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. 

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.