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