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

1 comment:

  1. Niamh, what a nice dénouement to your blog and to your Parisian adventure (seems like the idea "mot juste").