Away on Honeymoon

Told you I’d be back.

I’ve been so inconsistent about blogging since I moved to Paris, but I noticed that I’ve been really great about journaling. Some things just aren’t the same when I try to share them with other people. So instead I leave details for myself, to read and find 20 years from now when I’m sorting through old boxes of junk.

I have so much free time here in Paris. I am taking three classes, but one of them is a directed study. I’m in a classroom for a grand total of five hours and 20 minutes a week. I spend my time traveling (in the Marais, in Paris, in greater France, throughout Europe) and cooking and journaling. Mostly alone.

This time has been like a honeymoon with myself. And while that sounds poetic and all, I’m actually kind of serious. When I’m in the real world, working and going to school and running magazines and going to charity events, I work myself down. If and when I get a short second to breathe, I write some blog post about renewing my commitments to myself, and I love me so much, and blah blah blah.

But instead of writing commitments, I’m living them. I’m free to do everything—stroll alone through London on a whim, read Hemingway on a park bench, sit in a church in a small French town, eat eclairs—and also nothing.

I listen to music a lot. I sit and daydream and waste away on Pinterest. I drink a lot of cabernet sauvignon. I’ve almost forgotten what stress feels like.

My entire life, I’ve been on this forward-facing road, with clearly (self-) defined directions and destinations. Graduate high school, go to college, co-op at Marie Claire, study abroad, have officer positions in any club I get involved in, graduate college. When I was a freshman, I made up a little calendar of the next five years—where I would be and what I had to do. It was color-coded (green for classes in Boston, blue for co-ops, pink for study abroad).

I planned everything perfectly. I was going to have two majors, I was going to co-op at Marie Claire and the Boston Globe and someplace international, I was going to study abroad in Peru, I was going to go to Egypt on a summer dialogue for journalism, I was going to be editor of the Huntington News. And when I graduated in 2014, I would go on to be an editorial assistant at a fashion magazine.

But planning isn’t doing. Those “going to’s” represent the person I wanted to be and the world that I lived in when I was 17, and so much has changed. Things fall apart, classes are cancelled, money is tight.

And dreams change. Continue reading

Petite (and Cheap!) Paris Walking Tours

(c) Jorge Albarracin

I love planning. And lately, I’ve needed motivation to get out of my apartment, so I’ve compiled some themed Paris walking tours. Though I’ve done most everything included, it never hurts to revisit Paris’ beautiful sites. And by sharing them, hopefully others can enjoy them as well! They’re all a little different, and I’ll continue to add more ideas as I learn more about this beautiful city.

So without further delay…

Petite Paris Tours (I totally just made that up) by Marian Daniells:

Saints and Sinners:

Start at the Abbesses (M 12) stop. As you come out of the metro, you’ll see a small gated park. Inside is Le Mur Des Je T’Aime (the “I Love You” wall), with the phrase written in more than 300 languages. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch wedding parties posing in front of the wall, post-ceremony.When you leave the park, ditch the hike up the torturous steps, and instead take the scenic route up to the Sacre Coeur Basilica. Keep a watch out for the blue door on your right, where Van Gogh lived for two years. Also on the way, pick up some cheap (12 for 2E) postcards. You’ll come up on the left side of the Basilica. Take some time to walk around the church and gape at the gorgeous mosaic ceiling, and then catch the amazing view of Paris from its steps before you head down them. Oftentimes, you can catch a musical performance on the steps, but beware of the bracelet guys (con artists–they’ll mob you. Just keep walking and throw a firm “No!” their way.) Keep moseying your way downhill, and take a right on Boulevard de Clichy. Keep your eye out for the Bistro le Chat Noir, believed to be the first cabaret (you’ll recognize the advertisements). Further down is the Musee de l’Eroticisme, the Museum of Eroticism, seven floors of toys and vintage porn and all sorts of—ahem—goodies (10E, 6E for students). Not recommended for a first date, but the stuff is actually pretty interesting! One block further, you’ll see the garish red windmill of the famous Moulin Rouge.

Paris’ Underbelly:

While Paris is the City of Light above ground, it also boasts some amazing sights under its streets, as well. For a teaser, check out this NPR video on some locals that explore the inner and ancient workings of Paris. As for things that are legal and accessible… Start at the Denfert-Rochereau (M 4, 6; RER B) stop and make your way to the entrance to the Paris catacombs (8E, 4E for under 27). At the end of the 18th century, the cemetery of the Innocent was causing infection for residents, so the state ordered the excavation and relocation of more than 6 million human remains. Note: the catacombs take you 2 km to a different location, so don’t leave anything behind. Also, there are no bathrooms, and bring a coat because it gets chilly down there. From the exit, take the subway to the 7eme (there are several options) near Pt. de l’Alma. The metro itself is the most popular tourist “attraction,” if you will, in Paris. There are four abandoned “ghost stations” in the Paris metro system. For guided tours, check out this (difficult to navigate) site. Or this blog post. On the left bank of Pt. de l’Alma, pick up tickets (4,30E, 3,50E for students) for the Paris Sewer Tour at the little blue kiosk , and then descend the stars into the sewer system. You’ll learn about Paris’ (super interesting) sanitation and sewer history. Turns out, Victor Hugo actually knew the head honcho of the Paris sewer system, so all of the information in Les Miserables is accurate—there’s even a painting in the “museum” of Jean Valjean carrying Marius. For the partying crowd, end the night at Le Showcase, a hoity-toity club located under the Pt. Alexander III bridge in an old boat hanger. Tres chic!

More to come…

Playing Catch-Up, Moving Forward

Le Mont Saint-Michel

You may have noticed that I haven’t blogged in a long while, and that I’ve more or less fallen off the face of the social media world. Others certainly have. I pride myself on having honest friends, the kind that aren’t afraid to call me out on being a bad friend and falling of the radar.

It’s been an interesting first month… Highlights include a day visit to Le Mont Saint-Michel, where I caught the last bit of a Mass with the famous monks singing; a drunken and idiotic four mile run at 4 a.m., complete with losing my apartment keys, my dignity, and a couple layers of skin; a jerky stick-shift road trip to Oktoberfest which was 1 part awesome and 2 parts retarded (my fellow traveler drunkenly abandoned his jacket with the rental car keys); a very graphic and comical trip to the Museum of Eroticism—so much vintage porn. Along the way, there have been a lot of Gossip Girl reruns, Disney movies, and duck. I freaking love duck.

Oktoberfest!

I also have plans to visit Bruges, have dinner at Jim Haynes’ house, train to Dijon (yay, mustard museum!), go to Prague for the fall break, and many additional day activities in Paris, herself (more info to come).

It’s been a wild and amazing time. But when I’m not out jetting off on adventures, I spend a lot of time in my underwear watching movies and drinking hot cocoa and sleeping. This semester, I’m not taking any journalism courses, nor am I working on AUP’s student media. It’s meant as a break (of sorts) from journalism, while I figure out if journalism’s something I still want to pursue. Everyone has their doubts, no?

Anyway, during my downtime, blogging isn’t exactly at the forefront of my mind. Nor is calling people. I’m a hermit. So… much overdue apologies to those of you whom I’ve failed to keep informed. Moving forward, I will be much better—Promise!

Mastering the Art of French Eating

A Parisienne patisserie, where sweets are taken seriously.

I’m watching “Julie and Julia” and smiling through the entire movie. When I get back to Boston in January, and have access to a full kitchen and grocery delivery service, I want to invoke Sunday as my domestic day. Cleaning and cooking. I plan on cooking WAY too much food, so that I have enough to freeze and share with friends, enough to last me for the week. Normally, I don’t eat super healthy because by the time dinnertime rolls around, I’m too lazy and exhausted to bother cooking. Plus, I love a good cheese pizza.

Anyway, this movie just makes me smile: food and Meryl Streep and Paris all in one movie. It makes me want to shop for charming little aprons with frills (I’m legitimately obsessed) and 1960s felt hats, and to wear heels in the kitchen. Trés adorable.

True French food is so different. Better than crepes and jambon-in-everything, and fancy names… French food is fresher, richer, more expensive. And so drenched in butter and cheese and creme, it will make your heart explode in a cholesterol-ful frenzy. But delicious.

It goes beyond simply cooking differently, though. The French shop differently too. There’s the crémerie for dairy goods (except cheese, which you can find at the fromagerie), the magasin de fruits et legumes for fruits and veggies fresh from the nearby farms, the boucherie for fresh and preserved meat (except pork, which can be found at the charcuterie; and fish, which is at the poissonnerie). Then my personal favorites: the boulangerie for baked goods, the patisserie for pastries and sweets, and the confiserie for candy. I’ve even seen more than one vacuum cleaner stores, with all sorts of shapes and sizes of vacuum cleaners (some even with painted on pink faces). And for everything else, there are marches (farmers’ markets) and scattered grocery store equivalents throughout.

I moved in to my new Paris apartment a couple of days ago (pictures to come!) and had to stock my fridge. But per usual, I’m doing it wrong. Even in the overpriced grocery store that I stopped in, people were only buying two or three things at a time—cleaning goods, water bottles, beer, all things they couldn’t find elsewhere in their specialized corner shops.

I now know why the French don’t buy in American-esque bulk. First off, I let three people pass me because I had 100 dollars worth of food and they were buying milk. Second, bagging your own 100 dollars worth of groceries is a royal pain.

But the worst? Carrying 50 pounds of jambon and oefs and huile d’olive up six flights of stairs is the most painful, sweaty thing ever. Not really, but a serious pain, just saying.

As I said before, the French have a way of finding the beauty in, well, everything. Food is no exception: it’s an experience and an indulgence and every cholesterol-loaded calorie is savored and sucked dry of every last bit of flavor. So to buy things in the supermarket is blasphemy; it robs the eater of the true food experience, walking into a fromagerie stinking of brie and camembert and bleu, and meeting the monsieur or madame that runs the place. The French are all so skinny because they don’t eat as routinely and regularly as us McDonalds-gobbling Anglophones. Thus, when they do, it’s a careful ritual.

Noted. And no more supermarchés pour moi.

Artsy Fartsy Francophiles

Paris street fashion. Source: estilovesyourstyle.com

Almost finished with Orientation. Between mini seminars on safety and the science of dating in Paris, I’ve been watching people.

I found this comical and chauvinist blog online that lists the “100 Red Flags,” traits in potential girlfriends that the boys should avoid. Red flag #81? Never date a girl who studied abroad in Paris. They list their reasons, which are funny but generalized and unimaginative (even if they have an inkling of truth to them).

There is something to be said about Paris attracting a certain type of person. Coco Chanel, Carrie Bradshaw, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Hemmingway, Gertrude Stein: this city is drowning in cultural significance.

Friedrich Nietzsche said, “An artist has no home in Europe except in Paris.”

New York draws all kinds of people because it has a variety of strong industries: art, architecture, music, dance, theatre, sports, and —of course—finance. And while Paris is strong in art, architecture, music, history, and—of course—fashion, it isn’t exactly known for its Wall Street, and stretching is a sport here. So while the business and baseball buffs round out New York’s artsy-fartsy culture, Paris has no such equivalent.

Just the artsy fartsies.

Looking around my orientation sessions, there are a lot of women. I’d say maybe 70 percent.  And of the handful of guys, I’d bet half are gay (it’s hard to tell in Europe, where being “metro” is the new black).

So not to worry, Almost Boyfriend. The numbers are in your favor.

Angela Carter, a British author, thought that cities had sexes: “London is a man, Paris a woman, and New York a well-adjusted transsexual.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Cultivating Beauty and Channeling the Je Ne Sais Quoi

As I write, I’m picnicking on the Champs de Mars. I feel like something out of a novel–sunbathing with my computer, wine, and some yummy tapas. I actually cut up an apple, smothered the slices in stinky French cheese, and then wrapped them in proscutto. If that doesn’t make me French, I give up.It’s certainly been an interesting couple of days. In all honesty, I’m a little surprised I even made it out of the apartment today. I’ve been sleeping so much since I landed, and have a hefty dose of jetlag. I was planning on just eating my little feast in the apartment, while scouring Pinterest and contemplating maybe sometime in the far away future writing. But when I started putting the food together, I just made myself get out. And thank goodness.

I’m still learning how to be French. And I’m sure I’m not doing it right. People that walk by keep looking at me (Actually, people everywhere keep looking at me. And not in the Italian creepy kind of way.  I’m beginning to think I just scream American wannabe). For starters, I’m lying down on my stomach so I can type. I see no one else doing this, despite the glorious sun. They’re all sitting like proper human beings. Second, I’m alone. Again, no one else is, but they have friends and I don’t so phooey on them. And then there’s the matter of the Macbook. Absolutely NO ONE is doing any sort of work. Leisure time here is leisure time (They don’t understand that writing to me is fun).

Oh my, just took my first bite. I’m a freaking genius. Perfect mix of sweet and tart and salty. I’m in heaven.

But back to business… it’s hard to fit in here. What I thought was pigeon French is actually English, and actually I find myself speaking Spanish more often than French anyway. I also don’t have the je ne sais quoi that’s such a defining characteristic of French women down yet. French women are messy chic, and it’s hard to strike the right balance, especially when I’ve spent the last umpteen years perfecting (what is hope is) my polished young professional look. I might just have to pass on the hobo chic thing. It’s just not worth the effort (or lack thereof?).

Instead of the fashion, I’m trying to focus more on the general French lifestyle, appreciating and cultivating all things beautiful. Like food. And sunshine. And while I don’t have the fine details down, I’m certainly cultivating beauty in my own way, napping all the time, people watching, walking the Seine, and obviously eating like a queen.

The rest can wait.

Dorothy Does Dallas (en route to Paris)

I always travel in cowboy boots. They don’t pack well, are great for navigating TSA, and I secretly love the little clack-clack noise the make on the airport floor…

My cowboy boots are currently sitting by my front door, next to a suitcase, a backpack, a (very full) purse, and my camera. Ladies and gents, it’s go time.

People keep asking if I’m excited, and I don’t exactly know how to answer that. Yes, I’m feeling excitement, but I’m also feeling about a billion other emotions and I’m not totally certain excitement is at the forefront right now. Mostly, I’m making lists and organizing; it’s how I make sense of things that are beyond my comprehension (or just too darn overwhelming).

I feel such (mostly self-imposed) pressure to binge drink up everything that Paris has to offer. In my four meager months of living in Paris, I have to soak up more than 2,000 years’ worth of history and architecture and art and culture and food (Oh, my!). I want to do it all, I want to write about it, and I want to enjoy every second of it. As Dorothy would say, “There’s no place like Paris.” **

It’s a daunting task, but I’m ready. Somehow, Paris seems natural and even familiar, like when you meet someone and feel like you’ve known them for years. I myself feel more Parisian (or maybe I flatter myself. So shoot me.), even if I’m running around in cowboy boots with a huge backpack on, speaking pigeon French. Okay, bad example, but I’m doing it all wearing lipstick, so that’s something. Baby steps.

I was browsing through some old posts just now and came across this little gem that I wrote more than a year ago. I had recently returned from a trip to the Bahamas, was taking lots of Bikram yoga classes (which mess with your body’s chemicals so much, it feels like you’re high), and was a week away from finishing my internship and moving back to Boston. Basically, I was in a really good mood.

My writing was chipper and happy and I was so damn giddy with the beauty of the world, and dizzy from dancing my “fancy little tango” with the world of what ifs.

A year before that post (almost to the day), I got to Paris and fell in love with it: the bajillion couples making out in public, the appreciation for beauty in its many forms, and the general joie de vivre. I thought, “What if I studied in Paris?”

Tomorrow, the “what if” becomes a reality. I’m hopping on a plane in nine hours. And I’m going to land in that world of opportunities, 6,000 miles away with a butt ton of luggage. Alone. I’ll get settled in my temporary apartment, and after that I’m on my own to stroll the city—just me, Paris, and a beloved, beaten-up old pair of cowboy boots.

 

** Quote has been modified by the blogger. But let’s be honest, if you were Dorothy and had to choose between Paris and Kansas, there’s no competition.

Umm… I’m moving to Paris

Lovers write their names on locks. Paris, 2010.

I’m moving to Paris. The reality of that hits me every morning. Up until now, it’s been a fact, and I haven’t really tied any emotions to the statement; I’ve just planned and made lists and bought converters and phone SIM cards. It’s been a task, but now the task list is running down and I’m left idle (see last post), with only the reality: I’m moving to Paris. I’m moving to Paris. I’m moving to Paris.

Only it’s not just that I’m moving to Paris. I’m moving to Paris with a long term visa and no place to live. There’s no one to meet me at the airport, and there’s a 99% chance that I will have messed up my SIM card installation and won’t have any cell phone coverage when I land. I’m moving to Paris and don’t know how to speak the language (Okay, technically I’ve taken two years, but the only thing that stuck was j’aimerais un cafe, si vous plait which means I would like a coffee please). I’m moving to Paris and I’m deadly afraid of being alone (see every post on living in New York). I’m moving to Paris and am somehow expected to find a place for less than $700/month. I’m moving to Paris and I’m going to miss Boston in the fall.

But still… I’m moving to Paris. And it’s not totally a freakout. I’m moving to Paris and can’t wait to eat nothing but cheese and wine and fresh market produce. I’m moving to Paris and am only taking three classes. I’m moving to Paris and fully expect to ditch my one Friday class for weekend getaways in Prague and Barcelona and Munich. I’m moving to Paris and know how to order coffee. I’m moving to Paris and I’m going to see all the Paris leaves change in the fall. I’m moving to Paris and I’m… hell, I’m moving to Paris; that’s reason enough to smile.

When I break things down logically, I know that I’m going to be fine and have one of the best experiences ever. But 60% of the time, I’m not being entirely logical, so I freak myself out. But enclosed is a list I’ve been compiling of things I want to do while I’m there. Obviously, this is not a complete list, but they are things I’ve come across that I didn’t do during my four-day Paris excursion in 2010. Continue reading

Expat Moment: Gyms

I’m having an expat moment. While in Paris, I anticipate eating. A lot. So I’ve spent the last 10 minutes looking at gym options in the greater Paris area. I know that Parisians (and most Europeans) are not as crazed about the health kick, workoutaholic mentality that many Americans are, and that’s okay. P90x doesn’t really jive in France and I can deal, but when clicking through these gym websites, I can’t help but laugh a little.

Stretching is listed as a sport. As well as table tennis. Adam Gopnik wrote in Paris to the Moon about how difficult it was to find a decent, “American” gym, but that was written in the ’90s, so I thought there might be some changes. And there are. There are lots of fitness training programs, yoga, pilates, swim, and tennis, but–I’m sorry–stretching as a sport? I can’t stop laughing. Maybe that’s why the Parisians are all so darn pretty: They never sweat!

I guess I’ll just have to make do with podcasts and DVDs and running in public gardens in my tres Americain running shoes.

Wardrobe Essentials: Ten “Perfect 10” Pieces for Paris

The most recent issue of Matchbook Magazine (a recent obsession) boasts a great article about riding boots. I’ve actually been on the hunt for black leather riding boots for more than a year, and just last night found a pair of Anne Klein black riding boots that I’ve been lusting after.

Having submitted my application to study in Paris, I’m already thinking about what I need to bring. Parisian style is timeless, minimalist and practical (except for heels on cobblestones), so I thought I’d write about the 10 essentials that I’ll be bringing (even though I’m only bringing one suitcase!). I also haven’t written about my “Perfect 10” in a while, so I thought I’d pay homage to that.

Thus, ladies, the Perfect 10 essentials for my Paris wardrobe:

Crasslee boots, Anne Klein

1. Leather riding boots [CHECK!]. Let’s start with a New England classic. And no, I’m not talking about a North Face jacket. Classic leather riding boots are timeless and should last for years. My mom, who’s in her late 40s just tossed a pair of leather boots she bought in college. They’ve been loved and dyed and resoled, but black leather boots will never go out of style. I’ve been looking for the perfect pair for months, and finally found one that is high quality, reasonably priced, and doesn’t have excessive frills. But if plain black seems a little too boring, I also love a dark brown, which is equally versatile. Or try another kind of boot: I know I love my cowboy boots!

 

 

Reva flats, Tory Burch

2. Not-so-boring flats. The ballet flat is not only comfortable, but it’s a chic, polished alternative to sneakers. Anything with a rubberized sole will be sturdier. Also, this might just be me, but I Febreze the crap out of my flats because my feet sweat buckets in them and I don’t wear socks or anything. Though I’m a huge fan of plain black flats (like black Tory Burch ones that are both sporty and pretty), I feel the tres Parisienne trend is colored or embellished flats. I love red or green ones because they add a punch of unexpected, fun color. Plus, red and denim go incredibly well together.

 

Continue reading