21 December 2010


It was with only the heaviest of hearts and the most abashed of expressions that I found myself in the cheese section of my local supermarket in suburban Philadelphia this afternoon.

Feeling surprisingly overwhelmed by the crazed American shoppers and their shrieking children I encountered during my first solo trip since my return to the States on Saturday, I decided to seek refuge within the comforting confines of imported Brie, Camembert, and St. Marcellin. After being told by my ATM machine this afternoon that it was now fully capable of completing transactions in French (a knife in the heart, really!) and then realizing disappointedly that I was unable to buy red wine to accompany the cheese I purchased, I was comforted only by the fact that I could text my friends from Paris without worrying about phone credit.

After a stressful day of travel on Saturday, involving a full-out sprint through Chicago's O'Hare airport (Why was I in Chicago, you ask? I asked the same thing...), I successfully returned home on Saturday evening, although my luggage didn't appear until Sunday afternoon. Leaving Paris was and still is very emotional – I think the Passport Control officer in Paris was confused when I was crying as he stamped my passport. There is something about the sound of a stamp that is so final. STAMP! GOODBYE!

The tour St. Jacques beneath a  stormy sky last week.
If I attempted to finish writing the “Things I Will Miss Most” list from the previous entry, I'm afraid I would become embarrassingly overwhelmed and unable to finish.
On a much brighter note, my last ten days in Paris were everything that I wanted them to be.

Last weekend, I found myself out at La Défense – the business district of Paris. It had been on my to-do list for ages and after having visited a Christmas market beneath the Eiffel tower, a few girls and I headed out to see yet another Christmas market. La Défense is beautiful in its own way. It is definitely a change from Paris, it has a totally different vibe and is successful in feeling completely business-y. There is an axis that goes from the Louvre, through the Tuileries Gardens, across Place de la Concorde, up the Champs Elysées, through the Arc de Triomphe, and finishes at the Arc at the Défense. Though it was dusk by the time we got there, we succeeded in capturing a decent view of the Arc de Triomphe at the very least.

La Défense
The same night, I cooked a delicious meal of moules frites with a good friend, and shared several bottles of wine with some more friends who came over later for a soirée – the epitome of French student life. After a Long Island iced tea and several jugs of sangria on the rue Oberkampf, I found myself being wheeled home in a shopping cart. It is nights like those that will stay with me forever, and remind me when I am old and assumedly boring that when I was 20 and in Paris, I had the time of my life.

The Boston University program required its students to submit a huge internship report of about 30 pages in total by the end of the program – and submit it I did, after much procrastination and many headaches. Finishing my internship was really quite bittersweet for me. On my last morning commute past the Eiffel Tower, I probably let a tear or two slip – so un-Parisienne, I know, but I could hardly help it. How did I get so lucky? Spending four months in Paris, working within sight of the Eiffel Tower and spending weekends with some of the most fantastic people I have ever encountered? You can see how it can be overwhelming.

My very last glimpse of the Eiffel Tower -- What perfect lighting.
Speaking of lucky, on last Wednesday night I found myself in the Napoleon room of the French Sénat at the Palais de Luxembourg, brushing shoulders with Senators, Ambassadors, and lawyers from around the world. My boss was lucky enough to receive the esteemed Légion d'Honneur on Wednesday, for her outstanding work in building Franco-Britannic relations both politically and in the legal world. For me, as an American student working at the law firm for only seven weeks, it was truly an incredible experience to have. I'll never forget it.

Paris was kind enough to grace us with a few blew skies among lots of snowy grey days last week.  I hadn't realized how gloomy the weather had been recently until a blue sky appeared one day.

Near metro Sèvres-Babylone
It seems to me as though the past four months were a dream; someone else's life that I was pretending to live. But now that I've had a taste of it, I'm hooked. I am glad to be home, happy to see my family and looking forward to sweet reunions with my friends. Nevertheless, the pull that Paris has had on me since my first visit has only strengthened. I realize that it's important for me to be here now, to finish my diploma and make some money and spend time with the people that I love here, but I realize as well that Paris isn't quite finished with me yet. The speed of life in Paris is different, and it suits me better. There's a rhythm about the city that I relate to, and I think it's this that pulls me strongest of all.

View of Sacre-Coeur from a métro window
I'm sad too to leave this blog. I don't know how many people read it, or enjoy it, and I'm sure there are more than a few people who read it and roll their eyes before navigating away from it as quickly as possible. But regardless of how many people have read it, and whether or not they've liked it, it has been an irreplaceable part of my Parisian experience. To record here over the past months, my ups and downs, my new experiences and lessons learned, has been invaluable. I know i'll look back on this blog (probably next week...) with nostalgia and a heavy heart. Though it will certainly make me wish my time in Paris could have lasted forever, it also will serve as motivation to return.

Christmas tree in the courtyard of my apartment building.
And now, one last order of business. I set out writing this blog to find the right words to capture Paris. Le mot juste is a French expression used to describe the exact word or phrase to describe something. More than a good method of description, le mot juste is a perfect combination of sound that captures the essence of whatever one is trying to convey. There are so many words I could use, both French and English, to attempt to pin down Paris and my time with it – with all its brilliance and beauty.

Unsatisfied to give a partially-perfect response (since that would not be le mot juste!), I can unfortunately not provide an answer at the end of my search. I suspect that Paris could never be reduced to one word, or even one phrase. For me, it is far too large to be reduced to a single description. Paris is an experience, and I am ravie to have shared this edition of my Parisian adventures with you. If you've been reading – thank you. It has been so nice to hear your kind words of encouragement.

Place de la Concorde
Fortunately for us, the French expression au revoir, so often mangled in the mouths of well-meaning Anglophones, translates more directly to “until next time” than to “goodbye.” And so I'll leave it quite simply at that – au revoir. xo

08 December 2010

On Attempting to Enjoy This Moment

It feels like every single one of my blog entries carries a similar theme:  I can't believe time is moving so quickly - I am so sad to leave - I want to come back - I eat a lot of delicious food.  I read other students' travel blogs, and they also express comparable sentiments.  This all makes terribly dull blog-reading for you, my questionably-existent readers, and so I will try to veer away from these themes.  Try is the key word, as  I sense that I will probably not succeed...
Last weekend, determined to experience something new with my diminishing time in Paris, I traveled up to the flea market in the very northern neighborhood of Paris.  It took me a while to find the right spot, and I crossed under the Péripherique several times.  The northern neighborhoods of Paris feel so different from the central ones; they are ethnically vibrant and brimming with urban life in a way almost completely foreign to the rest of the city.  I enjoyed perusing the thousands upon thousands of tiny trinkets and they had to offer - and as a bonus, I was told that Jesus must have pulled the stars from the sky to put in my eyes.  Not a bad start to my day, which ended equally as successfully as I saw Harry Potter with some friends and then had a lovely dinner with my parents and younger sister.
I wish I had enough time to sort through even half of the stuff on offer!
It has snowed quite a few times since I last wrote, and it's been increasingly more gorgeous each time.  I was lucky enough to play hostess to one of my very best friends and college roommate this past week, and she in turn was lucky enough to see Paris in the snow!  Though this meant we were unable to climb the Eiffel, it did result in several hilarious photographs which will serve as glorious reminders of the time we were twenty years old and gallivanting around Paris together.  Today was the snowiest day of all, I think we probably accumulated three or four inches in places!  I laughed to myself as I walked home, observing the Parisians attempting to avoid icy patches is pretty amusing.  Parisians generally look like they could never lose their cool, but ice pushes them dangerously close to it!
Such grace
Slushy Parisian streets
This week is my second-to-last week at work.  Seven weeks is such a relatively short amount of time to be working somewhere - I feel as though I'm just settling in, and now it's time to leave!  The experience is still great though, I don't regret choosing the internship program for a moment.  I'll be oh so glad to return to my normal schedule next semester, however, where the earliest wake up call is 9am and the concept of class on Fridays remains foreign to me.  I got some great news this week -- my three closest friends and I have succesfully landed an on-campus apartment ... In the same building as our friends who remained on campus this semester!  The chances of us even getting an apartment together were slim, but to be placed on the same floor as the rest of the girls was a one-in-a-million.  Thank you, Villanova ResLife, for pulling through finally.  
I'm allowing myself to think of things I'm looking forward to about home.  Such as seeing my sister, who at this very moment is flying home from South Africa; living within a quarter mile radius of my nine closest friends comes in a close second; my birthday, which is just over a month away, will also help to ease any post-Paris depression I expect to battle.  Thinking about these things make leaving a bit easier, but I try not to focus on them.  Instead, for now, I want to focus on enjoying the things I will miss most.  These include, but are not limited to:

– Warm pain au chocolats that make my frosty early morning commute more bearable.

–  Spotting the Eiffel tower around street corners and peeking from behind gorgeous apartment buildings.

–  The truly bizarre and inexplicable events I come across from time to time, such musicians dressed in orange which I stumbled upon outside the Opéra Garnier.

–  My host parents' endearing bewilderment at my habitual fried egg on toast each morning (as they are content with their bowls of tea)
–  These delicious cocktails from my favorite bar, whose name I will never disclose.  If you are lucky enough to be in Paris, stumbling upon it yourself is half the fun.

–  Greeting my friends... and friends-of-friends... and friends-of-friends-of-friends... with kisses (Even if you don't speak French, watch this video!  It's cute and funny!)
–  The cheery bonjour, et bonne journée! that follows me each day to work from the woman who lives outside the Franprix on my corner.

I expect my next entry will include more of this list, because things pop into my head every moment of every day.  Upon receiving an e-mail from the BU Program coordinator about end-of-semester procedures and general leaving Paris information, I actually caught myself shedding a tear or two.  It's not time to cry yet, though.  Now it's time to enjoy my last remaining ten days.  Sleep, after tonight, is not a priority at the moment.  Instead, I'm intent on using every possible moment to take in the glorious sights and smells of this incredible city.  It is, of course, obvious -- but I only get to be a student in Paris once!  I want to enjoy every single one of my remaining moments of what has been one of the most incredible and life-changing undertakings. Generally, people save the best for last.  Let's see if Paris will do the same.  xo

29 November 2010

Live on Coffee and Flowers.

Paris is cold.  Officially.  Despite the fact that Parisians of all shapes and sizes have been bundling up since the beginning of September (as far as they're concerned, back to school/back to work also means back to winter), it has officially become necessary to keep one's face half-hidden beneath a huge knit scarf.  Worse still, it is occasionally required that one wears leggings under one's jeans -- a look that is both unflattering AND uncomfortable... But warm, all the same.

I took these photos at the Canal St Martin using
a new iPhone app.  Not sure how I feel.

My first glimpse of snow in Paris, from my office window.
Paris is also ready for Christmas.  Over the past ten days, Christmas has been unveiling itself in the streets, little by little.  Considering that this is generally acknowledged to be one of the more attractive cities in the world, Christmastime in Paris is magnifique.  The Champs-Elysées is hosting an adorable Christmas market, where I've already spent too much time and money (I can't say no to hot wine and churros...).  The lights are gorgeous, and they give me little butterflies - both because they make me love Paris even more than before, and because they remind me that Christmas, and my reunion with my family, is just around the bend.

Champs-Elysées at night
Christmas display at Galeries Lafayette department store
I've been fortunate though, and haven't been short of familiar faces of late.  My little sister, who is seventeen and fabulous, was in Paris last week for five days.  Her visit overlapped slightly with the visit of two good friends from Villanova.  The four of us even got to climb the Eiffel tower, on a beautifully clear day - something I always enjoy, no matter how out of breath it makes me!  Unfortunately, I still had to work while Meg was here.  We met up for lunch every day, sampling the finest of French cuisine (read: Eating tuna sandwiches sitting inside a mall), and saw each other after work as I stayed with her at a tiny budget hotel in the 13th.  It was so nice to have her -- my two sisters are the two people around whom I feel the most comfortable, and so needless to say it was a pleasure to be with Meg.  Only 19 days until the three of us are together again!

Having my baby sister here in Paris with me was a great time.  Better still, during her stay we got to see The National in concert at the Paris Olympia.  The National, as you might know, is my very favorite band.  I was lucky enough to see them play in June in Philadelphia, and when I learned they'd be playing in Paris I jumped at the opportunity to see them again.  They really are phenomenal - if you're not familiar and you're curious, check out their website here.  The venue was great, their setlist was incredible, and I got to see them with my little sister!  What more could I have asked for?  Maybe I could have asked for the lead singer to come down into the crowd, and stand right next to me while he sang.  But oh wait! I got that too.

View from the halfway point

Last Thursday, Megan and I had a busy day and managed to cross a few things off my Paris must-see list.  The most notable of these was our trip inside the Palais Garnier!  I've been awestruck each time I pass the Opera house from the street, but to go inside was a different level of awesome altogether.  Gilded wall moldings, marble floors, chandeliers at every opportunity -- to imagine how it must have burst with energy in its heyday was vraiment enchanting.  It's not hard to imagine how Gaston Leroux found inspiration to write his famous novel.  
Can you imagine this filled with gorgeous dresses etc.? Ah!
Always worth every penny.
I woke up this morning to a dusting of snow -- not the first snow I've had in Paris, but waking up and realizing the world has been blanketed overnight is always a magical feeling.  This week, the remainder of the Christmas decorations and festivities are due to start.  I look forward to seeing as many of them as I can -- Who knows the next time I'll get to be in Paris around Christmastime?

My snowy walk to work this morning.
With less than three weeks to go, my stomach is tied in anxious knots.  I am, of course, looking forward to home and all the things it brings with it (my two precious cats, my two not-so-precious sisters, and lots of home-cooked food!), but I am also experiencing a bit of stress about how little time remains to me.  Three weeks from today, I will be back in Pennsylvania.  It all sounds so terribly boring to me, at the moment.  Keeping this in mind, I've realized that it is most definitely time to panic and do as many Parisian things as I possibly can in the time that remains.  It's crunch time, chers amis.  While my friends at home begin thinking about cramming for finals, I'm preparing for a different sort of cramming altogether.  I think I may have gotten the better end of the deal, but that can be decided after December 18...

While the wind whistles outside my window in the 11th arrondissement, I have three wonderful suggestions to lift your spirits (and mine too!).  I know that the weather has been nothing short of frightful all over the world (though when I called my good friend in Ghana yesterday, she was wearing a tank top and shorts on her balcony...).  Rather than letting the gloomy weather bring you down, why not listen to this catchy French song?  It might just lift your spirits.    If that doesn't do the trick, then this blog's wonderful pictures might be what you need.  Still feeling blue?  Try one or two of these hilarious stories.  I'm almost sure the combination of these three will do wonders for your mood.  If not, go and buy yourself a warm baguette from the local boulangerie - works for me every time.  A bientot xo!

16 November 2010

Come on with the rain, I've a smile on my face!

Sitting there, alone in a foreign country, far from my job and everyone I know, a feeling came over me. It was like remembering something I'd never known before  or had always been waiting for, but I didn't know what. Maybe it was something I'd forgotten  or something I've been missing all my life. All I can say is that I felt, at the same time, joy and sadness.  But not too much sadness, because I felt alive. Yes, alive.  That was the moment I fell in love with Paris. And I felt Paris fall in love with me.  - Paris, Je t'aime
I can't tell you how many times I've started blog entries over the past ten days without finishing them.  Sometimes, I've simply uploaded a photo, saved the entry ... And promptly discarded it.  The truth is, I am a little short on words at the moment.  For someone keeping a blog entitled Cherchant le Mot Juste, I'm not doing a terrific job of it.  Paris leaves me speechless, that's all.  
After two months of living here, I am still in awe of everything that I encounter in this incredible city.  Today I sat at a café near my school, eating a pain au chocolat and drinking a petit café.  Even the most mundane activity, such as sitting at a café and people watching during some precious free time, fills me with the utmost pleasure.  Despite my best efforts to look and act parisienne most of the time, I can't help but smile when I see a man walking by eating a baguette that's tucked under his arm... Followed by a woman chewing a croissant and smoking a cigarette ... Followed by a child with chocolate smeared all over his happy little French face.  Scenes like these are what I will miss most.
Perhaps I'm wrong about that though.  Perhaps what I'll miss most is turning off my computer every night, bidding bon soirée to my coworker and to my boss, and turning the corner away from my office to the banks of the Seine, the sparkling lights of the Eiffel Tower catching my eye as I rush to board the metro.  I pinch myself during moments like these, which occur more frequently than I can believe.

My rainy walk home from work on Monday night.
It's time to admit to something here.  It is cliché and silly, and it's almost impossible to describe.  The few sentences from Paris, Je t'aime with which I began this entry are the most applicable I can think of, and the closest I can come to capturing the feeling I've had lately.  To be brief, all I know is that the feeling that I have while I'm here is not one that can be found in the Streets of Philadelphia,  as wonderful and comforting as they are.  I'm not finished with Paris yet, and my remaining thirty-two days won't change that sentiment-- I'm certain.  Taking a walk around the very wet, very rainy, and very very windy Luxembourg Gardens the other day, my heart swelled.  Even at its worst, Paris is the best.  Little pieces of history and art are everywhere in Paris, and a little (or a lot) of rain can't detract from the incredible value of stumbling upon these moments.

Just outside my apartment on one particularly blustery morning, the Canal St.Martin.
Tuileries Gardens
Palais du Luxembourg, the seat of the Senate
Enough dreamy reflection.  I was fortunate enough to have a wonderful visit from my mother this past weekend.  A seasoned Parisian tourist, she was content to sit on café sidewalks and walk through the rainy streets for as long as it took for us to catch up.  There are some things that Paris doesn't offer me, and the comforts of home and family make up a huge portion of that.  We talked, we ate, and we ate.  It was so nice to see her in real life, rather than the rather grainy Skype-y image that I've become so used to.
Quelle parisienne!
Windy rainy day outside the Louvre.
As you may have guessed from the rain in every single picture posted, the weather in Paris has been atrocious-  Today was the first time it was really sunny in more than eight days.  My mother was a trooper however, like the true Irishwoman she is she braved the horrible rainy wind all the way from the Louvre to the Arc de Triomphe.  Bravo, maman.  She is now nestled away at our house in the Loire valley, where she will shortly be joined by her sister, and then my sister next week.
Speaking of my sister, my fabulous ginger-haired seventeen year old sister is coming to paris oh-so-soon!  Finished with her college applications (I have never felt more old), she arrives in Paris on Saturday morning.  I am so excited to be silly with her like only sisters can, though I know that we will both be missing our older sister Sinéad.  Sinéad returns home from South Africa in a matter of weeks, which is incredible since she's been there for the year.   Seeing Megan this weekend will make me a million times more excited for Christmas, when all five members of my family will be together again at last (aw).
My job, incidentally, is fabulous.  It is a dream come true.  I'm getting some really great experience, I'm speaking French, and I can see the Eiffel tower from the office window.  The work can be really challenging, but my boss is really kind and eager to help me-- you'll be glad to hear I'm not stuck in a Devil-Wears-Prada-boss-from-hell scenario.   Though she probably does wear Prada.  After two weeks at work, my fingers are thoroughly confused, as they are now bilingual and can use French OR American keyboards ... They just can't really keep them straight.  There is only one other girl in the office with me, and she has been so friendly and kind to me.  She even invited me to a soirée at her friends' apartment last week!  It was a fantastic night, and though I was by far the youngest, with the closest in age being 28, her friends were incredibly warm and welcoming.  It was a night I won't soon forget.  
With visits from my nearest and dearest coming from the States, Europe, and even from Africa over the next 5 weeks, I know that time will fly.  But I know also that no matter how quickly or slowly time goes, I will still board that plane in 32 days feeling like a piece of me is staying behind.  And do you know what the very best part about that is, mes chers amis? That only means that I will have to come back to retrieve it, some day. xo

01 November 2010

Forty-Seven Days

My stomach feels funny when I think about how few weeks I have left.  Rather than reading a long rambling post about about how unsettled that fact makes me feel, how would you like to hear about my holiday?

Last Friday I officially finished the academic half of my program here in Paris.  Unfortunately, all three of my finals were on the same day.  Fortunately, they were not too horrible.  I shudder to think of the mistakes I made on my grammar exam, and chuckle a bit when I imagine how horribly I confused the names of some paintings on my Art History final, but overall I think they went well.  Friday night, my last night in Paris, I managed to accomplish nothing that I wanted to.  I had big plans of picnicking beneath the Eiffel Tower and blabbing on about how much I would miss it... instead, my friend Becca and I made dinner here at home, opened some red wine, and then traveled around aimlessly on the Métro.  Though I didn't see the Eiffel Tower, I did manage to happen upon the Opéra Garnier all lit up and splendid.  It was a surprise encounter and a reminder of how many beautiful things are hiding around the corner in this city.  Not a bad way to leave Paris.

Can you spot the Phantom of the Opera?
I left on Saturday afternoon and flew into Dublin.  Though it was a whirlwind visit, I felt the same immediate comfort and sense of home that I experience each time I return to Ireland.  Though I've lived in America the longest, I will be the most connected to Ireland for the rest of my life.  It's my home, it's where I come from, and it's the place I will always feel welcome and complete.  Philadelphia is wonderful, and of course Paris is an incredible place to live as well, but Dublin is home.  I spent my time with family, eating delicious food (fish and chips are best in Ireland, I don't care what anyone says!), drinking tea, and catching up.  I happened upon the Dublin marathon when I spent my last full day in town, and it was such an exhilarating thing to witness!  I watched so many runners crossing the finish line, and heard all the Dubliners cheering them on though they didn't even know them.  I'd be lying if I said I didn't cry.  I'm not sure why I felt so emotional, to be honest.  Something about seeing people accomplish something that impressive combined with watching the support and excitement of the crowd was really moving.  After drying my tears, a little embarrassedly, I met up with some old family friends.  We shared a delicious lunch and caught up, and it was lovely to spend time laughing with three very silly sisters.  It made me think of my own, and how glad I am that our reunion is so soon!  

Near the finish line of the marathon!

Bright winter sun in Dun Laoghaire.

From Ireland, I headed to Seville for a dramatically different climate!  I landed in Seville airport and suddenly remembered that I don't speak a word of Spanish.  Well, OK, I remembered that I only speak about ten words of Spanish.  It was so strange to realize that I was almost completely unable to communicate myself in even the most basic situations.  A few times I awkwardly defaulted to speaking French, which earned me some confused Spanish facial expressions.  I was visiting my roommate from Villanova in Spain, and it was so great to reattach ourselves at the hip.  Cara had class while I was in Seville, but I stayed at a hostel and was able to walk around by myself a little bit.  I visited the bull fighting ring and wandered the streets, taking in all the awesome architecture... and of course, the summery weather!

Plaza del Torros... Just look at that blue sky!

Dorky, but I'm alright with it.
Reunited and it feels so good.

Alcázar , so beautiful. 

My time in Seville was regrettably short.  I wish I had had more time to do really nerdy things like pay 6E for a 40 minute guided tour of the bull fighting ring, and take a ride on an open top tourist bus.  On my third night in town, Cara and I spent the night with other Villanova students studying in Seville for the semester.  It was so nice to be back in the company of Villanovans!  Maybe that sounds weird, but it's a comfort thing and I was really glad to be able to say things like "I wish I had an omelette from the pit right now..." without getting strange looks.  After several too-late nights, Cara and I dragged our sorry selves out of bed bright and early on Friday morning to jetset to Londontown.  We flew first to Portugal, and it was honestly the worst flight I've ever experienced.  Sitting in a tiny plane being tossed around in some dreadful storms is never an experience one looks forward to.  After a short layover in Portugal, where I spent most of my time marveling at the unfamiliar sounds of Portuguese (and eating cheese...), we finally touched down in London and searched out the EasyBus shuttle which would take us to center city.
"Even RyanAir passengers welcome!"
Why do people think Brits have strange senses of humo(u)r?
We arrived, after a quick stop for falafel, at the apartment building where several of our Villanova friends live.  It was, once more, so nice to be surrounded by Villanovans!  A little taste of home, even in London.  It was great to see London again as well.  It was a totally different visiting experience than I'd had before, because I didn't do a single touristy thing... But I think that's alright, since I've seen them  before and I would rather spend time in a bedroom catching up with friends than stand in line for expensive things that I've already done.  I hope that's a good reason.  For me, it was exactly what I needed.  Some time to speak a lot of English and laugh until my stomach hurt.

The trip to London got a little less great, however, on Friday night when I fell hard onto my left shoulder.  It hurt right away, but by the next morning was so painful and swollen that I decided to go to the hospital.  My two wonderful and patient friends came with me, and after searching for 2 hours and trying three (yes, three) different hospitals, I found myself filling out a form in the emergency room of Chelsea Westminster Hospital.  After a two hour wait and a tearful phonecall to my mother, my aunt who lives only a half an hour away appeared at the hospital door.  The wait was long but the visit itself was quick, a few x-rays and painful proddings revealed that I've managed to tear some shoulder ligaments.  The good news is I don't need surgery or anything... The bad news is I'm in a lot of pain, and can't move my arm much at all, and there is not much to be done about it.  
I was happy to get back to Paris, though that doesn't mean any part of my vacation was bad.  I felt comforted when I heard French immediately upon entering the Eurostar terminal of St. Pancras train station, and was almost glad to get rudely shoved aside in the Métro.  My time away from Paris has made me love it all the more.  Though each city I visited was wonderful in its own right, for me Paris is where I want to be right now.  I took a long walk by myself around the city today, and actually grinned when I saw the Eiffel Tower appear around a corner.  My heart feels lighter when I look around me in a Parisian street, there is so much beauty and romance to embrace that it's almost impossible to ever feel too gloomy.  I may have left my glasses in Ireland, my phone charger in England, and messed up my shoulder pretty seriously... But I still couldn't be happier to be in Paris.  
Tomorrow is my first day at work!  I'm dreadfully nervous, but also excited.  I don't speak English legal jargon, so I hope that I'm not expected to speak it in French!  First days are always challenging, but I know that this job is an incredible opportunity and I can't wait to see what it offers me.  I have packed my lunch and set out my outfit,  and I have factored in enough time in the morning for eggs and toast, so I am feeling about as prepared as I can be.
With only forty-seven days left in Paris, I'm making lists right and left of things to do before I go (and promptly losing all of them).  I have several fabulous visitors coming in the next seven weeks, and I feel so happy when I think about showing them around my city.  That is all in the future however, and the most important thing to do now is live in the moment.

And, well, this moment is marveilleux, chers amis. xo

18 October 2010

Grèves & Gastronomie

France is on the verge of imploding, or at the very least that how it seems to me at present. Aside from constant terrorism threats resulting in evacuation of popular areas in the city, the French are currently infuriated at the proposed amendments to the laws concerning national retirement age.  The French president, M. Sarkozy, has proposed changing the retirement age in France from 60 to 62, and the French people are not pleased.  Strikes (grèves, in French) are occurring all over the country, in various sectors.  High schoolers, college students, and of course those approaching retirement age have been turning out in the streets en masse, attempting to change Sarkozy's mind.  Not only does this mean that I keep running into demonstrations at the most inconvenient times, but the reverberations of the strike are being felt on many levels.  Students are blockading their high schools and universities, the metro here in Paris has been running inconsistently, national train services have been interrupted, and major oil refineries are closed.  Oil refineries is the biggest bummer, currently, as my planned vacation beginning on Saturday is dependent upon the planes at Charles de Gaulle having enough fuel to fly... I'm glad to experience this part of French culture, bien sur, but if the strike means that I won't be able to go home to Ireland on Saturday afternoon as planned, I am going to be a very unhappy camper.

Huge demonstration at the Place de la Bastille...  Reminiscent of the techno parade!

Grèves aside, this coming week is my last week of classes at BU, which means I have final exams on Friday.  It's incredible to think that the halfway point is already upon me, but more than being incredible it's really pretty scary.  I feel like I need to kick my derrière into high gear, so I don't fly home with any "I wish I'd done..." thoughts floating through my head!

Adorable French kids racing around a mini track beneath the Eiffel Tower.
Aren't the leaves pretty?
The other evening I left my apartment after having spent the whole day in its cozy confines, surrounded by tissues and vitamin C pills, and I walked north towards the Belleville neighborhood.  I was keen to do a bit of discovering, as time is slipping so quickly away.  Belleville was interesting-  it had a totally different vibe from the rest of the city.  After finding an awesome gift that I plan to send to  my sister Sinéad, I was feeling pretty happy with myself.  On top of the satisfaction of happening upon the perfect present, I was lucky enough to pick up a piping hot baguette  from my boulangerie on the way home -- and, just because I was feeling just a bit sorry for my sneezy self, a tartelette aux framboises.  It was more delicious than I could ever have imagined.  At times like this I feel particularly convinced that the best parts about life in Paris are the small things-  hot baguettes and perfectly sweet desserts not excluded.

This blurry iPhone photo doesn't begin to serve justice to this deliciousness.
I spent the past weekend in Rouen, a city in Normandy.  It was a glorious change of pace from Paris, it felt like a small town though it's really fairly sizeable.   The best part was experiencing a food festival that lasted the duration of my visit-  Streets overflowing with vendors willing to give free samples of traditional cuisine from Normandy.  Lots of seafood, honey, cheese, jam and foie gras... (I'd be lying if I said I didn't sneak a bite or two of foie gras... Shh!)  It was really an awesome time to be in Rouen.  The city was chilly, but we bravely tromped through several intense rain storms yesterday and we faced harsh winds all day today, visiting the famous Cathedral and the spot where Jeanne d'Arc was burned at the stake.  The spot, by the way, is a huge pile of dirt with a tiny commemorative sign.  Bizarrely understated.

Pain des épices, jam, honey.

Inside of the old abbey in Rouen

Andouillette sausage cooked in cider with onions.
I've been trying my hardest to fight off an approaching cold.  Aside from the general woes this brings, I've been struggling with the difficulties of blowing my nose with its new piercing!  Not the best timing for a cold.  On top of the approaching sickness, I've been sleeping horrendously.  My sleep pattern has been frequently interrupted since I've been here; I'll attribute it to a combination of my silly decisions to stay out far too late and the still unfamiliar noises of Paris at night.  (Read: Michael Jackson's greatest hits randomly floating through the air on a Thursday night)  It's nothing too concerning, it's more just an irritation.  I think there is nothing worse than lying awake at 4 in the morning feeling utterly convinced you will never sleep again!
Though I will be sad to leave Paris this coming Saturday, I'm looking forward to some vacation time.  I'll be in Ireland, Spain, and England.  Lots of family and friend time, which I think I'll be needing especially after this upcoming week at school.  Two months from tomorrow, I will be meeting my family at Philadelphia airport, for what will probably be a very tearful reunion.  I'm looking forward to the day, as I miss them each intensely, but I'm sad to see my time slip so quickly.  I can tell already that this is one of the most incredible experiences of my life.  Halfway over already?  That hardly seems fair!  But ne vous inquiétez pas, chéris.  I plan to make the most of it. xo

08 October 2010

Bon Weekend!

I decided last weekend that I was going to get my nose pierced.  It's something I'd wanted to do since high school, but I was always told it was not allowed while I lived under my mother's roof.  My sister Sinéad beat me to it by getting hers done just before she left for South Africa, so now I look like a copy cat.  

I did it, nevertheless.  On Tuesday night, I walked into a kind of intimidating tattoo/piercing salon where I felt like everyone was wondering why I was there.  The guy who pierced me, Olivier, was really nice though, and explained everything in nice clear slow language so that I could be sure to understand everything.  Ten minutes later, I emerged from Tribal Act (that is seriously what it's called) a pierced hoodlum.

It is a tiny stud, but it's there.  This picture is awkward.

This semester is a big one for me, I'm finding. Already, I can feel that it's contributed to tremendous self-growth and discovery, which sounds really cliché but is entirely true.  I was in a strange place before I left, with lots of mixed emotions about leaving my friends and family.  Now, however, I've remembered why I'm here (because it is the most gorgeous place in the world and I'm unbelievably lucky to be allowed 4 months here!) and what I want to accomplish during my time in Paris.  And, as an added bonus... I have a hole in my right nostril!

I did something else completely new for me this week, as well.  On Monday, I was walking around the Marais when I decided to sit down and have a nice two course meal... By myself.  At first I felt horribly self-conscious, certain that everyone was judging me for being alone and that everyone cared so much.  Then I remembered... No one cares, at all.  I enjoyed a delicious salad and quiche, and then a petit expresso... Eating alone is delicious and absolutely underrated.  I didn't have to talk to anyone; instead I was free to people-watch to my heart's content and enjoy my fantastic meal.  

Salad with roulades d'aubergine and goat's cheese

This weekend in Paris is gorgeous, the sun is shining and its 70 degrees.  Today I am headed to the BU Center for a meeting or two, and then to the Musée du Chocolat... A mandatory class trip which I hear involves eating a lot of chocolate.  (Sometimes, I can't believe that my life here is real.)  Tomorrow is the Fete de Vendages in Montmartre, which sounds promising.  Villanova's course registration for next semester is looming ever closer, I keep getting e-mails about it which serve as a reminder that my time here is almost halfway through.  But for now, I can't wait to see what this weekend holds.  I hope you all have marvelous plans, and if you have nothing better to do... Come to Paris!

Bon weekend, chers amis xo.