When I think of Paris I think of wine and cheese and art. My program welcomed us on Saturday afternoon in the best possible way: with all three of these, plus Orangina, which I will never turn down. I headed to Reid Hall aka Columbia Global Centers Europe where I met the other 14 writers in my program. Our professors welcomed us by asking red, white, or rose and then pointed us in the direction of a table literally overflowing with charceuterie, baguettes, cheese, and macarons. Charceuterie aside, everything was beyond delicious. The bread was fresher than I had ever tasted, delightfully crusty on the outside and soft and flavorful on the inside. The brie was creamy with the strong taste French brie should have and the Chevre spread unlike any pre-wrapped Trader Joe’s cheese.
And then the desserts. Apparently the French don’t get fat, but it’s certainly not for the lack of food. Five minutes of orientation to a Creative Writing program and I’ve already shifted my career goals to become a French Pastry Chef. Julia Child didn’t know French when she moved here! Everything just tasted so fresh. So perfectly sweet, no trace of artificiality: the chocolate, vanilla bean, and pistachio pastries may have been the best I’d ever had.
The orientation was brief; all of us equally exhausted and excited to explore the city beyond the conference room that was currently holding us back from a month of Parisian adventures. We received our Parisian Columbia IDs (on which, I must mention, I look lovely, so clearly there was no need for me to compete on ANTM: a beautiful school ID is much more practical than a Covergirl spread…) and we were ready to hit the town!
We set out to find a grocery store and purchase our first round of supplies. (Read: wine). Even in Paris, a trip to the market has its stories.
While waiting outside for the rest of the group to reach the cash register, a very stereotypically French man approached with his dog. Without thinking, I reached down to pet it, scratch its ears, and talk to it in a stupid reserved-for-puppies voice. Apparently in France this translates to: “I love your dog and want to keep it forever.” The man thrust the dog’s rope/leash into my friend’s hand, gave us an explanation in French, and walked away. We stood their giggling like two girls who had just adopted a puppy. We couldn’t smoke or play loud music in the Maison after 10pm, but we hadn’t heard any rules about pets? Also, what? Who does that? Who passes off a dog to random Americans? After debating what to do with the dog for a good half hour, the owner returned with a “Merci Beaucoup” and reclaimed his precious pet.
We continued to Jardin du Luxembourg, which is apparently a popular place for celebrities to visit. No baby Blue Ivy in sight, we still had a lovely time walking by the flowers, palm trees, and fountain while breathing the delicious French air.
In French parks, it’s very popular to bring a bottle of wine, a few cups, and laugh with your friends at ugly Americans. This is something New Yorkers should pick up. There would be fewer Starbucks cups on the ground, plus, everyone would be happier just to express their angst in public, rather than on a laptop in the corner of a dark Brooklyn coffee shop. Just saying.
On that note, there’s an insane lack of litter in my neighborhood. I also have yet to see a homeless person. The “undesirable” qualities of New York living just seem not to exist in Paris. It’s kind of surreal. If Paris had the geography of Manhattan, I'd be living in the French Upper East Side, which is quite different from my usual tattooed and boozy St. Mark's apartment.
We walked to a Poets’ Market, which had booths of writers sipping booze and selling self-bound editions of their work. If I spoke French, it would have been hard to resist purchasing all of these adorable books, but luckily for my budget, I just looked, felt inspired (apparently that’s what I’m here for) and continued on in our exploration. Our night ended with a midnight dinner by the gardens and a walk back to the Maison, which did not include any run-ins with famous authors of the past, but that’s for another night!