A Day in the Life

Paris Travel Blog

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As yesterday was a pretty average yet surprisingly pleasant day, I thought I would share it with the world to show you all just what I do here on a daily basis when I'm not bopping about in medieval churches or going on death marches through the Louvre, which I also do on a daily basis.

Yesterday was jeudi: Thursday, or official suck day. The night before is always spent doing half a week's homework haphazardly and long into the night. In the morning, I get up at 6:30 because I have to put an extra 20 minutes into my schedule for breakfast, which they take very seriously here, and an extra 20 just in case Madame feels the need to ramble life's secrets at me in French and in her bathrobe, which she often does.

Usually breakfast is a roll or a croissant with confiture (jam, they love their jam) and some strange instant coffee I've learned to like. I sit at the breakfast table in the tiny kitchen that doesn't seem so tiny anymore (though it does still include a tiny washing machine, which is the usual in Paris), and I listen to the birds going about their birdy business in the courtyard. There are some exotic sounding birds in France, let me tell you. The first morning they woke me up here I thought I was under raptor attack. As I listen, usually Madame flits in and out of the kitchen, and I smile and nod at everything she says because it is way too early to think in French. Sometimes she plays classical music instead, which is nice.

The metro in the morning is usually packed with people wearing black and staring at the floor. This is also what the people on the metro look like at 2pm, 4pm, 6:47pm, and midnight. I'm always too tired to really care about their ennui in the morning, and thus I blend in. Unless, of course, a man with an accordion gets on (about a 10% chance), in which case I have to staple the sides of my mouth in a horizontal line to prevent a shit eating--and thus, American--grin from spreading across my face.

The Paris metro, while I'm at it, is both a beautiful and a depressing thing, and a security blanket for all of us. As long as you know which direction you are going--which is super easy to figure out once you know the trick--it's virtually impossible to get lost. Just remember not to make eye contact, don't talk too loud, and make sure you open the door yourself because only line 1 is automatic. And of course: Fait attention a la marche en descendant le train, which is the French version of "mind the gap".

The only problem with the Metro is after a few weeks of convenient travel, you start to feel this funny sensation. Your eyes become sensitive to the light above the surface, your skin gets paler and your hair falls out, and you no longer enjoy breathing the fresh air. You begin to crawl on all fours through the tunnels, eating raw fish you catch with your hands and mumbling to yourself "my precious, my precious" until some hobits come along and insist you accompany them to Mordor. Take my advice, if you're going to spend a significant period of time in Paris, take the bus.

The metro whizzes me under the river, and I make it to l'Institut Catholique by 8:50, which leaves me 10 minutes to climb the 6 flights of stairs to our classroom. The classroom, however, has a lovely view, and you can see the enormous Sacre Coeur off in the distance.

The Institut Catholique

Did you know that classes in France are 3 hours long once a week? They are. And on Thursdays I have 2 of them. Yesterday I was surprisingly awake, so I almost had fun in the first one, reviewing French adverbial pronouns. The teacher is a young French woman named Cecile who doesn't speak any English, and who kind of gives off the tough yet awesome camp counselor vibe. We do all these worksheets in class, and since I'm not way behind like I used to be in the States, I actually enjoy it, when I'm awake. Me, enjoy grammar? Nawww..

After class I have 2 hours to take the train up to the Bastille for my other class at the ACCENT center as well as to get some lunch. There's a sandwich shop near the Gare de Lyon (train station) that I go to about twice a week because it's quick and easy (read: American) but also tasty tasty (read: French). I've discovered there my favorite Parisian delicacy: salmon. It's kind of like super thin lox, smoked and salty and pretty much raw, which I loved even before I turned into Gollum. Every once and a while I also get a coke, which never fails to disappoint me since the coca here tastes different. I guess they've foolishly taken out all the things that will give you cancer.

My second class on Thursdays is a Parisian Lit class. There are times when I am really interested in that Beowulfian-hooray-for-translation sort of way, and there are other times when I am so bored I could die. We read this one poet, Villon, the first week, and I was the only one who seemed to think it was cool. It was so cool. Villon was a 15th century Parisian student... and later also a thief and general scoundrel who at one point even killed a priest. His poems are about the Parisian underworld in the 15th century, and the few we read shocked me with their stubbornly anguished vibe. For example, in "La Ballade de la Grosse Margot" (The Ballad of Fat Margot), after 3 stanzas about a pimp and a prostitue doing foul things, beating each other up, and laughing about it, he says suddenly:

Vente, grêle, gèle, j'ai mon pain cuit.
Ie suis paillard, la paillarde me suit.
Lequel vaut mieux ? Chacun bien s'entresuit.
L'un l'autre vaut ; c'est à mau rat mau chat.
Ordure aimons, ordure nous assuit ;
Nous défuyons honneur, il nous défuit,
En ce bordeau où tenons notre état.


Wind, hail, frost--I take my bread cooked.
I am bawdy, and bawdiness follow me.
Which one of us is better? Each one is good together.
The one brings the other; it's bad rat-bad cat.
We love garbage, and garbage follows us;
We flee from honor, and it flees from us,
In this brothel where we make our state.

It's so.. real in a way I can normally only conjecture about the middle ages by staring longingly at cloister capitals. The narrator, the pimp, just reaches out and dares you to judge him, with the fury of a small wild thing. I love it.

After class on Thursdays I usually go with a friend or two to get a celebratory "we made it through another Thursday, hooray for the weekend" crepe. Crepes in Paris, believe it or not, are really only eaten by children and tourists, or at least the street-vendor crepes, but we don't care. Nothing soothes a tired and frustrated soul like warm nutella and bananas folded delicately inside a thick and delicious crepe. Yesterday, however, I wasn't really that tired and no one was interested in crepe-ing, so I walked with some friends to the metro and went home to do something productive instead. I took line 1 from the Bastille to Charles de Gaulle-Etoile, which is the station directly under l'Arc de Triomphe, and since it was kind of warm out, I decided to walk the 20 minutes home. En route, however, I was distracted by one of the many patisseries (bakeries) and decided to get an eclair and eat it in the park instead.

There's a boulevard near my apartment with a tiny strip of park that runs forever in a straight line, and I sat there on a bench trying not to stare at the adorable French children with their nannies (it's a wealthy neighborhood) as I nibbled my eclair and read a chunk of The Picture of Dorian Gray. Eventually, the light dimmed--as opposed to "the sun set", you wouldn't know if it had with all the clouds-- and I went home. Madame and I enjoyed a pleasant evening without any drama. In addition to being absolutely insane she is also a fabulous cook, so I think that about evens out. My French was at the top of its game during dinner, and we chatted a fair amount. I told her after Paris I was planning to walk the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, or the Rue de Saint-Jaques in French, and I think her respect for me multiplied by about a thousand.

After dinner I disappeared into my room, and Jennifer (my friend and travel buddy) and I made some headway on our spring break travel plans. In April for 15 days we want to go to London, Bath, Stonehenge, Northumberland, Edinburgh, and maybe even Belfast and Dublin. At the end of it I'm going to be broke and broken, if I come back at all. Honestly, the idea of me coming back from any of those places above just blows my mind, especially when it means coming back to Paris, which is lovely but too fashionable and uptight (and French!) to ever be called home. In addition to spring break, I'm planning a weekend in Copenhagen with Sofie, and probably some weekend somewhere in Germany. Then, there are the little day trips to Versailles and the Loire valley with "the group", as well as the various day trips I intend to take with a few friends or alone. Turns out there are about 10 little towns with big histories near Paris, and for about 10 euro you can get out to any of them for the day. Beauvais, Laon, Rouen, Reims... the list goes on.

Tomorrow, actually, another new amiga and I are going to Senlis, which is apparently an old and beautiful town with a wicked cathedral. Paris is nice, but I'm so excited to go to the country again. I'm not really uncomfortable or unhappy in the city, I'm just out of place. I could never, not even if I were fluent in French, live in a place that takes itself so seriously. At the same time, I get to see and do amazing things every day that in retrospect will be even more amazing. I wish I were going out and having the time of my life the way Chris did in Germany sometimes, but that's just not how it is here. Plus, I don't want to end up hallucinating my way through Heathrow airport any time soon. Instead, I have day-time adventures, which are almost as wonderful. I'm constantly making a fool of myself with my excessive enthusiasm, and sometimes I see something so beautiful I want to cry. On the other hand, in between all those times I'm tired and bored and feel out of place, which makes me really disappointed in myself. But whatevs, I'm good. There are things about France--things like appreciating beauty, good food, and taking one's time--that I depend on now. Maybe I'll get something out of this trip other than archival photos and a gross amount of debt after all. :)

Here are some of those so-beautiful-I-could-cry things I was telling you about:

Notre Dame

Chopin's Tomb: Pere Lachaise

Carved Tree: Pere Lachaise

Ancient Mesopotamian Lion's Head

Heartbreaking Romanesque Sculpture

Chartres Cathedral

Royal Portal: Chartres

Stained Glass at Chartres

Candles at Chartres

emmllerg says:
Enjoy your next vacation to Paris
Posted on: Jun 02, 2013
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photo by: Sweetski