So Long, Farewell, Until We Meet Again

So Long, Farewell, Until We Meet Again

This farewell is a ‘see you later.’ As cliché as that sounds, I will be back in Paris on January 16th. So, even that, ‘later’ does not really suffice. I’ll give Paris just enough of a break from me to breathe easily for a few weeks and be back again. However, I am really glad to be leaving for a few days. Not only do I get to return home to my family, see them for the holidays and spend a lovely (not white) Christmas in sunny San Diego, California, I get to miss Paris.

I’ve taken it for granted, surely. Just as I took New York for granted all of last year. I am working through my brain, tossing around the boxes of my memories here and wondering how I can appreciate them even more the next time around. Having written the “advice” post just a few days ago, I feel as though I have followed the majority of that advice for the second half of this semester for sure.

I am going to go swing dancing more.

I am going to eat out more.

I am going to speak more French—I am going to be less afraid of messing up.

I am going to meet more Parisians.

I am going to write more.

I am going to take more pictures.

I am going to stay up later and wake up earlier.

I want to see Paris at every hour. This semester I realized that by the end of this year (my second year), I will have spent the same amount of time in Paris as I have in New York. It’s odd to think about making a home here as I have there. By the end of my time here, I will be as attached to Le Tire Bouchon in the 10th as I am to Bagel Bobs on University. Come to think of it, I believe that I already am.

Paris has quickly, beautifully, easily and brightly become my home. I want nothing more than to stay here, and luckily enough, I can.

So, farewell Paris. I’d love to see your beautiful face on Christmas morning, but that will have to wait. In the mean time, enjoy your time without me, and I will see you soon.

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To Be Alone

To Be Alone

Paris is the most enchanting city in the world. That much is made obvious by the millions of movies and romantic dreams which are completely inhabited within in all of the Haussmanian style buildings. The short street which turn into small parks, which open onto couples holding hands and whispering in the language of romance. This is a city that changes the way you live; I have a hard time imagining going back now, right in the heat of my micro-morph into a Parisian, to a city as fast and cut throat as that of New York City. Paris, although a metropolitan capital of the world, is more like a village than a city. And I believe that it is important to live here as such. Though it is the home of some of the most fantastic and unbelievably beautiful pieces of art and history on record, it’s still a city, just like the rest of them, which has a heart and a soul underneath the ornate carvings and statues of Marianne. 

So—for the future Parisian study abroad student, I would recommend the following: 

  1. Say “Bonjour” and “Au Revoir” always — The French culture prides itself on it’s politeness and it’s social intricacies. Saying a simple “bonjour” and “au revoir” to your staff, waiter, store merchant, is the golden key to finding the polite Parisian underneath all of the hostility. Tourists always forget it. Set yourself apart from the tourists and greet them like humans, not like helpers.
  2. Make friends with a crêpe man — Crêpes are a pivotal part of the French experience, and the French crêpe men who I have become acquainted with love to talk. Even if your French is lacking, they appreciate the effort so much, and love to hear in your broken French about whatever it is you can tell them about. AND they recognize you and I have received (on both of my bad days in Paris) free crêpes because, just as I care about them, they care about me.  Voila. Day, suddenly, better.
  3. Take time alone — Studying abroad is a whirlwind time in which you make fast friends with whom you absorb some of the most mind-boggling sights imaginable. Amidst all of this social time, make sure you take time to yourself. There are many truly enlightening moments which can be had during your time abroad, and it would be a true shame to miss them because you were too busy hanging out with people to see them on your own. Make friends, but also make friends with your French self.
  4. Take photographs of the little things in addition to the big things— Not just selfies. Document your time abroad. I regret not doing this more, and am going to make an intensely stronger effort do to this my next semester abroad (which is luckily this spring in Paris again). You are going to have so many memories by the end of this time that the little memories run the risk of fading away. Give yourself the opportunity to cherish all of the time you spent here.

I can’t imagine recommending anywhere more than Paris for studying abroad. From the culture to the food to the language, it’s truly a place unlike anywhere else in the world. Make sure to take advantage of every second in the city of lights to see it in a way that nobody else ever has. 

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The Lint Roller

The Lint Roller

I’m not sure how it happened, but at one point in my day, I must’ve (completely unaware) rolled around in a pile of dog hair. Funny enough, I haven’t lived with a dog in going on three months now, and I’d worn that same black jacket almost everyday for weeks without it looking like I had been attacked by a rabid hound. I needed a lint roller and I needed it bad.

In a city where wearing all black is the norm, lint rollers should (by any stretch of the logical imagination) be such a commonplace item that you might learn the term for it in French I, II, or III. I’m in French V now, Conversation and Composition, and I have no idea what the word for a lint roller is. Luckily, I had French class next. I asked my professor, “Comment dit-on ‘lint-roller’?” And she responded, “Quoi?” The entire class spent about 10 minutes trying to describe with a mini-charade game what a lint roller was but she remained lost.

The nuances of language are so inexplicably numerous; the linguistic continuum is an unbelievably massive, inescapably impossible thing to master. Words, sentiments, feelings, syntax, everything extends far beyond the possibilities of the four 300 paged French language books I have perused in my years of study.

The word is “brosse adhésive” or “sticky brush” which I guess I should have assumed. But it took me reaching out to three of my French friends, playing the same game of charades, and finally landing on someone who actually had a cat and who actually used said sticky brush.

My most poignant epiphany came when I realized that I could never learn it, truly. French would always be a foreign language to me, no matter how well I spoke. France will always be a foreign country to me, even though it has started to feel like home. I will never speak so quickly, fluently, naturally and beautifully as the natives, nor will I look as chic and blasé as the Parisians seem to do when they roll out of bed. There will always be another ‘brosse adhésive’ that I do not know how to find, and I am realizing that that’s alright. Someday, perhaps, in sunny San Diego or on the crowded streets of New York City, a Frenchman will come up to me in a panic and ask me if I know the English word for ‘brosse adhésive’ and like a shining star fallen from the heavens, I will answer “Oui. C’est un lint roller.”

Until that time though, my jacket is significantly less fuzzy than before, and I’ve added a mundane household item to my French vernacular.

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  • Cat Lint Roller: 3m
MY crêpe man

MY crêpe man

Paris is the home of gluten.  People asked me constantly when I told them that I was moving to Paris for a year, “wait…I’m sorry, aren’t you allergic to gluten? Why would you go to Paris? Don’t they only eat bread…and crepes?” I constantly have to ask obviously obnoxious questions to wait staff at restaurants and cafés, requesting them to hold the croutons, replace the side bread with potatoes, or a salad, or…just hold it altogether. The French—as a country of foodies—have unbelievable pride in their creations. They create their food, which should be eaten exactly as they desire it to be. This is not a city or a culture where you can really ask for the dressing on the side or for them to hold the croutons without the genuine worry that they will spit in your food.

Regardless of how much covert French spit I have ingested, I’ve gotten very comfortable dealing with my annoying little allergy since I’ve arrived here. Macarons are completely gluten free (made from almond meal), and there are a few cute little boulangeries that offer one or two gluten-free menu items. There are two (TWO WHOLE) shops in Paris which are completely gluten-free where you can buy baguettes, croissants, and other pastries. They’re heavenly and sporting a price-tag fit for the Gods.

The only thing that I had been really really salty over during my first few months in Paris was the lack of any gluten-free crêpes. Honestly, what is Paris without crêpes? Pretty much nothing but a pretty city with a cool A-shaped monument.

Ironically, I had been thinking of just that one day when, walking home from the NYU Paris campus, I saw something out of the corner of my eye which I was sure was a mirage, like seeing a fake lake, an oasis, when you’re driving through the center of Arizona and it’s 130 degrees. “BUCKWHEAT CRÊPES.” No. No, it can’t be. … What??

I veritably ran across Boulevard Saint-Germain and it was true. There, on the sign, was a list of buckwheat (and consequently gluten-free) crêpes just ready to be devoured. I ordered one and bit back tears as I swallowed the most delicious nutella crêpe which had ever been created on God’s green earth.

It might be a bad sign that now I am very close friends with the crêpe man at the buckwheat stand at Odéon, Paris. He and I chit-chat about the weather, about my studies, about his family, about my future. I know about his children, but I don’t know if he is actually French. He knows about my major, but he doesn’t know that I’m from California—I am just Mademoiselle Psychology. We do not know each others’ names, but I really have grown to care about him.  I have tried almost all varieties of crêpe that he has to offer, butter and sugar, sugar and lemon, nutella, all of them. He has, I would argue, the best crepes in Paris. Having never tried another, I can’t say that with any sort of vehemence, but I just have a feeling.

Just the other day, I was standing at his crêpe stand, two men were working there that day. His coworker, also a very nice man, offered me a taste of a peanut-butter type substance called “speculoos.” I gladly accepted, and was just about to put it in my mouth, when my friend almost shouted “NO!” I stopped, alarmed. “Aren’t you allergic to gluten? You always order buckwheat! There’s gluten in that!” His friend apologized vehemently but I told him it was no big deal, no harm done.

My friendly crêpe man and I know nothing about each other, but he saved me from a terrible stomach ache, and greets me with a smile every time I see him. There’s an unbelievable comfort in finding a stranger who is slightly less strange than the rest of them.

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Jean Valére

Jean Valére

I believe that Jean Valére, the old man at the café across from Saint-Sulpice, is the genius loci of Paris.

It was a surprisingly warm morning for the last week of October in Paris, and I had plans to meet friends at the café across the street from Saint-Sulpice at 11h. I walked from my school, lazily, crossing the street for no other reason than just to stay in the sunshine. The café has an oddly disjointed east-facing front seating, the likes of which has no covering from the glaring sun before noon. In fact, it is nearly impossible to sit there before noon without squinting profusely and pointedly staring every direction other than forward. But they make a really nice, long espresso for €2,40. Obviously—this being Paris—my friends are late.

I sit, sip my espresso, look every direction other than forward, and catch the eye of the very old man seated a few seats down from me. He is reading the newspaper from 2 days ago, drinking an espresso, a glass of red wine, and a citron pressée (orange juice); breakfast. He smiles at me and I smile back, turning away to save from that awkward over-lingering gaze. A moment later, as I am very much looking left (he is very much to my right), I hear (in French) “eh-hem, excuse me?”  I turn and smile at him, “Yes?”

“Beautiful day, isn’t it?” I laugh and agree with him. Upon further observation, I notice his very thick eye-glasses, and his deeply set laugh wrinkles. He is a small man with delicate hands, whose smile looks like he is laughing, even when he is silent. He begins to speak in rapid French to me and I politely ask him to slow down. “Are you foreign?” I tell him that I am an American and he rejoices in telling me that his mother used to live in Boston, which he assures me is nothing like San Diego (where I am from), and I ardently agree. Speaking in much slower French, he begins to tell me the history of this square. He tells me about the church in front of us, Saint-Sulpice, and about the way that the sun in Paris feels different in autumn than it does in spring, and about the way that he believes he could live in Saint-Germain des Prés without ever leaving.

We must speak for some half an hour before he tells me that he is a director, Jean Valére, and that he is somewhat famous but that I will not know him. I assure him that I do not, and he is very happy about that. “I would be very upset if someone as young as you knew me,” he laughs. I laugh too. He asks me to be in his next film. I agree to it, jokingly.  His hands tremble slightly as he sips any of his given three glasses.

Soon enough, he has told me the history of most of Paris, he has cast me in a film, he has promised to email me, and he has taken my hand in a paternal embrace five or six times. It doesn’t seem to make much sense, but with this single interaction I felt as if I had been inducted. I felt as if his acceptance of me, the “charming American from Sauhn Deeyahhgo,” was the acceptance on behalf of all of Paris. When he told me that I looked lovely in the autumn light, but I would look exceptionally becoming in the spring light, I felt as if Paris had given me the right to live there.

If the genius loci of legend is the protector of the city, is the spirit of the place, I believe I found that in Jean Valére, who — on behalf of the city that I am so devilishly in love with — gave me the right to Paris, like a key to the city. In his morning glass of wine, his morning orange juice in his morning espresso, sitting with his three day old newspaper, I found the essence of Paris.

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