Last Sunday was rainy. Very, very rainy. I spent most of the day working and people-watching in Starbucks. Yes, I know, I should be in a quaint Parisian café, but there’s really no other place with Wifi, outlets, and iced coffee. Also, the cafés here don’t play music, and I do appreciate listening to Rufus Wainwright and Regina Spektor while working at Starbucks, so I don’t have to wear headphones…
Monday brought another day full of class, and a guest speaker whose work we had read for the day’s seminar. After class, we headed to Shakespeare & Company for a reading by Lydia Davis, whom I adore. Hearing her read her work on the streets of Paris, slightly overshadowed by the bells at Notre Dame, was inspiring, to say the least. She signed my collection of her short stories and for the past week I’ve been attempting to write stylistically similar to her. While many scoff when they hear that I’m taking a class in English in Paris, it’s events like this and experiences in the city that are truly influencing my writing (do I sound like enough of a tool yet??).
Dublin is the closest European capital to Reykjavík, Iceland
If you’re reading this you’re probably already aware of the fact that I am dangerously intelligent.
Monday night is Student Night/Pub Quiz at our local bar, so it was kind of imperative that we attend. Not to brag, but we set a record-breaking high score (thanks to Shazam and some stealthy iPhone research). No, we didn’t cheat, we just effectively used our American tools to help us learn about football and European house music. Plus, we’re now known as the brilliant Americans who won Pub Quiz but still can’t figure out how to split a bill... USA! We also won a bottle of Norwegian vodka.
The Trail of Tears
Perhaps this is an inappropriate label for an eight-hour walking tour of Paris, but, it’s pretty accurate. On Tuesday I woke up early to meet our class for a walking tour of Paris led by Paul LeFarge, an author who spoke to our group last week. The destinations on the walking tour were all places the main character in his novel had been, and over the weekend, each member of my workshop was assigned a venue to visit and write a short story at.
I wasn’t thrilled about walking around Paris in the rain with a big tour group, but I decided to make the best of it. No need to fear looking like a tourist with a camera around my neck, we were already quite obviously foreigners, I took some rainy pictures of Paris and tried my very best to remain optimistic. I’m embarrassed to add, but feel that I have to, that after the second stop on our tour, a friend gave me a steaming cup of Starbucks, which immediately enhanced my mood, simultaneously disgusting me and re-exciting me to be out in Paris. It’s amazing what American coffee can do.
I read the piece in wrote in front of a closed travel agency, and we continued walking through the drizzle to similarly less glamorous locations. While it was interesting to see the unknown parts of Paris and listen to my classmates read, the slower we walked and the rainier it became, the faster my mood declined.
Halfway through the tour, we stopped for lunch at Exki, a chain of organic cafeterias in Paris, which are quite delicious but of course ridiculously overpriced. Only in Paris do you pay $10 for a plate of microwavable tortellini. I talked with Paul over lunch, once again affirming that I am inevitably financially doomed as a writer but if it’s what I want to do I’ll make it work, etc etc. The conversation was not uplifting and I’m pretty sure there was food all over my face.
After lunch, ready to face the day again, our already tired group boarded a bus towards the canal where our tour would begin again. A bus is a bus is a bus. The MTA and the CTA and the Metrobus are all the same, they take you from place to place and you try not to get pick-pocketed. Apparently, buses in Paris are special, and reading on the public bus is rude, because I was not appreciating the beautiful sights of the outskirts of Paris on a rainy day. Without the escape into my novel for twenty minutes, it was destined to be a long afternoon.
After passing streets where men were selling roasted corn on the cob out of shopping carts, it was pretty clear that we were not in typical tourist territory. Everyone on the street stared at the group of upper-class white Americans walking through their neighborhood with cameras. Exhausted and touring the hood of Paris, this trip soon came to be known as the Trail of Tears.
After eight hours and a few attacks by Parisian street creatures on my extremely sore feet, we retired to a bar in Oberkampf, which, much to everyone’s pleasure, did not serve food. Walking back, we stopped at a mediocre restaurant because they offered Wifi. In fact, they did not offer Wifi, but they did offer overcooked pasta and an elderly waiter offering to sell us "cahn-ah-bus." Paris, you are so charming sometimes.
I spent my first night in, watching Midnight in Paris in Paris at Midnight, loving every moment of living the cliché.