from someone who isn’t white 🙌 !!!! I love that you found a connection to your Tamil heritages in La Chapelle, could experience the joy of hearing your mother tongue of Tamil being interwoven with French, and that you stayed in a more local / less touristy area. Thanks as well for the mention!
Also random Q -- but did you try salted butter?!
Next time you’re in Paris let me know! I’ll take you to some great Vietnamese spots