I’ll be Home for Christmas

I have been thinking about different European cities I could visit ever since I found out that I would be in Paris to study for the year. I did minimal research, but I managed to decide I would like to visit London, Berlin, Venice or Rome, Prague if I got the chance and maybe travel to Nice for a weekend. Basically everyone I spoke to who has been to Europe says traveling is a must and that there’s no better time to do than in my twenties while I’m living in Europe anyway.

Sometime in October I began looking up the cost of tickets and hotels for a multi-European city tour for December’s holiday vacation. After adding up all the costs, I figured just staying in one city for the entire break wouldn’t be a bad idea and would actually maybe give me the exact time I needed to get to know the city well.. As it would have turned out, I would have spent  Christmas alone in Berlin, which at first didn’t bother me as i thought of how I could make myself my own little Christmas dinner and walk around the city at night. But then I began to really think about it and the idea became depressing. Suddenly, returning to NYC to spend my vacation with my family looked incredibly appealing.

After deciding it was not only the most feasible option but one that I was happy with, I booked my ticket home. The following week everyone in our program was discussing their holiday travel plans and I couldn’t help but feel ashamed that I was now one of those girls who returned to the U.S. for holiday and wasn’t going to take advantage of the fact that she was in close proximity to Italy, Belgium, Spain and Germany. I also felt that my early and unexpected return to NYC would cheapen all of my goodbyes with my family and friends. I imagined them rolling their eyes at the news and thinking I only deserved a goodbye half as heartfelt in August, if only they had known I was coming home a mere 4 months later.

Then I reminded myself of all the things I get to do while in the U.S., with my family. I know that I haven’t spent Christmas in any other city but New York (so I’m not only biased as a New Yorker but ignorant), but for me there is no better place to spend Christmas.

I heard of how beautiful Berlin, Vienna and Prague can be during this time of the year, especially with their Christmas markets, so I understand their appeal and why they are considered the best cities where one can pass the holidays. But my ideal Christmas isn’t spent exhausted from traveling or alone in a foreign city, no matter how charming or how much more it can enrich my experience abroad.

I will eventually do some more traveling while I’m in Europe, but for now I am full of anticipation to visit Alice’s Teacup with a friend for tea and scones, go to Wild Ginger in Brooklyn for some vegan food, to bake certain cookies and cakes that call for American ingredients, or just walk from Madison Avenue to Bryant Park, passing the display at Bloomingdales, Saks, the tree at Rockefeller Center and carrying my ice skates to spend hours at Citi Pond. 

I also can’t wait to go home so I can pack up and bring to Paris my UGGs; a pair of boots I never thought I would need or feel comfortable enough to wear in Paris. On the contrary, it seems like not only are they quite popular here but they’re necessary even indoors where, even with 4 pairs of socks on, my feet are constantly gelé. 

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My One-Hundredth Day In Paris

Tonight marks my 100th day (or 2,400th hour) in Paris. I feel obligated to consider how I have changed and how my view of Paris has changed since those first few weeks of settling in, adjusting to host-family life, growing familiar with the metro  and exploring the different arrondissements to create my personalized, mental map of the city.

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The “Amelie” cafe (Photo taken by staceylaparisienne)

Before coming to Paris I had studied hard to come up with a list of restaurants, cafes and patisseries that fell into some blogger’s “Best Of Paris” list. My notebook with bonnes adresses continues to expand and diversify, so while i know that I will never make it to every single one of these places, I think I have put quite a dent in the list. Pursuing this list has led me to eat some of the best croissants, authentic Indian food, buttery escargot, falafel, sandwiches, hot chocolate, macarons, and crepes that Paris has to offer.

Sometimes I worry that I’m not spontaneous enough but I would rather plan every single one of my meals than settle on just any restaurant and waste 9 euros on an over-salted, badly spiced dish (more than once.) And, personally, renouncing my pescetarianism for Paris turned out to be a good thing (although the night I broke my meat-free diet was a complete accident.) I might have eaten some dishes that aren’t my favorite (lamb or veal for example) but I am also able to fully participate in the experience of French cuisine. And sometimes by trying something new I found some things that I really enjoy (like ham in crepes or in a sanwich.)

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Photo taken by staceylaparisienne

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Chicken curry and kimchi. Looks scary but it was tasty (Photo taken by staceylaparisienne)

Enough about food..

I also got back into dancing ballet again. Sometime in October I was beginning to go stir crazy. Everyday was a new adventure to do whatever I wanted, but eventually all that free time started to take a toll and I began to feel guilty and lazy for not using up every second of my free time to do something meaningful or educational. (Classes just don’t seem to take up as much time as they normally have back in the U.S.) I needed some real responsibilities or something to focus on. And although ballet isn’t exactly a responsibility or a selfless activity, it’s something that I do once or twice a week that I enjoy, can help me make friends and takes up enough time during a day that I then feel like I have deadlines to finish my school work.

My language skills have definitely improved. I still wouldn’t call myself fluent but I am now confident enough to carry on a conversation in French and understand nearly everything that a French speaker says to me. I’ve gotten to the point where I can isolate the one word I don’t know in a spoken phrase and then ask the speaker for a clarification. And while I’m sure it will take years (or maybe just the end of this school year) to reach a level of pronunciation that is nearly perfect, I now know what I need to work on exactly and how I can go about fixing my “trouble areas”. I’ve also learned a lot of interesting tips about pronouncing vowels and consonants in the French language. (Example: French and English d’s and t’s are different. In English we hold the tip of the tongue to the roof of our mouths, while in French the tongue needs to be positioned at the back of one’s front teeth). I also arrived at the point where my spoken French is good enough that I can focus on picking up new vocabulary words.

xx

S.

Breakfast at Le Bon Marché

Saturday morning I went out in search of an almond croissant. I had a specific patisserie in mind where  I had read some of the best almond croissants are sold. However, after that first bakery in my neighborhood was either sold out or stopped carrying all almond croissants, I then made a long journey to three other bakeries to realize les croissants aux amandes are maybe less popular than I expected. (Traditionally almond croissants were a way of salvaging “old” croissants that weren’t sold the day before. Is there an inverse relation between the inventory of almond croissants and the quality and popularity of that bakery’s croissants?)

But after crossing a few neighborhoods I finally gave up and settled on a pain au chocolat at the fourth patisserie. At least it was one of the patisseries that’s on my list of Parisian cafes, patisseries and restaurants, so it wasn’t a total waste of time. After paying for my pastry and exiting the bakery, I ran into a problem that often arises in Paris during lunch time, at least for me anyway,: I’ve bought my pastry à emporter (to-go), now where do I go to eat it?

Usually I choose to sit in a garden, on the steps of a museum or return to my apartment. There really isn’t any other option. But today I was too far from my apartment and it was raining. I thought about standing under the covered outdoor entrance at Le Bon Marche (think Barney’s NYC) but knew I would get stared down for devouring a croissant while standing and in public. Or worse, be told that I’m in the way (a.k.a. spoiling the facade of the building and ruining it’s elegance).The second best option was just to take cover under the store’s awning that stretched along all four sides of the building.

I began to walk slowly down the sidewalk, tearing pieces of of my pain au chocolat and admiring les vitrines (the store windows) where on display were some of the store’s products: black leather gloves, Chanel bags and shoes, jewelery, etc. It took me about a minute to realize that I had accidentally, (serendipitously) stumbled into a reenactment of the opening scene of Breakfast At Tiffany’s. All I needed to complete the scene was a black dress, black gloves and a pearl necklace.

I do however need to figure out a way to sort out this “lunch dilema”. The most economic and time efficient lunches are those in which you can just pick something up (whether it’s a sandwich, something from the grocery store or, as I often do, choosing a pastry from one of the best patisseries in town) and eat it “at the office”. Except i have no office and my lunch hours usually falls in between when I have classes. If eating in museums were normal I would probably do that. But alas, I think that would not only warrant a few stares but would probably also solicite one or two quick blows from the guard’s whistle, as I’ve often witness happen when some tourist is violating an establishment’s rules.

One month Anniversary

My camera took its final breath last Saturday, so I won’t be posting any more photos until I get a replacement.

So, to post a quick update without the aid of photos, I will write about my week briefly. This last week of September included:

-Getting use to the routine of my classes and doing homework (oh, that’s right, the reason I’m in Paris is to study)

-Visiting the exposition “Paris: Vue par Hollywood” for the second time. The exposition, although poorly executed with missing “fiches” (I have no idea how to say this in English.. it’s the card under/near the display that describes what you’re looking at ?)  and a floor plan that makes you feel like a mouse trapped in poorly designed maze, it was actually pretty enjoyable. And the exposition did inspire me to watch a bunch of Audrey Hepburn movies including Funny Face.

-Eating sanduiches chez Eric Kayser

-Drinking a lot of hot tea in order to warm up in this apartment where it’s 10-15 degrees colder than the temperature outside

-Reading A Moveable Feast and having the privilege to visit or know the addresses that Hemingway describes/ visited/ lived at.

-It’s getting more and more easy to speak French but I don’t know if that’s really an improvement; just because I can speak a little more quickly doesn’t mean I’m speaking coherently and without grammatical mistakes. And I know there’s no way to improve my French but to practice and communicate often but I have a feeling I’ve fallen into a dangerous zone of perpetuating my own errors of grammar and conjugation.

-Exploring new streets and neighborhoods. This is the one thing that has contributed to my continually and slowly growing affection for Paris. I have to admit that as much as Paris has been refreshing, intriguing and lovely to look at, I have not really been in love with the city or felt too attached to it (and I still don’t. New York still reigns supreme). However, I just recently started to genuinely warm up to it when that internal map and sense of direction, all inside my head, began to get more detailed. It’s a process of becoming familiar with boundaries and neighborhoods that eventually leads to my being able to orientate myself in a large city.

The concept is personal and difficult to explain, so I might try to write a post on it but for now all I can  say is that it’s the feeling of comfort and familiarity that goes with knowing that the shop that sells hot chocolate to die for is near my school, which is on the way to the vintage shop where I love to window shop, which is not too far from the quality sandwich shop, which is only 2 blocks away from one of the best spots for gelato.

-I realized that I am really irked by something things commonly found in Paris[ian culture]. Or maybe it’s because they are so common that they irk me. This list will continue to grow but so far it includes:

a) Les Sacs cabas by Vanessa Bruno. If I  walk 2 blocks I can be sure to pass at least 5 girls with this bag. I just don’t understand how it’s come to be so popular that women, from 7-70 years old, carry this ugly sequined bag that’s just, in my opinion, an overpriced version of something I’m sure the Children’s Place once sold for $20. Since it’s not practical, sophisticated, nor well-designed, why are Parisians so taken with it?

b) The phrase “c’est pas pareil” (It’s not the same/ it can’t be compared). This phrase irritates me because it’s often uttered when I’m trying to make an argument or a comparison to explain my point of view. Once it is uttered the debate is over, my point has become invalid and my opponent somehow won the debate all because “it’s not the same!”.

c) … I don’t want to be too hard on Paris so I will end this list with: Pigeons.

until next time,

S.