My magnifique day with the Emily In Paris pilgrims whose descent on the city haughty locals have branded l’invasion des imbéciles
Ah, Paris! The city of love, light, croissants, couture – and a magnet for 30 million tourists from around the world every year. From the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre and Notre-Dame to the Champs-Elysées, the French capital isn’t short on iconic sights.
But a new swathe of visitors here has no interest in the traditional charms Paris has to offer. For these tourists are descending, in astonishing numbers, on small Gallic streets, parks and squares, iPhones in hand.
They all stop at a rustic family bakery in the Latin Quarter, which has doubled pain au chocolat production to keep up with demand. Then there’s the restaurant next door, whose 15 rickety tables are constantly occupied by tourists drinking kir royales and photographing its red frontage.
A few blocks away, there’s the art gallery where rents have soared due to hordes of visitors coming to take pictures of the building (without going inside). A nearby bistro is deluged daily by giggling young women in berets.
The reason? What’s been dubbed the ‘Emily effect’, driven by the hugely popular Netflix series Emily In Paris, starring Lily Collins as a quirkily dressed American marketing executive who tries to build a life for herself in the French capital (without, notably, speaking a word of French).
Ah, Paris! The city of love, light, croissants, couture – and a magnet for 30 million tourists from around the world every year
From the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre and Notre-Dame to the Champs-Elysées, the French capital isn’t short on iconic sights
A lighthearted romcom full of frivolous plotlines and mildly offensive stereotypes, the show – written by Sex And The City creator Darren Star – has won legions of fans (58 million tuned in to watch the first series in 2020 and Rishi Sunak has professed his love for it), who are now trekking to Paris to hunt down the real-life places frequented by their heroine.
But many locals are less delighted. In Paris it’s become known as ‘l’invasion des imbéciles’, which translates as ‘the invasion of the morons’. Graffiti with the words ‘Emily Not Welcome’ has been scrawled in angry red on the side of one building.
A recent editorial in Le Monde, a French daily newspaper, bore the headline: ‘They think they own the neighbourhood! Emily In Paris – an invasive neighbour.’
And these invaders could be about to multiply. For Dharma, an ‘experiential’ travel company (which organises global tours hosted by Instagrammers and reality stars), has been given the green light by Netflix to start running Paris By Emily holidays, designed for the show’s superfans.
The five-day group trips, the first of which departs next April, start at £2,155 per person (flights aren’t included, and you’ll have to pay £2,870 if you want your own room) and will be led by ‘Emileaders’, chirpy tour guides fully versed on all things Emily.
The itinerary includes activities such as cocktail-making, a pastry masterclass, a French lesson and a visit to a designer atelier, not to mention ‘content capture’ experiences, vital for securing those picture-perfect Instagram shots.
Interest in Paris By Emily tours since their launch just over a week ago has been huge, Dharma’s founder Charaf El Mansouri, 34, tells me. ‘It’s been pretty crazy,’ he adds. ‘There’s a lot of demand from the US at the moment.’
But does this fairytale version of Paris exist? And is the influx of Netflix tourists good for business – or a boom locals hope will fizzle out? With a suitcase full of Emily-esque outfits, a £288 Eurostar ticket – a tenth of the cost of Dharma’s tours – and my rusty GCSE French, I’ve come to find out.
My first stop is the Place de l’Estrapade – or ‘Emily Square’ to fans – in the 5th arrondissement, fringed by ramshackle cafés and a bubbling fountain, which forms the backdrop to Emily’s apartment, her favourite bakery and the restaurant where Gabriel, her on-off chef love interest, works.
Now, I’ve watched all three series of Emily In Paris and this doesn’t look quite like I’d hoped: bins are overflowing with rubbish, there are traffic cones everywhere and the water in the picturesque fountain is seriously murky.
This reaction is something Thierry Rabineau, owner of the 19th Century La Boulangerie Moderne, deals with constantly. It is here that, in the very first episode, Emily buys a pain au chocolat – and here that, daily, fans queue up to do the same. ‘We’re a neighbourhood boulangerie and some people don’t understand that,’ says Thierry, who has been running the bakery for eight years. ‘We want to preserve our soul, we want to preserve our way of doing things.’
My first stop is the Place de l’Estrapade – or ‘Emily Square’ to fans – in the 5th arrondissement, fringed by ramshackle cafés and a bubbling fountain, which forms the backdrop to Emily’s apartment, her favourite bakery and the restaurant where Gabriel, her on-off chef love interest, works
Now, I’ve watched all three series of Emily In Paris and this doesn’t look quite like I’d hoped: bins are overflowing with rubbish, there are traffic cones everywhere and the water in the picturesque fountain is seriously murky
Admittedly, he adds, the series has been bon for business: 40 per cent of trade now comes from Emily tourists and it’s a welcome bolster in the summer when his regulars are away en vacances.
Pain au chocolat sales have ‘exploded’ (one recent customer bought £100 worth to take on the flight home), he’s won awards across France and there’s talk of a franchise in Saudi Arabia.
The famous pastry – yours for £1.30 – lives up to the hype: it’s melt-in-the-mouth delicious, buttery and flaky, and, if you ask nicely, they’ll give you a ‘… In Paris’ bag to personalise with your name.
Livia, 27, a student from Italy, has one: she sports an Emily In Paris T-shirt and tells me she’s come here alone for the weekend, just to visit the sights from the series.
READ MORE: I live in the Emily in Paris building and it’s not as glamourous as people think – my door is broken and my neighbours hate the show
Adel, 46, from Egypt is on his third trip to the city. ‘I only came to visit the places where the scenes from Emily In Paris were shot,’ he admits. ‘I feel more excited by them than typical Parisian sights.’
There’s also Ami Samuel, 50, who is snapping pictures of Emily’s apartment to send to her daughter back in California. ‘I looked online and found all the location spots,’ she tells me. ‘I love the series – it’s fun to dream that you can go somewhere and have this whole different life, like Emily.’
But fame has been a mixed blessing for some residents. There have been complaints about everything from filming trucks and noise to parking restrictions and heavy-handed security when Lily, 34, is in town. Film crews, due to descend on the area again imminently, have been known to take over entire blocks for days.
One local, Barbara, 50, lives next to the bakery and says the arrival of Emily and the superfans has changed the face of the neighbourhood. ‘It was a quiet place before and now it’s like Disneyland.’ She describes the tourists who visit as ‘morons’, adding that the rose-tinted visions on screen are ‘not the Paris I know’. ‘They didn’t film the rats in the streets!’ she says.
Alexandre, 35, a barman at the Café de la Nouvelle Mairie, agrees. ‘Everything is so clean with pink everywhere [on screen],’ he says. ‘I found it so annoying. Now, we see around 1,000 tourists a day here.’
And while bakery owner Thierry has seen the positives of the influx, he’s experienced the down sides, finding himself at the sharp end of online reviews from fans. ‘People are writing comments saying it’s overpriced, it’s not good, it’s disgusting,’ he says. ‘This baffles me.’
Down in the basement of his bustling shop, he says his priority is keeping long-suffering locals on side. ‘Emily In Paris is in fashion right now, but it might not be in four or five years. If we mess with our local clients, we will lose both the tourists and our regulars.’
It’s midday and all this swanning around in mini-skirts and impractical stilettos has made me hungry.
Thankfully, a few doors down from Thierry’s bakery is the perfect lunch spot: Terra Nera, which fans will recognise as ‘Les Deux Compères’, the restaurant where ‘hot chef’ Gabriel woos Emily with his sophisticated French cuisine.
Lilly Collins stars as Emily (pictured), a ditzy Chicago girl who winds up working, living and romancing in Paris
Emily’s most expensive habit is no doubt her wardrobe – which sees her dropping $76, 795 a year
You won’t find boeuf bourguignon on the menu: in real life it’s Italian and has been run by Sicilian-born Valerio Abate for eight years.
Emily In Paris isn’t its first foray into film: Terra Nera featured in the 2011 Woody Allen feature Midnight In Paris – something which makes Valerio, 40, proud. ‘We just love cinema,’ he says. ‘Being in Emily In Paris has been amazing. I have people coming from so many different countries.’
As well as a boost in profits, it’s improved his personal life: three months ago Valerio met Patricia, his Spanish girlfriend, who came to visit as an Emily fan. ‘We are so in love – I hope she might come to join me in Paris forever,’ he says.
He’s not the only Parisian to have a soft spot for the show. ‘It can be a bit of a cliche at times, but the series is like a postcard,’ says Patrick Fourtin, who owns an art gallery in Place de Valois, featured in almost every episode, below the offices of Savoir, the fictional marketing agency where Emily works.
‘There are people capturing photos and videos all day, every day,’ says Patrick. ‘It’s not disruptive because the door to the gallery is on the other side. The only negative side to it is that my rent has gone up considerably.’
I’m not the only beret-clad woman he’s seen today. Outside, another, wearing a Barbie-pink jacket and matching shorts, is posing for pictures taken from every angle by her patient partner.
Across the square is Bistrot Valois, a restaurant frequented by Emily and her French colleagues, where owner Laurent Chainel is also full of praise. ‘The series helped people to go off the beaten track,’ he says. ‘It’s about the beautiful terraces, the squares, the gardens – and it’s allowed viewers to rediscover Paris in all its beauty.’
READ MORE: Sacre bleu! Financial experts reveal the STAGGERING real-life cost of Emily in Paris’ lavish lifestyle – from $77,000 closet to $3,000 taxi bills – which would see her racking up $6,000 in debt PER MONTH
Canadian-born April Pett, who’s lived in the city for almost a decade, charges £100 per person for a small-group three-hour walking tour, including beret shopping, a meet-and-greet with an Emily In Paris extra and the obligatory pain au chocolat. ‘I always make sure to support the local businesses that are featured in the show,’ she says.
Fabien Buonavia, a Paris native who runs thrice-weekly Emily tours for a bargain £26 per person, admits that most French people ‘love to hate’ Emily, ‘but they make fun of her in a nice way’.
This is the attitude Charaf El Mansouri hopes to capture with his new travel venture. ‘Our trips are not mass-market trips,’ he explains. ‘They are small, ultra-curated travel experiences – all about seeing Paris through the eyes of Emily Cooper, and for many people that’s an exciting, fun and vibrant idea.’
Having spent a day tottering around in her shoes, I’m starting to see the appeal.
Doing Paris the Emily way is far from a cultural awakening (I’ve barely glanced at the Eiffel Tower, and museums haven’t crossed my mind), but skipping through the city in a series of ridiculous outfits, snapping selfies and cafe-hopping by the Seine is certainly a pleasant way to pass the time.
It may not be the Paris that locals know, but the ‘Emily effect’ has made a new generation fall head over heels for their beautiful city. And some love the daily invasion of starry-eyed fans. ‘It’s always been too quiet around here,’ says Marie-Helène, 85, who’s lived on the Place de l’Estrapade for 50 years.
‘I was excited when I saw the film crew for the first time – it brought excitement to the street,’ she adds. ‘I’m happy to see tourists taking pictures – it doesn’t bother me.’
Is she a fan of the show? ‘Oh no,’ she says, ‘I’ve never seen it. I don’t have a TV.’
- The fourth series of Emily In Paris is due to be shown on Netflix later this year
Source: Read Full Article