The Art of Sunday Mornings in Paris

Incoming: A post no one asked for, but that I want to talk about anyway. Well, very few of my posts are actually requested but this one seems particularly irrelevant to my usual content.

Which is what, exactly? I feel like I post in the study abroad page only about travels. But I don't travel that much, in fact. Well, I don't know how to quantify this. I'm not travelling as aggressively as other people I know, I guess. I'm very lucky to be here for a full year so I suppose I didn't feel the rush that others do. Besides, I was, and still am, incredibly eager to experience life in Paris in full. So I wanted to talk about something a bit new, for a change. Something I adore. This post will be a refreshingly sweet and intimate one: A look at one of the quiet moments of my Parisian life. 

Just about everyone is familiar with Paris' tangible beauty: The buildings, the baguettes, the boats, the bars. But in my mind, it is not really these things that crystallize this beauty, but rather, the little, barely perceptible cultural and interpersonal facets of daily life, away from the madness. I've probably mentioned some of them before: Someone running to catch a bus, parents teaching nursery rhymes to their kids at brunch, the rows of crossed legs on the café terrasses for a morning coffee, the amount of time spent greeting every person met with two bises. And my personal favorite: The art of Sunday mornings. And given that today is a Sunday, and that I've had one of the most cliché mornings to date, I will describe it in considerable detail. 

This morning I woke up to the sound of rain at 5. I couldn't sleep, so I watched a movie: Suite Française with Michelle Williams (she's incredible) and Matthias Schoenaerts (so talented and handsome, wow). It was a long one so lasted about until the sun started to rise and the rain subsided. I then brushed my teeth, threw some clothes and loafers on, and got ready to hit my favorite market.

Sunday mornings are quiet in Paris. It appears to me that no one aside from the elderly really emerges until at least 10, hence why all restaurants open at this time. So the streets were quiet and grey on this gloomy morning. But it was bustling at the market! It takes me about seven minutes to walk there, located in a square. I usually have a large canvas tote, a red cotton net bag and cash ready in hand.  

The French markets are an international fascination... Or at least to Americans, I think. They are their own institution, which makes them all the more wonderful and intimidating. It took me a lot of time to learn how to navigate them... what to say, what the vocabulary is, what's in season, which vendors I prefer, how much I need (what is a gram...?). 

But I forced myself to go nearly every Sunday and at least observe. I learn every time I go. I can confidently say that I can successfully navigate the market and the interactions there with complete ease, but with changing seasons comes changing produce and therefore changing vocabulary. Like this morning, for example, I learned how to say "handful" and how to indicate how many stalks of rhubarb that I wanted (une poignée, and x tiges de rhubarbesvp, respectively). There are about 5 stands at this market that I have started to frequent: A cheese stand, a meat stand, two produce stands, and an orchard stand. I don't know anyone by name yet but I have started to exchange greetings with the same vendors. By the end of this trip, both arms and bags are overflowing with goods... it's a very funny, picturesque feeling. I typically end up walking back to my apartment with something like a baguette shooting out from under my left arm, a leek from under my right, and a bouquet of flowers cradled in my arms. 

And sometimes I'll stop at a boulangerie along the way home, since my seven minute walk has me running into at least 4 of them. This morning I bought a chocolate and almond croissant, which is delicious but I couldn't even bring myself to eat the whole thing because the sweetness was overwhelming (words I NEVER thought I'd say...). And I occasionally will buy either a traditional baguette or I'll experiment with different breads, but I've also tried to cut down on my bread consumption so I don't always do this anymore. Feeding just one person is a bit difficult considering how quickly the baguettes go stale. 

And then I go back to my apartment to drop all this lovely stuff off. It's a nice, calm walk, shoulders weighed down. Today, I put everything away then immediately starfished my bed, but usually I will start cooking some food with my new haul (you have to use them fast because, I repeat, everything perishes quicker here). 

Since today is gloomy and I have a final due tomorrow, I will stay inside. But if it were any given Sunday, I normally would end my extended Sunday morning (meaning mid-to-late afternoon) to meet friends for a tea or a museum visit (since they're just about the only things open on Sundays). 

And there you have it. A little coup-de-coeur for me. One could choose to stay in bed all Sunday morning, but they'd be missing out on some really charming bits of French life that I find so unique, and that I will be greatly missing when I leave. 

Châteaux de La Loire

[Edit: Posted late] I can honestly say that this past weekend visiting La Loire was the most drama-free, calm weekend that I've had in a while. Is that sad? Is that good? But anyway, all that being said, here is a quick run-down.

Four castles. Lots of food and lots of tours. I mean really there’s not much more to be said. I saw where Leonardo Da Vinci was buried! But most of the other details fell through the cracks of my fragile memory... notably the distinctions between Louis the 8th, Henri the 6th, Charles the 8th, Charles the 9th. Why does France purposefully make studying their history so complicated?

One interesting thing that I did retain was that not all of these castles were royal, nor are they currently state-owned necessarily. I could not tell you which ones, but it was interesting to see the differences. Notably, Chambord is huge but has nothing in it (royal, state-owned?). I recognized the interior from a movie that I saw once (Peau d'Âne by Jacques Demy). But my favorite, Chenonceau, was smaller but beautifully decorated on the inside, and everywhere you turned they had an extravagant bouquet of fresh flowers. Probably my favorite part :) 

Here are some pictures. This was a school-sponsored trip for my American program. I was nervous about it, because I don't get to spend lots of time with them so therefore I don't know them super well. But I ended up having an awesome time and getting to know them better... which is good because some of them are my future roommates sooooooooooo yeah. There you have it. 

The Closest Thing to the Jazz Age

I had an exposé this week on the subject of F. Scott Fitzgerald. I'm unabashedly in love with all that he is: A romantic, a dreamer, a misery-keeper. He's my favorite author, and the only one whose works I have read many of. And so to prepare for this expose, I read Babylon Revisited as well as A New Leaf. The beauty of all of this is that I always relate to the stories and the feelings described, more-so than in most other literary pieces. I don't exactly know why this is. But I digress. The main point here is, for this presentation I was supposed to describe Fitzgerald's experience in Paris and take a more in-depth glance at one of his works. 

Babylon Revisited explores many themes relating to the abundance and grandeur of the Jazz Age. One of the lines that stuck out to me is a memory that the main character has of stealing a tricycle and then riding in tandem all over Etoile at night. These are the types of memories I want to have from this year. And I read this last Sunday, and ever since I have been trying to operate under what I will call the "Jazz Age modus operandi". So I'm going to explain two ways in which I've attempted this in one week here. [Edit: I also randomly went to an exhibit on Tuesday about the painter Foujita from Les Années Folles - same time period - so I'm really doing well so far]

First, on that Sunday, I went a bit crazy for a hot second. With my two best friends for dinner, I climbed out the window and in the most cliché way possible stood with one leg bent high, threw my arms out and yelled across the Parisian rooftops. I chatted to passersby on the streets. And then we had a dance party to Chuck Berry and The Chords, just the three of us, me in my Easter Egg velvet skirt, and some (many) glasses of wine. It was one of my favorite moments from the year so far. 

Last night my college friends and I went to a club. Now, in Paris, it really is not necessary to go to clubs. It's fun every once in a while, sure, but largely exhausting, considering that living in Paris is, in and of itself, the most tiring... ever. But anyway, the club we went to had multiple levels and literally felt like an old fun house: random mirrors, poorly lit, red plush velvet walls, vintage lanterns. We went to the basement which was essentially just a dance floor with many disco balls and colored spinning light contraptions on the ceiling. They played 70s music throughout the night and it was ethereal - going back in time and experiencing that foreign feeling of not having anything else on your mind. And we danced with random people, and we laughed a lot. And then I went upstairs and danced with other people. And I visualize it in my head... the upstairs had a silver tone to it - with silver puff chairs and mirrors all around, plus white strobe lights. They played contemporary house music. I remember laughing a lot, and being swung around the dance floor, and spun, and spun. And I felt like this was certainly another one of those moments. Not because it was just a party, per se, but more because of the cultural aspect of interacting with locals, listening to their music, and letting go of my worries for one moment. 

And now I want to figure out, going forward for my last 1.5 months here, how I can incorporate this "Jazz Age Modus Operandi" into my every day life. What does it mean, exactly? Is it truly a bad thing? Can the Jazz Age ever possibly be replicated?

I can certainly keep you updated on my journey to answering these questions. But in a way, I think that living in Paris, while tiring as I said earlier, is a whole new experience of splendor. Just sitting in cafes or running around the streets to catch a bus or a taxi is movie-romantic as it is. 

From a priori to a posteriori: The power of spontaneity

[Originally written on the 22nd of February, 2018]

I would like to begin in the present: I’m wrapped up like a cinnamon bun in fluffy white sheets in Switzerland. This marks night two of my first official solo trip. Well, to some extent my entire college life has been filled with solo trips, but I’ve never quite done a transnational overnight one before. I was excited, I love being alone. I observe and explore better that way.

I am meeting up with friends soon, fortunately. Not to say that’s this hasn’t been an interesting experience, it certainly has. But not devoid of the usual bizarre and crazy things that I always seem to stumble upon. A Swiss mad hatter, a menorah, two potatoes and a bottle of Prosecco. In a 500 year old apartment in Bern, where the ceilings are just barely above my head, The Bee Gees and the soundtrack to Broken Flowers dribble out of a broken record player. Compared to fall break, this is off to a weirder start. Bern was like Ljubljana, but at the very least, slightly less ominous and fishy.

I have actually been finding that this semester is off to a very different start than last. I’ll rewind a bit. Last semester, what I will satirically call a priori, I was begrudgingly devoted to schoolwork that I only marginally understood. If anything could make French academia more complicated, it’s the fact that they love to hop around languages, specifically in the way they throw Latin all over the place just for shiggles. But anyway, I don’t think I was as spontaneous because of schoolwork, well maybe I was. But it wasn’t all for naught, folks, because I just found out I passed all my classes! Setting the bar low but hey, I’m proud of this. 

So fast forward to what I will humbly call a posteriori. Why? Well, I would like to point out that the events that occurred in the a priori period of my year have had a near direct effect on where I’m at now. Yes, that includes being wrapped in a cinnamon bun of fluffy covers. For example, the class-that-shall-not-be-named was emotionally trying, but that experience was ripe not only for comedic material but also — and who woulda thought — for interview material! Being on a timer now, I’m trying to develop this spontaneity thing, and I’ve been better off for it. Last Monday, my class got cancelled so my friend and I last minute booked a trip to Chartres (in English pronounced a bit like Shart, my apologies but this is educational). Basically it was rainy and really fricken cold BUT we got some good laughs. Specifically: breaking into a church under construction to find a stained glass window that said, “Notre Dame du Perpétuel Secours, Priez pour nous”. Now ordinarily this wouldn’t be funny but with nihilist humor and a flair for memes this was gold. Along the same lines we also got a little too close to some castle perhaps because even though it was a Monday (basically everything in france is closed on sundays and mondays for literally no reason at all) I refused to leave without seeing a castle. 

And now I’m in Switzerland. I came here before my winter break begins because there is an exhibition of recovered art stolen by the Nazis that I’ve been itching to see, and it did not disappoint. I know very little about expressionism and bauhaus but I am IN LOVE. But anyway, signing off for now. Just a quick little reflection, hope you enjoyed. I'm hoping that someone – anyone – who took that class is reading this and is laughing, because that's the most important. 

Set the timer: First weeks back in Paris

I was so unbelievably excited to be back in Paris. It was like the addictive, warm feeling of stepping into a fresh bath. I moved into a new apartment, and it is positively dreamy! But, having never lived completely alone before, I made sure to fill it with people every single day. I feared loneliness. But at the same time, I don't usually get lonely. And in Paris I don't think one can possibly be lonely.

The timer has been set. I promised myself I would learn from the mistakes of last semester. And at the end of week 2.5, I unfortunately don't feel like I've done anything differently, other than staying in my apartment a bit more (bad!). I've even only been revisiting my haunts. In fact, some of the drama from last semester, much to my dismay, has spilled over and followed me here. But I've found myself to be quite ill now. My best friend has just caught the flu, so I'm terrified that I could have caught it too. 

And as a natural consequence of never having lived alone, I've never had to completely take care of my illnesses before. There was always a roommate, an infirmary nearby, a reliable health care provider I could call. But here, I don't even think I have the vocabulary to explain what I feel, much less know where to go or what to buy. But this past Sunday, I spent a few hours market-hopping in the cold (is that where I went wrong?), where I picked up the mother-of-all roast chickens, and made chicken stock. It was as if my body knew I would need it soon. And also, making homemade chicken stock, simple though it may be, has been one of my proudest coming-of-age accomplishments thus far I think. 

But anyway, I have some fun trips planned, though I'm trying to squeeze in as much Paris time as I can. And the timer rings even louder, considering I just accepted an internship offer back in the States. My plan at the beginning of last semester had been to stay in Paris for an internship, but that is apparently a lot more complicated than it is in the States. 

So anyway, I will attach some photos of some things I've done since getting back. 

"Province" and other frank stories

I don't know that I've caught up on sleep yet. It's been go-go-go since my week of being dragged through the mud. Almost immediately after my most humiliating presentation ever, I packed up and went to a cottage in, as Parisians call it, "Province", which essentially means anything that is not Paris (smh). 

There were 8 of us: 5 french, 3 not-french. There really is not a proper way to sum it up... For all of my loyal, long-time followers, you'll know what I mean by "Cape Cod: French Edition". To set the scene: a monotone, quaint French village that was crisp and deserted. Not a person to be found. An old stable-thing (?) with a wine cellar and a crystal-blue pool. A large fireplace crackling at all hours. A stack of cards on the farmer's table. Myriad overturned wine bottles. 

We were there three days: One crazy night for me, one quiet night for me, one even quieter, un-planned night (all of France seemed to shut down when there were difficulties at a train station in Paris). 

On the way there, we drove through fields in an older car, whose front window wouldn't roll up, so the cool air nipped at my face as we drove through rows of trees. I saw this in a movie once. We also visited the nearest "city" which had a mini Christmas market where we got hot chocolate and crepes for 1 euro a piece!! Spectacular. But other than this, most of the weekend was spent playing cards around the fire, which is new for me because I'm never inclined to play cards, and it was so refreshing to put the phone away (though I wasn't very consistent with this). 

In terms of food, it quite possibly does not get more French. We had lots of bread and cheese, croissants and brioche, all sorts of wines and champagne, raclette, rillettes, vin chaud... 

But nothing ever happens without drama. Have you seen Masculin, Féminin? Or A Bout de Souffle? I don't know. I don't know. The French are fascinating. 

Anyway, here are some photos!!

La Rentrée: First week of classes

La rentrée: Back to school.

Sooooo my first day of class was on Monday. It was, in essence, a discussion group for a lecture that was to come on Tuesday. Yes, the timing is not ideal. The class was about 20 students, all of them French, save for me and my friend. The teacher started talking all about what material we would cover and what was expected from us. Two oral presentations, news presentations every class, written assignments, midterm, final.... there were quite a few more but I think I blocked it all out because I was so overwhelmed. It was like the Hunger Games. At the beginning of the class she asked us to pair off and immediately select our presentation topics and dates. She read so fast and all the french students were scrambling while we just sat there confused. Near tears? Maybe. But moving on...

Tuesday's class was the lecture, and did not sound nearly as intense. I'm starting to relax a bit, and I'm realizing that it'll be okay, and that the class will not be as bad as I think. I just wish it were in English. After the lecture, my friend and I went to eat food in the park, and then we wandered until we found "Les Nuits des Thés", a salon de thé or "tea house", essentially, tucked away in a small street off of Saint-Germain des Près.  It was so cozy, with very old decorative elements, such as the columns on the inside or the moldings on the ceiling. There was a light pink floral pattern on the walls, with slightly-clashing art deco sconces. The table cloths at the round tables looked like something I'd find in my grandma's house. Coming down narrow, winding marble stairs was a man carrying a tray of cherry cake, individual fig tarts, apple crumble and molten chocolate cake, all fait maison (home made). I had a weird flash back to eating at the American Girl Doll store in Chicago when I was 6. We were served rose tea in a pot and we shared an apple crumble, though I probably could have eaten all of the desserts in one sitting. We both said aloud, "we should take our moms here!". 

Back to school. So far it seems like I have lots of free time. It reminds me of last semester at Boston, where my schedule consisted of only once-a-week classes, so I had free time all the time. However, that first discussion group is making me think otherwise about this semester, though. My goal is to meet more french students, if possible. But other than that, I need to see what my final classes are like. TTYL

45,000 Steps and Shower Cap Pizza: First Few Days in France

Tuesday, Day 2: So, Paris is huge. Obviously. It's also revered for its incredibly efficient metro system, which I appreciate. But I can't handle metros very well. I try to avoid them when I can. So these past two days I've been walking everywhere! Which, in theory, would be fine except for 1) I don't own walking shoes, and 2) I repeat: Paris is huge. On Day 1, I went to Les Grands Magasins for literally no reason at all, and then I walked all the way back to my hotel and it took forever. Stopped for dinner along the way, but that's about all I did on Day 1. I went to Rue Charonne on Day 2 and FINALLY found the perfect sneaker: Spring Court, which is a french brand and it was on sale!!! Score. Then I walked through Étienne Marcel for some more shopping, and walked again. And some more. The blister situation on my entire body is a bit unbelievable. 

Spring Court Twill Sneakers

Spring Court Twill Sneakers

I had a roasted chicken for dinner on Day 1 at Café Gustave near the Champ de Mars. It wasn't all that exciting other than the fries being excellent (I just had to Google if fries were invented in France and apparently they were... so they do their food well, I guess). And I had my first apéro! Kir Royale, maybe a new fave. When I finally got back, after about 20k steps, I took a bath, watched "Ensemble, C'est Tout" (very odd movie, as they typically are) and drifted blissfully off into a full night's sleep.


Which is unfortunately not the case for this evening. It's approx. 4:30 AM here, and I've been up for two hours. I'm reaching insane hunger levels, the kind that would normally develop in the morning, and all I have in my hotel room is a bag of chocolate (Bark Thins), a container of strawberries, and half a pizza. So naturally I grabbed the pizza. This tiny fridge did not accommodate the large pizza box, so I had to fold the pie in thirds and place it in a shower cap so it would fit. Cringe. But it's pretty tasty, and I got it from a pizza place around the corner. 

On the topic of restaurants in Paris, I'm noticing a few things. First, there's a cafe/resto on like every corner, and despite slightly differing decor they're mostly the same. Which is fine because they're all adorable, with those terraces that have the pretty woven outdoor seating sets, all facing the sidewalk.

Which brings me to my second observation: The way Europeans all face the sidewalk. Everyone knows this, but I didn't give it much thought until today. I like people-watching just as much as the next person, but this is obnoxious. I walked down a hip street today around lunch time, known for cute boutiques and lots of restaurants, and every single one had terraces filled with people. I watched them like, size up every person who walked by, as if pedestrians were on a catwalk. It made me super uncomfortable and also reminded me of a passage I just read in Hemingway's "A Moveable Feast", where he talks about how Parisian Cafés are where people go to be seen (though that was the 1920s, I am growing to think it is still the same). To be seen or to see. But maybe that is a well known idea of cafes and I'm just not understanding. Love the cafes though. Walk down any street and you're bound to find a cute one. 

My third and final observation is that it's super hard to find healthy food. I may have mentioned this already, but I'm trying to be as healthy as possible while abroad, though that's not to say I won't indulge, or try all the local foods... etc. Anyway, all these delicious carbohydrates were making me crave a refreshing salad (I know, I hate myself too), but that in and of itself is difficult to find. They have them prepackaged at most boulangeries, but they're not very appetizing. Most restaurants offer a few types but they're either super expensive or also not that appealing (like, covered in seafood, for example). It's mostly just large meat plates or pizza/pasta, which is fascinating. I'm not too upset about being forced to eat pizza, but it's just making me realize that Minneapolis is huge on health so I'm used to having plenty of vegan paleo gluten-free options on the menu. They throw bread at you here. Almost literally. So far I haven't even been able to go two hours without being presented bread or an enticing opportunity to eat some. 

But anyway. After shopping around on Day 2 and getting lost again, I had walked about 25k, so now we're up to 45. Is this how Parisians eat so much bread while keeping the pounds off? Maybe. The following slideshow is a small collection of some photos from the past few days. I have millions more but I just haven't edited them :) Stay tuned for more, my friends.

A Fashion Girl's Guide to Packing for Study Abroad

"How on earth are you going to pack for abroad?" My aunt asks, blinking with wild curiosity across the dinner table. She's not the first to ask this. I've been asked this question probably a hundred times since I officially committed. 

I answer something along the lines of, "we'll cross that bridge when we get there". I actually haven't given much thought to packing yet, mostly just logistical things. I know my suitcase allowance, I know the weight limits, I know the practical constraints... yada yada yada. But now I'm actually starting to fret about it, considering this is a whole year of outfits. Anyway, since some friends asked, I figured I'd put together a list of my dream study abroad wardrobe, plus some general packing tips. Inspo time.

This is like a transition wardrobe. You'll notice I don't include heavy winter coats, nor do I include swimsuits and rompers, though I firmly believe everyone should bring these. Also, as the title suggests, this list is not an "essentials" packing list, per se. You can find those all over Google. Heck, you could probably even write that list yourself. This list has slightly different goals: 1) How to pack in such a way that you can maybe blend in with Europeans (assuming you're studying abroad in Europe... packing for elsewhere is probably a different ballgame), and 2) pack a fun and flirty wardrobe that can still be versatile and doesn't make you feel boring. 

First thing's first: Condense. Common sense, I know. I'm not trying to tell you to condense for the sake of saving space, even though that's true. I'm telling you this because trends abroad are not the same as trends in America. Trust me on this one. When I studied in Norway I packed like the worst clothes ever. I packed all these preppy things, like chino pants and Sperry's (for shame!). I got there and didn't wear these things once. You just look extremely out of place and very touristy. That's not totally a bad thing but it's also not the most comfortable feeling. So, condense with the expectation that you will observe new trends and therefore be buying some new clothing. You don't need to ball out and flip your wardrobe, you just need to be smart. Buy key pieces, or go to stores like Zara (part of Zara's business model is that the styles sold vary by location... super cool) where the fast trends are cheapest. For example, buy a nice pair of sandals that go with everything, and then wear them with everything. Buy layers that can be mixed and matched... etc. 

Second: Study up. Research bloggers from your area, do quick Google searches... do what you gotta do. This might be a bit overboard but can help you gauge what people are wearing. Some quick, general things that come to my mind: Most Europeans aren't wearing the knee-high riding boots anymore. Or maybe don't bring the obnoxious t-shirts that you received from winning a soccer tournament or for participating in the marching band (unless you're using them for workout shirts maybe?). Returning to the preppy thing... As far as I know, the type of preppy you're envisioning doesn't really exist in Europe. I mean, it does to some degree I would imagine, but the whole Kate Spade Tory Burch Jack Rogers stuff really only exists here. 

Finally: Don't stress it too much. That probably sounds like a contradictory statement when I'm sitting here telling you to basically plan out every little detail. I mean, there is absolutely no way you can pack perfectly, that you can predict everything... etc. In the 4 or however many months you'll be there, there will certainly be unexpected weather or some unexpected event you got invited to where you'll need X, Y or Z. So just pack what you think is sufficient and let the rest unfold. You will likely end up buying stuff, but they'll probably be really cool and unique pieces and that's important when traveling. Lock the essentials down first. 

Okay so here we go. These are pieces I've pulled from the internet that are serving as my packing inspiration.