I’ll Never Move On

I think about Paris every day. I have a map of Paris on my wall, pictures of my time there above my bed, posters, mini eiffel towers, books, music, ticket stubs, scrapbooks.. I couldn’t avoid thinking of Paris even if I wanted to. I was only there for 6 weeks, but while I was there I didn’t leave except to visit Reims and Versailles – a day trip each.

Why? I didn’t want to sight-see. I thought I wanted to before I got to Paris, but once I was there I could not leave. So many parts of my soul connected when I was in Paris. Music I’d played on the piano since I was 7 was written there, artists I admired found their muse there, accordionists were a daily encounter, the language I’d fallen in love with was all around me, the food my mom had always cooked was born there, the style, the culture, the vibe – whatever the heck that means. It just felt right. It was the lifestyle I had always wanted to have but that didn’t quite fit inside of Raleigh or Chapel Hill.

My dear friend gave me the book How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are for my birthday and I finally got around to reading it over Christmas. As if I needed another reason to feel completely split in half, this was it. After each page I read, my mind was screaming “yes, yes, YES! Someone who gets me!”  

My connection with Paris is rivaled by no other human connection. I fell into a love so deep that the distance makes me grow fonder, and I don’t mind that I can’t be there all the time because I know that, in a way, I am still there. Like so many people before me, I went to Paris and I was changed forever.

Don’t believe me? There is a whole book of testimonials just like mine. You can ask artists, authors, actors, models, designers – anyone with an affinity for art, or even not. We have all had the same experience, and none of us will ever move on.

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Week 1 // Paris

I decided to map out what I did during my first week.

Week 1 // Arrival 

M 6/23

Left the USA around 4pm. Attempted sleep. Failed.

Tu 6/24

Arrived at Charles de Gualle International Airport around 6am, 45 minute train ride to Denfert-Rochereau metro station on the RER, 10 minute walk to the FIAP Jean-Monet (home). This day felt like years, considering my lack of sleep and beginning my day at 6am, which in Eastern time was midnight. We managed to stay on our feet, getting a tour of our neighborhood (the 14e arrondissement) and settling into our rooms. That night, all 13 of us went for dinner (I had a delicious stew of beef and potatos) and walked to the Champs-Elysées to view the Arc de Triomphe.

W 6/25

Happy birthday to me! Today started off with our first FIAP breakfast, a choice of: hard boiled eggs, slices of deli ham, corn puffs, cocoa crispies, corn flakes, canned fruit, apples, bananas, pain au chocolat, baguettes, croissants, nutella, apricot jam, and yogurt. Next, we went to the Fnac (think Best Buy) to buy our novels for class. It was love at first sight with Italie 2, the closest mall to where we were living where I would spend most of my euros. 🙂 Some of us then went to see Notre Dame, and grabbed dinner at a restaurant Cafe Pané. This was my first Croque Madame, and arguably the best one I had. We went to Amorino’s for gelato for desert (I had citron and framboise). After dinner, we met the rest of our group in front of the Fontaine St Michel, then set off on our bike tour of Paris! The bike tour was one of my favorite nights. Everything was so new and magical and breathtaking, and I was constantly in awe of the fact that I was actually in Paris. What a great birthday present! After the tour ended, some of us went to a bar to watch the world cup game. My amazing new friends surprised me with a creme brûlée.

Th 6/26

Today, we took our language placement test at the Sorbonne, which would determine what level course we would be placed in. Later, we found a delicious crêpe place that would become our favorite. We thought it was called the Secret Garden and continued to call it that until we found out it was actually called La Belle Ronde.. oops! This is also where I had my first Beurre et Sucre crêpe, which I believe is the best kind!

F 6/27

Our first day of our UNC course called Edgy Paris, taught by Dr. Tanner. My friend Jamie came to visit Ben and we went and sat by the Seine river and had a great evening. Paris showed us exactly why it is called the city of lights. There is nothing that compares to the way the orange-yellow street lights reflect off of the purple-blues of the Seine river at night.

Sa 6/28

The scheduled excursion to the Musee Carnavalet, which is a museum about the history of Paris, ended up not working out. The museum was closed for a strike! We decided to tour the house of Victor Hugo and the Pompidou museum. After, a couple of us (I believe it was Ben, Jamie, their friend Caila, my roommate Jamie, and Phil) went back to Cafe Pané for dinner. We followed that up with a trip to the Laduree on the Champs-Elysées to try their infamous macarons. We then went to the Eiffel Tower and took photos of it light up and twinkle. It twinkles every hour on the hour, and I have never seen anything so magnificent.

Su 6/29

This was a jam-packed day! In the morning, I went to the Musee de l’Orangerie, home of Monet’s water lilies. His paintings are arranged as a panorama, and the experience is incredible. You could sit and stare at each piece for hours and see a new brush stroke, new angle, new perception of the image. They look like blobs of color from close up, but create beautifully-accurate scenes from afar. Next, we saw the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel in front of the Louvre, and then went up to the pyramid of the Louvre. That afternoon, I saw Montmartre for the first time. Starting with the Moulin Rouge, we climbed up to the Sacré-Coeur and oggled at the amazing aerial view of Paris. The Sacré-Coeur is very interesting architecturally, because of its domes. We decided to walk back behind the Sacré-Coeur to see what was back there and I am so glad we did. It instantly became my favorite view of Paris, and I had one of those moments where I was overwhelmed with appreciation for this place. I want to live there in Montmartre.

School’s Out for Summer

Today was my last day of classes at the Sorbonne, as well as my final for my UNC course. That means that I have today and tomorrow left in Paris, and I fly back to the US on Friday.
I wish I could say that I was excited to go home, but I really wish I could just pick home up and plop it down into Paris. There are things that I love and miss about home: a tall glass of ice cold water, no noise at 6am, reliable wifi, my friends and family, Redbowl and Los Pos, etc… But there are also many things that I prefer about the lifestyle I’ve experienced here in Paris. I love that meals take 2 hours and that people actually talk to each other during that time, rather than sitting on their phones. I love riding the metro because it is a pretty inexpensive, efficient way to get almost anywhere in the city. I think that what I will miss most is hearing the French language everywhere I go. It’s impossible to be immersed in the French language in the US, and there aren’t many options of places to travel to find French that are less than 8 hours away. Even if I continue to butcher my French and have awkward encounters with store clerks and waitresses, it’s fun to try.
I am also pretty exhausted at this point, and I’m really looking forward to going home and checking out the new beach condo. It’ll be great to get back into the loop of the lives of my friends, since the internet situation here has made it pretty hard to keep up to date. However, I will be deactivating my Facebook on July 31 (tomorrow) since I am going to be a recruitment counselor in the fall.

See you soon, USA.

Musées et plus

One of the most noticeable perks of studying abroad is that I have been able to use my Sorbonne student ID to access museums for free. Since our UNC course is on the history and culture of Paris, we have visited a couple museums and chateaux as class excursions.

Louvre

I have attempted to go to the Louvre once so far and it wasn’t super successful. I got in for free, so I decided to get an audio tour. The audio tour was helpful… when I could get it to recognize what room I was in. I think my device might have been a little buggy because it kept automatically speaking about works of art that I was definitely not standing in front of. Anyways, I made it through the sculptures, ancient civilization artifacts, and the history of the Louvre in an hour and a half. So basically about a third of the museum. This was partly because I was already exhausted from the rest of the day, and after an hour and a half everything started blending together and I couldn’t focus enough on each individual piece of art. I look forward to going back to see the rest, maybe on a rainy day.

Musée d’Orsay

The Musée d’Orsay has been my favorite museum so far. I think that I really enjoy paintings from impressionism and realism, and most of the artists that I’ve studied in school (either in an art history class in high school or in a couple history classes at UNC) are French, so this museum had a lot of familiar names for me. Because the museum used to be a train station, you can climb up to the top floor and take a photo of the entire museum (see below). It was beautiful! I loved how the museum was split up into smaller rooms because it allowed me to focus more on what I was looking at. I find that some museums can be overwhelming because there are too many works of ark in one space, and at that point I don’t end up really looking at any of the paintings because I don’t know where to look first. There was one room that had photographs of people who were dead/dying, and it was a really shocking/bizarre thing that I had never seen before. The top floor had many famous paintings that were so cool to see in person. Sisley, Renoir, and Degas were some of my favorite artists whose work was featured at the Musée d’Orsay.

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Paris 1900

In our UNC class, we have been studying Les Années Folles (aka the Roaring 20’s in Paris) and La Belle Epoque (1870’s-WW1). Perfect timing, because at Le Petit Palais, there was an exposition called Paris 1900! There were posters from the World Fair 1900, many works of art depicting women and how their image/role in society changed during this time, and more. We also were assigned the movie Midnight in Paris, which helped us to see how these two time periods have become romanticized and seen as a really beautiful time of celebrating life between wartimes.

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Chateaux

One weekend, we visited Chateau Vaux le Vicomte and Chateau Fontainebleau. It was a rainy/cloudy kind of day, but they were still beautiful! I preferred the interior of Chateau Fontainebleau, but the gardens at Chateau Vaux le Vicomte won without contest (although I forgot to get a photo). The first two photos are of Chateau Fontainebleau and the third is of Vaux le Vicomte.

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Playing Catch-Up

I feel like it has been forever since I have written a post! This is almost 100% due to the spotty internet connect where I’m staying. I know I probably sound like a broken record talking about how bad the connection is, and I really wouldn’t mind being disconnected from the world if it meant I could post these blog posts.. Also, so much has been going on that I haven’t been sitting around in my room much (which is definitely a good thing). So I will now make an attempt to document the past week or so in two posts: this one speaking about Bastille day and daily life, and the other talking about specific museums/places I’ve visited. 

Currently I’m writing this in a cafe called Café Craft, sipping on a really bitter iced coffee. It’s the first iced coffee I’ve seen since I’ve been here, though, so no complaints! It’s in the 10th arrondissement and it has been playing the best music. Kinda feel like this could be my new Open Eye café.. aka I’m staying in Paris forever. 

le 14 Juillet (Bastille Day)

Fun fact: French people don’t call this holiday ‘Bastille Day’ – they call it ‘le 14 Juillet’

Bal des Pompiers – The celebrations start the eve of the 13th, where a fire station in each arrondissement throws a HUGE party/rave and collects donations at the entrance/sells drinks to earn money. The one we went to was crazy – there was a robot and cheerleaders on stage with the dj, tons of people, lots of mud (one girl tried to twirl around while dancing and ended up sliding through the mud), and loud music. The music started out as rap/hiphop/whatever but as the night went on, it turned into Michael Jackson/classic rock/show tunes? I have no idea. It was bizarre. But the funniest part was hearing French people singing the song “Happy” since they don’t pronounce the “h”! Apparently these parties also happen on the night of the 14th after La Fête nationale, but I was way too tired after that to find out. 

La Fête nationale – This was the most amazing thing I have experience mayyyybe in my life. We arrived at the Champ de Mars (the green grassy area in front of the Tour Eiffel) around 5:30pm. It was already PACKED, but we managed to find a spot for all of us to sit down. We brought towels as picnic blankets and brought a huge feast of cheese (many kinds), nutella, jams, baguettes, mini toasts, turkey, ham, olives, hummus, apricots, cherries, champagne, and much more. We pigged out for a couple hours until the concert started at 9:30pm. The concert was pretty amazing – there was an orchestra and some very talented opera-style singers. They even played the song from Star Wars at one point. Let me just reiterate that we were sitting on the lawn in front of the Tour Eiffel. I will probably say that a lot, but it just kept hitting me that we were there. In Paris, France. In front of the Tour Eiffel. It was so crazy! After the concert, the fireworks show began. This was definitely absolutely the best fireworks show I have ever seen. Because this was the 100th anniversary of World War 1, the emphasis on French history was even more important this year. The fireworks show went through the history of France, illustrating war time, time of peace, celebration, suffering. It was insane how the bright lights shooting out of the Tour Eiffel along with the music was able to make me feel as if I was myself going through history with the rest of France. In the very first part, I could have sworn that I was actually storming the Bastille! It was one of those moments that I’ll definitely never forget. I felt unified with a body of people that I don’t even really belong in. 

Marché Aligre

My best meal so far in France. On a rainy Sunday morning, three of us went to a Marché called Marché Aligre. There was an inside part where specialty booths were set up (kinda like a flea market) selling either bread, meat, cheese, desserts, flowers, etc. It was kinda nerve-wracking at first to order something there because I didn’t want to get the quantity wrong and end up with a kilo (however much that is…) of something, but it ended up being easier than I thought (thanks to high school French vocabulary!). The outside part of the marché consisted of a long street lined with fresh veggies and fruits. It was all so reasonably priced! We bought half of a roasted chicken, apricots, cheese, 3 different baguettes, and a pomegranate and had a feast. It was kinda hilarious because we didn’t have any utensils so we literally picked apart our food like cave men! Definitely one of my favorite experiences here so far.  

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Some other random tidbits:

– Before attending le 14 Juillet celebrations, my curling iron caught on fire briefly and it shorted out our whole room… The electricity works again but the curling iron sadly did not survive. I’d like to add that this happened after I had curled half of my hair, so I had one half curled and one half straight. Lovely. I solved it with a low bun and a headband, and laughed about it in retrospect!

– This Italian restaurant near where we live is so awesome. The owner calls me “mon cherie” and always gives us free stuff when we eat there! He is so charming and sweet. The pizza and pasta there is great and isn’t too expensive. It’s exciting to have a place where we can feel kinda like regulars, somewhat, even if it’s only for a few weeks! 

– I have not attempted biking again. 

– My French is substantially improving! My phonetics class ends tomorrow (which I’m kinda sad about) but it has definitely helped me to pronounce things correctly and also to understand people. Understanding what words are supposed to slur together helps me to understand what words are being said even if they can’t be individually heard. 

10 Juillet 2014

Last night, Ben, our TA Emma and I went to a concert at a venue called Petit Bain. It’s an adorable boat docked on the Seine river with three levels – bottom being the stage and bar, middle a bar and restaurant, and the top a rooftop terrace. If the weather had been nicer, we could’ve sat on the roof, but as almost every other day of this trip it rained… In two words, Paris has been cold and rainy so far, and I’m told that this isn’t necessarily normal for this time of year. Anyways, the concert was such a great experience! Anyone who knows me knows I love music, and I of course love French, and I’m always searching for new French music. I’ve always found it difficult to discover new French artists from the States because over there I have no idea who’s popular or how to find out about them or anything. The artist we saw was Karim Ouellet and he had a great voice and was really talented at guitar. He made little jokes in French between songs and overall I had a great time. The venue had an intimate feel, similar to Cat’s Cradle. I could imagine myself living in Paris and attending concerts at that place all the time.

The past days have been mostly classwork and rain. We went to an exhibit at Le Petit Palais called Paris 1900. It was filled with beautiful artwork, clothing, relics, and so on from the 1900’s in Paris. It coincided perfectly with what we have been studying in our class here!

I’m also really loving the Sorbonne French class. I have a great teacher. He’s funny and definitely very intelligent. He is familiar with languages other than English and French (obviously due to the number of international students that take courses at the Sorbonne) and I find it fascinating to see how he explains things to hispanophones. I have made a couple friends in my class who are from a few different universities in the US doing programs similar to ours. I also met a lawyer from Argentina, and she’s beautiful! It is also interesting to me how she and I only have French in common, so if we communicate, we communicate in French.

I’m realizing that the days are slipping away way quicker than I would have thought. I want to make the most of my time here but I also don’t want to put a ton of pressure. I’m starting to wish I was staying longer, as I’m sure most people do, and really starting to wonder about my possibilities of studying abroad again or finding work abroad in the near future. I am so happy in a place that operates in a language other than English. Of course I love North Carolina, and UNC, but I also know that I want to improve my French speaking and that’s something that isn’t going to happen the way I want it to if I am still in the US.

Another thing that has shocked me is how normal it feels to live here. I have to keep reminding myself that this is Paris… France… not Chapel Hill, not Raleigh, not North Carolina. I wake up in the morning and the same sun is still there, and when I walk to class I get hit by the same drops of rain. As much as there are huge differences, it’s just another city where people live. All of these places that I romanticize in my head do have great qualities to them, but they are also real and tangible in a way that I never realized until I actually experienced one.

Small funny anecdote of the week: I had been wanting to bike around Paris ever since we did the bike tour our first week here. So, one day before class I bought a pass to use the bikes you can rent for a day to try it out. I used one of the kiosks to grab a bike and set off. I knew how to get to class, but I didn’t actually know which roads had bike lanes and which roads it was okay to bike on the side walk. A really nice French man noticed how utterly lost I must have looked and pointed me in the right direction after I told him I was looking for Blvd Raspail. There is a huge roundabout on my path to class, so yep, there was me, biking in the middle of a circular sea of cars. I’m not even an experienced biker. Also, it started pouring rain half-way through the roundabout, so by the time I made it to class I looked like a wet dog. Anyways, I made it! It was fun, but I’m going to have to map out a better route before I do it again, and make sure that there is no rain whatsoever (which may not be possible).

Last thing before I end this ridiculously long post: I miss talking to everyone from home. I love not having internet because, as we have talked about in class, it allows me to be more present in each moment I’m in and actually experience each part of my day. That being said, I feel like I have no idea what is going on in the lives of my friends and family! Just wanted to say that I miss you all and look forward to catching up if the internet permits. 🙂 Trust me, the only reason I would ever leave this place is to come home to you guys.

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Happy 4th of July!

I’m writing this on the metro ride to Musee d’Orsay because it’s the first bit of free time I’ve had in a little while. Also, as I’m sure I’ve said before, internet is sparse. For example, I had internet for 30 minutes at 7:30am yesterday and didn’t have it again til this morning.
I’ve seen so many things in Paris now! I’ve done most of the touristy things. I got to see the Eiffel Tower twinkle at night, I’ve been to Champs Élysées and the Arc de Triomphe a couple times. Paris is starting to feel slightly normal and home-like, although walking anywhere still amazes me because of all of the beautiful architecture and mostly great weather.
A couple of friends and I went to the Musee Orangerie the other day and it was amazing. The famous waterlily panoramas are there, as well as many beautiful paintings by various other French artists. I would definitely suggest visiting that museum.
I also made it to the Louvre for the first time. As a student of a French school, I was able to get in for free. I bought an audio tour and set off on my own to explore. It. Is. Huge. I only made it through most of the Greek sculptures, Ancient Egypt, history of the Louvre, and apartments of Napoleon sections. I’m planning to go back and do the rest in pieces so I don’t rush through it.
I think that my favorite pass-time so far has been sitting along the Seine river as the sun sets by the metro station St Michel. It is breath taking, and every sun set plays out in varying vibrant hues. Okay, I know I’m sounding like a mush, but I guess I really am falling for Paris!
Dietary changes: I eat veal almost every day, the yogurt here is super runny but still yummy, lots of bread, lots of crepes (the beurre/sucre (butter/sugar) is my favorite so far), and some interesting veggies that I don’t know what they are.
Another random thing that I’ve noticed is that the way I walk around/interact with people in public is a little different. Here, people aren’t mean (as it may seem), they just keep to themselves. They don’t smile at people they don’t know because that’s weird… I’ve become adjusted to the constant speed-walking and minding-your-own-business attitudes, and I kinda like it.
Since today is the Fourth of July and my roommate Jamie’s birthday AND France is playing in a World Cup Game, a bunch of us are going to grab dinner together. After, I think we are headed to an Australian place where a bunch of Americans hang out. Ironic, I know! Missing all of my friends and family back in America! Happy 4th everyone! ❤️