It is awkward to say, but the days of “touring” Paris are over. I am an efficient guide of the Louvre, a crepe/panini connoisseur, a Metro expert, and I am well-versed in my personal language of Franglish. I also can walk my way through Paris at 4 AM in the morning, thanks to the splendid Parisian party of “Le Nuit Blanche,” which taught me that all-night citywide events do not constitute all-night public transportation!
So, now that the tourism of Paris is over, I have some upcoming trips that I am looking forward to: Barcelona and Madrid for 9 days, Cote d’Azur for 4 days (school-sponsored), Cologne (Germany) for 3 days, and I am still toying with the idea of Munich for a weekend plus London for the last days of my European stay. These trips will be an oasis in the times of my studies, and since midterms are already on the horizon, I just keep thinking about the good time ahead!
I usually wake up in the morning at 8 AM from the pleasurable alarm tone of my phone. After a little lounging around and showering, I find time for my usual so-not-French breakfast of cereal. Well, it is French cereal, so naturally it is loaded with chocolate. Now, my host family is Jewish and about 75% kosher, so food is interesting sometimes. I especially am curious about the milk they buy: How can it sit out of the fridge until “opened”? Hm, I don’t know, and I really don’t want to know, I guess.
After all this, I get my bag and walk down to the Metro, just a few feet from the condo tower. I live on the 19th floor, so while I get a lovely view of the Sacre-Couer and the various parks and what-not of Paris, walking into the Metro station reminds me that I live in the 19th-arondissement. I hate to be brutal, but it is honestly not a clean area. But in all areas of Paris, you will find happy people excreting waste on the street corner with no shame (even at Jardin de Luxembourg), crashing wine and beer bottles on the sidewalks (Georges Pompidou Center) and smiling at random women in hopes of a date (everywhere). The Metro is like a singles club too; just don’t look anyone in the eye.
Anyway, my Metro ride is 35 minutes long, and I usually just listen to my mp3 player or read over notes to prepare myself for class. The Metro is not air-conditioned, so it’s quite hot usually, and all of us agree that the stench of certain (if not many) people does not combine for a good morning commute.
During the ride, I usually just look downward to not only avoid the eyes of others but to also smell the laundry detergent/cologne scent on me. This city invented perfume apparently, but sometimes just from pure observation I’m thinking the perfume market is hurting! But in their defense, if you can grab a breakfast pastry, you will experience pure bliss and gratitude for such an amazing culinary culture.
I have French every morning for an hour-and-a-half, and then I break for lunch. There are little crepe stands and panini stands all around the neighborhood, so in between classes I’ll grab my food, come back and study for a while, fraternize at the Jardin du Luxembourg, and write a little music. There is also an amazing gelato place that I frequent, called Amorino. Thankfully, I still jog around the beautiful park of Buttes-Chaumont (quite hilly, I must say), or else I would be in the shape of gelato!
Dinner is generally around 9 PM, so after practicing and writing in the evenings, I arrive home about 8:45 PM to the sound of the barking dog, Spike. The way my host mother scolds him by calling out “SPIKE! ALL RIGHT!” sends me into immediate laughter because 1) They usually do speak to the dog in English because it understands English better than French 2) I guess I just hear it like all the time and 3) I have fun doing my impression for my friends and others. After Spike calms down, we eat dinner, which tastes extremely American. I believe that kosher foods and kosher cooking do not allow too much embellishment, so it is difficult to be authentically French when cooking.
After dinner, I generally go to my room and Skype with friends and family. My schoolwork gets done during the day, so I never feel like I have “homework” per se. Sometimes though, I will go for a jog, but the weather is getting colder so I try to push that up in the day in a little. Otherwise, that is essentially the end of my day until the routine begins again.
Some Thoughts on Current-Day Paris
I do not agree with some stereotypes I heard from advisers and peers. I have not found any rude French people yet, almost everyone I talk to speaks pretty good English (even at the little specialized stores and panini stands), people do jog in regular athletic clothe – not corduroys and sweaters – and the food is not as expensive as I thought (I eat lunch for about $4/day if I bring my own drink). Although, if I get a chocolate macaroon, that’s an extra $3, but it’s so worth it!
Also, I find that most people dress comfortably but conservatively. Black and grey is popular, and I would say that the typical everyday outfit in Paris is New Yorker business style with pointier shoes and slimmer pants. Every once in a while I’ll see the runway model, but really, nothing is too exquisite or eccentric except for the occasional super-low V-neck that I myself cannot get into at all. Scarves are popular, though, and a lot of men and women wear these to not look so dull, but it is not as prevalent as I thought.
French people, by law, only work 35 hours a week and get six weeks of paid vacation a year. They also strike, and take other holidays, so in reality they do not work near what Americans typically work. I am not sure why this is, but if it keeps the country successful, then why not? It is also interesting to see French opinions about our own president; they are far more interested in ours than their own. However, I believe they disapprove of both as of late.
They also are genetically inclined to eat a bunch of food and never gain any weight. If anything, many look undernourished, but I do see some of them running at night, so I know they have some formula for this toothpick silhouette idea. I think we have a difference in opinion about acceptable weight, but with all of these strawberry tarts, chocolate cakes and chocolate macaroons lying around, I could care less!