10 September 2010

Petit Par Petit

A new French phrase that I've picked up in the past week makes the title of this entry, and the best part for you is that the English translation is wonderfully direct.  Petit par petit-- little by little.
Little by little, I'm finding my niche here, in my cozy apartment on my little street in Paris.  I'm beginning to find routine, something that I value intensely as I am a person of habit.  I like the same things, over and over again (I am the type of person that is content to eat an identical breakfast each morning... Two eggs, over easy, on multigrain toast.  Thanks.)
I've figured out that when I stop by my local boulangerie most days, I prefer to ask for une tradition rather than asking for une baguette.  Even better than that, I have learned that I can even ask for une demi-tradition!  That way, I only eat half a baguette every day rather than the entire thing.  I'm not ashamed ... I'll chalk it up to cultural immersion and return to my eggs and multigrain toast immediately upon re-entering the states.  Incidentally, bread is one of the simple joys of French existence.
It is incredible that I've been in Paris for almost two weeks now, a full twelve days!  It's true, what they say, about how time flies when you spend a semester abroad.  With almost two weeks under my belt, there remain only fourteen more.  It is depressing to talk too much about it, but I can't believe how quickly my time is slipping from me already.
Last Sunday, with my reusable shopping bag in tow, I headed to the marché at the Place de la Bastille.  As I left the gloomy Metro passageways behind me and re-surfaced at the site where, hundreds of years before, the French people had stormed the Bastille as part of their revolution, I totally geeked out.  I really love history; I considered a history major in college and in particular went through a phase of intense appreciation for French history.  After I pinched myself, remembered that this was real, that I was actually living in Paris, I headed towards the market.  (And by that I mean I typically went the complete wrong direction, and spent ten minutes attempting to find the largest outdoor market in Paris.  Some things, my dear friends, never change.)
If my experience arriving at Bastille was a history freak-out, my arrival at the market itself brought on a freak-out of another kind entirely.  FOOD FREAK-OUT.  Oh, my God.  Rotisserie chicken, the smell of which could ellicit a watering mouth from even the staunchest vegetarians.  Fresh cheese, fruit, vegetables, exotic olives and spices whose names I didn't even recognize.  I'm almost weak at the knees even now at the memory of it, the smells of a hundred different vendors selling a thousand different things and the sounds!  Ugh, the sounds!  Vendors calling out their produce, hoping to entice anyone from the sneaker-wearing guidebook-toting American tourists to the quick-paced and focused Parisian regulars.  

No, but seriously.  How good does this all look?

How can I not geek out?

I won't give in yet, I won't eat the chicken... But those
potatoes at the bottom are seducing me, petit par petit.
The market was incredible, more awesome than I know how to convey through a silly blog post.  For a wannabe foodie, like myself, it is heaven.  I was a little unsure of how much produce to get, because I wasn't sure of the measurements and how much time I'd have to cook etc., but for future reference:  ordering 1 kilo of green beans is an atrocious overestimate for one person.  I asked the vendor to put half of them back, and I still have green beans coming out of my ears, six days later.  I can't complain though.  The food is fresh, and most importantly it's cheap.  French supermarkets can be really expensive (read: I paid two Euros for a single apple the other day), so it was a pleasant change of pace to get market quality veggies at an awesome price.  The Most Valuable Player award goes to the goat cheese I picked up.  I asked for the cheapest at the fromagerie stand, but ... Ooooh, la la.  It is the most fantastic thing.  It's more accurate to say it WAS the MVP, I should say, since I polished off the last of it tonight with some delicious five Euro (from the market!) Bordeaux.

All of this for less than 25 Euros.  I will talk about Parisian markets forever.
Aside from the triumph that was the market on Sunday morning, this past week has been just a little stressful.  I started my classes on Monday, and the workload seems to be pretty intense.  For each of my three classes I have a ten minute oral presentation to make, a three page paper to write, and a final test.  Not to mention small written assignments due at each class session, mandatory trips to museums and other landmarks, and two 2.5 hour sessions a week!  It's all en francais, but to be honest the language hasn't been a problem for me.  I'm so grateful now that I worked hard at learning French, because to keep up with this heavy workload while trying to decipher half of what my teachers are saying would be almost impossible.  Even with my language comprehension, the next seven weeks are going to be challenging for sure.  I'm attempting to find balance now between spending time with friends at night and getting my work done.  A challenge in itself, but unfortunately for me this study abroad experience is not "party abroad," or whatever other people's experiences might have been.  I'm glad for it, because I'm a total nerd, but I'm anxious as well.
One of my assignments for my language class was a découvert du quartier, a discovery of a neighborhood.  A classmate and I set out to explore the St Germain des Prés area, and had quite a pleasant surprise.  We came across the most fantastic tea-room, situated neatly on the left bank.  Check out this picture, how cool is this?  Shelves upon shelves of tea, and the smell in this place was also incredible.

If I had but world (read: money) enough and time, I
would have spent hours here.
Once more, during my time exploring the St Germain neighborhood, I had to perform a quick reality check.  When I turned around and saw THIS:

Typically Parisian and beautiful.
Speaking of typically Parisian, or perhaps more accurately typically French, there was a strike on Tuesday.  If there is one thing the French universally love, it is not wine.  It is not even cheese.  It is going on strike.  As a result of the strike, which was over the national retirement age, the metro service on Tuesday was not as frequent as it usually is.  I was so glad that my iPhone chose Tuesday to turn off in the middle of the night!  It was really awesome that I therefore had no alarm on Tuesday morning, and therefore did not wake up the planned two hours earlier than usual to avoid metro troubles.  Thankfully, I woke up early enough that I made it on time to class on Tuesday morning.  I've never been more glad that the walls in this apartment are paper thin; it was my housemate's alarm clock that woke me.  The metro was so hot and crowded, like very sweaty and ticked off sardines crammed in a can.

This picture hardly captures the chaos,
but I was sweaty and eager to get out of the Metro.

After five hours of class on Tuesday, I went for a very tiring bike ride on the left bank, foolishly forgetting the strike and thinking I could easily head home on the metro.  That was, needless to say, false.  After waiting about 30 minutes for a train that was packed with disgruntled Parisians (a nightmare), I got out as close to my stop as I could.  I walked closer and closer to Place de la République, where I live, and heard a curious and unrecognizable din.  Oh!  Silly me!  Une manifestation.  Not only do French people love to strike, they love to PROTEST!  Actively!  Loudly!  In massive crowds!  And, apparently, right in my neighborhood.  After my long and stressful day, I wasn't in much of a mood to throw elbows at Parisians on strike, but alors I had no choice.  I did make it home, and I had a delicious meal (quelle surprise!) to comfort myself.

Not the most soothing of situations for the stressed American soul.
Today, after a meeting about internship placement at the BU Center this morning, two girls from my program and I headed to the Marais for falafel!  Spontaneously dubbed FALAFEL FRIDAY!, it is a habit I could certainly get used to with ease.

Yes, there is hot sauce on there.
Yes, I came dangerously close to passing out in joy.

Tonight I've passed a quiet evening in the coziness of my room, eating soup and enjoying the calm that is a weekend night spend in.  The weekend is supposed to be beautiful, and I plan on taking full advantage of the good weather while it lasts!  I look forward to a new market tomorrow morning, near the Champ du Mars, and some good times with good friends for the rest of the weekend. This week I have survived my classes successfully, braved my first experience with Parisian strikes, and eaten the most delicious and wonderful food.  I can't wait to see what I learn next week, every day in Paris teaches me something I didn't know before.  This post was long, too, but even if no one is still reading I look forward to looking back to this blog some day and letting my mouth water a little over what I experienced when I was twenty years old in Paris.  Until next time, mes chers amis. xo

P.S.!  Oh no!  In re-reading what I've written, it is long and almost entirely food-centered, and I suspect that makes for dull reading for you all.  I'll try to chill out with the food theme... but I can't help it!  My life here is food-centered!  Just be thankful you're not my parents, who receive about 4-5 pictures per day of my every meal ...


  1. Delicious entry and I love getting the food photos. I can't wait to visit the market with you!

    Muah x x x

  2. My mouth is watering non-stop... I have such good memories of food shopping in Paris, what a joy it can be!
    Looks like you've had a week jam-packed with Parisian experiences so far: strikes, markets, red wine & cheese. I'm glad you figured out the "demi" trick much sooner than I did... I was about fifty baguettes in when I came to the realization I could order half!!

    Great post, and you know we want to hear about the food, so no apology necessary. Love you! xo