Paris has no shortage of adorable cafés and restaurants that are just begging for you to sit down in them and indulge in all sorts of culinary discoveries. Eating a long lunch with a glass or two of wine is a French hallmark as much as the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre – it’s simply a must. If you’re traveling by yourself, however, nothing is more intimidating than sitting in one of these establishments alone. Solo eating seems like an art that few, especially those who don’t speak the local language, have mastered. It’s simply not easy.
Parisians feel your pain, too. Not everyone in Paris works in an office with coworkers that act as built-in dining pals. Many of us work at home and lunchtime, well, it’s not as easy. Often as I sit at my desk/dining room table, I think of going to a restaurant. Alone? No thank you. With a friend? No one’s available. Take out and eat outside? This is Paris, it will start raining.
Fortunately there is now relief to the pangs of hunger and desire that every visitor and freelancer feels as they look longingly at the café terrace full of laughing friends sharing a meal. A social network – I know, another one, but bear with me – called COlunching.com has come to the rescue to help hungry travelers, freelancers, stay-at-home workers, and students come together around the table to reinvent the lunch hour here in Paris.
The idea? Users on the site organize lunches, dinners, and brunches and invite new people to the events in local restaurants. The groups are kept small and anyone can sign up, but I always make sure I invite a friend to come to help break the ice more easily. So far, it hasn’t been an issue since people are attracted to COlunching for the chance to meet new people and make new friends. They are there to meet and mingle.
The lunches that I have organized and participated in have been extremely successful in all respects (if I do say so myself). The restaurants served up great food and the conversation flowed freely. Participants handed out email addresses, business cards, and phone numbers, hence the site’s motto, “Feed your network.” The best part is that there are COlunch events every week, nearly every day in Paris. There’s always a chance to join a meal and discover new food, new addresses, and new faces. I have met some fantastic people who have become COlunching partners in crime, new faces that have become familiar ones as we discuss which restaurant we should head to next time.
For those coming to Paris on vacation, for study, for short term work, COlunching is the ideal way to meet locals as well as other expats. English-speaking meals are scheduled as well as linguistically-mixed meals – Franglais is welcomed – giving everyone the chance to speak and communicate in the language of their choice. It’s a way to create a truly memorable experience while in Paris, adding a personal touch to an otherwise impersonal meal.
Once part of the network, you can join up with COlunches all over the world, from Paris and New York to Milan and London. It’s a surefire way to meet new people while traveling and a convenient way to stay in touch. The network is spreading to every continent, so you can always check ahead before traveling to see if you can meet up with COlunchers in Sydney or Tokyo for a local, authentic meal. Or you can join a COlunch in your own neighborhood. Either way, it sure beats eating alone!
Bryan Pirolli has been living in Paris for the past three years doing everything from delivering pizzas and working with students abroad to making cappuccinos and hunting for the perfect bicycle. Today he is pursuing his masters degree in Communications at the Sorbonne. He has been spotted around town organizing meals through the social networking site Colunching.com while also mixing up cocktails as a bartender for the pop-up soirée the verySWELL project. When he’s not giving walking tours of Paris’ neighborhoods as a guide, he pens his thoughts in articles on eurocheapo.com and on his own blog bryanpirollil.com.
Photographs by Sonia Zonnad, founder of COlunching.com.