Je voudrais Paris, s'il vous plaît

I miss Paris: the streets, the sights, the sounds, the tastes. I want to wake up to the sounds of traffic whizzing down Rue Saint Jacques, walk down the street for a baguette avec chevre et saumon fume.  I want to keep walking and get lost, stumble upon a café where I can sit for hours with a cappuccino and my notebook.   I want to cough out secondhand smoke and dangle my hands over a bridge crossing the Seine.  I want a thick slice of chocolate cake with raspberry frosting accompanied by a large cup of American coffee at Sugarplum Bakery, reminding me of everything I miss from home. I sat down at Pinkberry with a friend who’s about to live in Paris for six months; envy was spewing out of me onto a spoonful of pomegranate yogurt.

“Your life is about to change,” I said.

“Just for a few months, then I’ll be back,” he reminded me.

“No, I mean it.  You’re going to live in Paris, and you’ll never be the same again.”

I think I scared him.

Every day changes us, I guess, even if in the most trivial of ways.  We live and learn, make mistakes and grow with them. Try a new type of food and hate it, have meaningless conversation with a stranger that may come back to haunt us a few months later.

When I think of Paris I feel this emptiness, like part of me is missing, part of me is still there, and can never leave.  As if Paris is my soul mate, completing me when we’re together and devastating me into pieces when we’re apart.

But I know that’s not true.

I know most days in Paris were far from perfect: I missed late night Chinese food and a logical subway system.  In between the elation I was sad, homesick, frustrated, and depressed. Everything was expensive.  It was cold.

I don’t know if my bewilderment has to do with Paris itself, or the life I led there, if only for a summer.

And I wonder if I go back if it will ever be the same.

We'll Always Have Paris

There's no good way to say goodbye to Paris. In fact, I'm not sure there's any good way to say goodbye to a place. You can't hug it and promise to text in the morning,  I can't poke the Eiffel Tower on Facebook or Skype into my favorite cafes. It was hard to leave new York, I was scared about what the next month would bring, but i knew I'd be back in 30 days, which is no time at all.  When I booked the car to take me to Orly, I realize I. Had no idea when I'd be back. If ever. I planned to spend my last day re-visiting all the sights I loved, trying to check museums off my list and photograph anything and everything that I'd seen everyday and would suddenly not see the next morning.

Thursday morning I met up with my friend's high school French exchange student, Anne Charlotte, at Le Carousel de Louvre, which is basically a glorified food court.

We caught up on the last few years and headed to Les Arts Décoratifs to see an exhibit about Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs, a less intense version of the Met's Alexander McQueen exhibit last summer. There's something about seeing clothes presented in a gallery rather than just on the rack that's so intriguing and beautiful; you can appreciate the art, design, and construction of the pieces rather than thinking about how a dress would look on you or where you'd wear it to. Seeing the evolution of the Louis Vuitton trunks from quality checkered travel cases to the gaudy bags/status symbols they are today was also surprisingly fascinating.  We both enjoyed tiny exhibit on Babar and rooms of Art Deco architecture at the museum.

That afternoon, convinced a few friends after class to venture to the legendary Longchamp Store.  The rainbow of purses, plus the surprising discount, made another rainy day adventure totally worthwhile.

We ventured through the pouring rain for one last dinner at Fuxia, an impressively cheap and amazingly delicious Italian restaurant we found in Le Marais that had another branch near the Luxembourg Garden.  I'll seriously miss the food here.  Especially the tomato carpaccio...

Friday morning was spent with chocolate chaud, edits, laptops, edits, more edits, and reading, eager to meet our 5:00pm portfolio deadline for workshop.

After completing my work faster than expected, I headed out with a friend to do what we all really come to Paris to do: shop.

And shop we did: clothes, shoes, lingerie, gifts, jewelry.  I had a few euros to get rid of and I took full advantage.  Unlike American shopowners, Parisian shopowners are honest.  They'll tell you if something looks bad on you, and not encourage you to buy anything unstylish.  It seems like their overall goal is customer happiness, rather than making a sale, which is oddly comforting.

Naturally, I overslept Saturday morning, Bastille Day, so my plan to have my last petit dejeuner was already ruined. This year's Bastille Day was Disco themed, so enormous mirrored disco balls covered the city, making the day extravagantly bright.  If only Fourth of July had themes...

I decided to walk to the Orsay, grabbing a baguette sandwich for lunch on the way. I can't believe i waited so long to visit the Orsay- it was incredible! The museum is housed in an old train station, so in edition to its amazing collection of impressionist artwork, the building itself is a spectacle to enjoy.  The views over the Seine were also gorgeous, even in the overcast weather.

Since I'd arrived in Paris, this was one of my first days wandering the city alone. No company, no agenda, just the city. I reveled in being a free agent, but found after a few hours I was sad not to be able to share my reveling, my enthusiasm for Paris with someone else. (I did, however, stop into a few puppy shops, and share my enthusiasm with a few too many adorable dogs...)

I wandered the streets aimlessly, trying to remember every little cafe and beret and landmark. I had the best chocolate eclair I've ever eaten at a small patisserie only a few blocks from home. It's funny how you only start seeing a place in a new way when you know your time there is limited.

That night, in lieu of crowded Bastille Day festivities, I met friends for Indian food at a restaurant in a building from the 17th century.  We're dubious to whether or not this is actually true.

Food is not spicy in Paris. Flavorful, but never spicy. Even the various chutneys, curries, and other dishes we enjoyed barely had a hint of spice. Indian food for beginners.

After gorging ourselves on lentils and cauliflower and naan, we went out for one last gaufres avec glacé (we wanted macaroons, but all the patisseries close far too early, yes, even Paris has its weak points...)

On the stoops of the Pantheon, we watched fireworks explode behind the Eiffel Tower, the best cliched way to end my month in France.

It seems surreal actually, that I lived in Paris for a month. Getting back to New York was shocking, I was convinced that all the street lights and crossing signs had been replaced while I was away-- everything is just so bright! I just jumped back into real life- apartment, job, friends, work- as if a month of my life hadn't been sent elsewhere, disrupting my usual pattern. I feel like I was in Paris forever and I simultaneously feel like I never left.

I'm sitting in a tea house in Park Slope, listening to some guy sing about how sad he is to be single (maybe because you're playing for an audience of mommies and lesbians. Just a thought), and I can't help comparing it to Paris, just like I compared Paris to New York every day I was there.

I'm so happy I went to Paris. I'm so happy to be back home in New York.  I'm happy I had space from my regular life, to learn and grow and get a new perspective, and I'm happy that Paris encouraged me to take risks, challenge myself, and explore the world.

“When good Americans die, they go to Paris” ― Oscar Wilde

Determined to hit every museum in Paris during my last week, I found one of the few that was open on Monday: Eugene Delacroix’s house and studio. Though it’s understated, it was pleasant to walk around the building where Delacroix created the gorgeous paintings I’d seen in the Louvre just days earlier.  Neither the artwork or the architecture of the building was exquisite, but seeing artifacts like Delacroix’s easel and pallet with oil paints splattered on it made the visit worthwhile.

With ample time left before class (the museum is petite) I wandered around in the finally gorgeous weather, and stopped at Ugo Traiteur for the freshest takeout Italian food I’ve ever had. Salmon with lemon and basil accompanied with vegetable tortellini in a ratatouille of tomatoes and zucchini made the perfect picnic lunch.

That night, we treated ourselves to dinner again at Le Grenier de Notre Dame, a vegetarian restaurant serving French classics without the meat.  While my carnivorous friends were less than enthused, the food was flavorful and fresh, a much needed serving of vegetables in contrast with Paris’ endless carbs.

We spent the rest of the evening wandering the streets, stopping for sweets and crepes after our large meal.

Before class on Tuesday, I visited Le Bon Marche (The Good Market) with a friend.  The Bloomingdale’s of Paris, this elegant department store had everything: clothes, homewares, fine dining, knitting supplies…  The sleek multilevel marble interior was the perfect place to spend a morning.

The Rodin Museum is open late on Wednesdays, so we planned to visit then. After trudging through the pouring rain to reach the home of “The Thinker”, we learned that the museum that night was closed for a private event.  Seriously?  On the only night it’s open late? At least we passed Gertrude Stein and Edith Wharton's homes on the way, which made the stormy trek somewhat worthwhile...

We took an unplanned excursion to Invalides and Napoleon’s Tomb.  The gardens outside were incredibly colorful and beautiful in the newly emerged sun, and Napoleon’s tomb was larger than life enormous.  After a glamorous photoshoot, we walked under the Eiffel Tower and crossed the river in search of food.

My roommate in NYC told me that if there was one thing I needed to do in Paris, it was to visit L’as du Falafel (The World of Falafel).  I live a block away from Mamoun’s.  People come from Brooklyn to go to Mamoun’s (it’s that good), so I didn’t see the big deal.

L’as du Falafel was a big deal, a big deal stuffed in a freshly baked pita and topped with creamy smoked eggplant.  Words cannot do this sandwich justice. Book a ticket to Paris, you’ll see.

After a filling and delicious meal, we headed to a cafe in Bastille to write while enjoying molten chocolate cake.  Paris, you've outdone yourself.  Plus, I met this cute guy...

A Parisian Fairy Tale

Sunday morning I had an itinerary. Realizing I had less than a week left in Paris, I was determined to do everything I had planned but hadn’t gotten around to. I planned to visit the Rococo Museum, Jacquemart-Andre, and convinced two friends to come along. Ever since learning about the Rococo period in my AP Art History class, it’s been my favorite period of art. Everything is so whimsical, enchanting, and just pretty. In an alternate world I’d live in a Rococo painting.

We walked through the Luxembourg Gardens to watch the little kids sail boats in the pond, a traditional Parisian Sunday activity. Unlike the motorized boats in Central Park, these wooden boats are pushed by kids holding sticks and move wherever the wind decides to take them.  This results in more than a few tears.

We walked across the river and down the Champs Elysee. We walked and walked and walked and finally found the museum.

While the Jacquemart-Andre may not have the prestige of the Louvre, it’s absolutely worth visiting. Originally a mansion for some wealthy people I will forever be jealous of, the house was converted into a museum to exhibit their private collection as well as visiting exhibitions.

The museum is stunning. While the art collection is impressive, the true gem of the museum is the mansion itself, with gilded furniture and canopy beds and elaborate frescos. I plan to decorate my twenty square foot bedroom similarly upon my return to NYC.

After exhausting the museum (although I’d be more than happy to spend the rest of my life inside), we headed back across the river to Sugarplum Cake Shop, a bakery we’d discussed visiting but had yet to see. Sugarplum is the Magnolia of the Left Bank. Owned by three Americans, this may be the only place in Paris to purchase cupcakes and refillable coffee. Over the next week, it became my preferred writing location. The chocolate cake with raspberry frosting was unlike anything I’ve ever had: rich and light simultaneously, sugary but not to sweet. Yes, Parisian pastries are incredible, but the Sugarplum cakes are reason enough to return to Paris.

That evening, we went to the local Chinese restaurant for a feast—easily the cheapest food (and wine!) we’d had. Chinese food in Paris, like everything else, is extraordinary.

The stunning museum, the cake shop, and the endless amounts of noodles and crevettes and rose made the day pretty close to a Parisian fairy tale. Oh, and we ended our night with waffle topped with gelato...

From Paris, With Louvre

Friday morning I finally made it to the Louvre! I waited in line for only twenty minutes (it can take hours!) before I entered the pyramid and descended into the museum itself.

The Louvre is huge!  While I was once intimidated by the size of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, frequent visits have made it manageable.  But the Louvre is like the Met’s giant older sibling. Looking at a map, it seemed like I could navigate my way through all of the galleries by early afternoon.  But after passing through various crowded galleries, I realized that a full run of the Louvre in a single day would be impossible or at least highly unpleasant.

I started with the Napoleon III apartments, lushly decorated rooms that could easily fit two or three of my four-bedroom East Village apartment inside.

From there, I wandered through the European paintings, recognizing various artists and artworks from art history classes.

Throughout my time at the museum, I constantly heard visitors ask guards in a variety of different accents, “Where is the Mona Lisa?”  While I know this is one of the artworks the Louvre is known for, it was almost unbelievable that a person could be surrounded by such wonderful, skilled, detailed artwork from all over the world and had their sights set completely on visiting a single portrait.

At the Mona Lisa, crowds of tourists elbow each other for a chance to capture Da Vinci’s painting on their iPhones.  It’s totally overwhelming: especially considering the painting is covered by a thick layer of glass and protected by a wooden railing that prevents viewers from walking within four feet of the painting.

After seeing the highlights of the museum, I headed out to the Jardin de Tuileries, mainly to check out La Fête Foraine, or the summer carnival.

There’s nothing sadder than walking around a carnival by yourself.  The friends I was supposed to meet were missing. Only later did I learn that Orange, the main cell service provider for Paris, was down for the day.  It took hours before I figured this out.  After hours of not receiving texts, I’d just assumed I was extremely unpopular and doomed to carry out a lonely existence. In New York, if cell service went down for an hour, the city would be frantic, and it certainly wouldn’t be a secret.  Maybe it’s just my lack of understanding of French, but I was shocked to learn that a major city was without cell service for a day and I had no idea.

Similar to every other day in Paris, it started to pour, so I made myself comfortable at Jour, a fresh salad bar reminiscent of the USA, where I wrote the afternoon away…

Party in the USA!

I’ve been accused of being un-American for spending 4th of July in France. This was my first July 4th spent outside of the USA. While I may or may not have forgotten it was Independence Day until late afternoon when I heard multiple recordings of the Team America song streaming across Reid Hall’s courtyard, I celebrated my country to its fullest.

The first thing I did was watch Mary Kate and Ashley’s Passport to Paris, to remember why Americans appreciate traveling to exotic places, like Paris. I learned that I absolutely will not have fun in Paris until I meet a sixteen year old boy with a fake French accent, floppy hair and a motorcycle. This has not happened and clearly I am very miserable here.

After indulging in that fine cinematic experience, we put on our white and blue, grabbed some red wine, and headed to WOS for their July 4th celebration.

The previous night, WOS celebrated its Fifth Birthday, so of course we attended the party to celebrate this momentous event. Dressing “Smart” (even the American bar uses British English), we shared wine on the Pantheon until dark, and then headed into WOS for the festivities. The festivities were just like any night at a dive bar, except the bartenders wore tuxedos and shot alcoholic chocolate whipped cream into your mouth at a moment’s notice… None of these things are bad. Especially when leftovers are promised for you at the next night’s 4th of July celebration…

“Party in the USA” and “Empire State of Mind” repeated countless times on the playlist as Americans toasted shots of tequila (very American!) to the USA! Overall, it was a pretty solid celebration, despite the lack of fireworks.

Impressions of Giverny

Tuesday, I convinced some friends to wake up early to head to Giverny, where Monet’s summer home and famous lily pad gardens are located. We arrived at the Gare St. Lazare long before our 10:20 train was supposed to leave. However, no one in Paris seems to be in any type of hurry. Ever. The ticket queue, which when full, is supposed to take 30 minutes. In the parallel universe of France, the half-full ticket queue took far longer, and needless to say, we missed our train. Perhaps because the ticket sellers have conversations with this with anyone who purchases a ticket: “No, you do not want to take that train, you want the later train, I give you discount”

“No, I want the 2:45 train, I need to get back for class.”

“You will not make that train. Take the 4:45 train. It will be cheaper!”

“I cannot take that train. I would like a ticket for the 2:45 train, please.”

“I’m sorry, je nes comprends pas. I do not speak any English. You will take the 4:45 train.”

In Paris, the customer is never right.

With two hours to kill until the next train, I headed to one of the two Starbucks in the train station.

“Mocha frappuccino? You mean Frappuccino Mocha, and no you do not want that, you want Espresso frappuccino.”

“No, I’d like mocha, please.”

“You do not want mocha, to mocha we add powder.”

“I like powder.”

“I will make you espresso frappuccino. Medium, yes?”

I’m not sure why I even bother expressing what I even want in Paris…

After a few weeks here, I’ve picked up a few more French terms and expressions, but better yet, I’ve learned how to speak English to French ears, Franglish, if you like.

Je’voudrai un scoop of glace pistache avec chocolate. On a waffle chaud. Merci.

When my friend’s cup started leaking, I offered to approach the barista and explain her situation. “My friend, her cup, it broke. The coffee drips. On her. HOT.”

“Oh, no problem! I’ll make her a new drink, what does she want?” The barista at the counter was from Spanish Harlem. I only wish I asked how he ended up working at Starbucks at a train station in Paris…

But I digress. We ate a delicious meal of stir fried noodles at the train station, and then boarded our second class car to Vernon, which is where Giverny is located. The plush seats, coat hooks, and outlets offered no sign that we were in second class, and the trip was quick with gorgeous views of the green French countryside.

We boarded a shuttle at Vernon and then walked up to Giverny, waited in line, again, for tickets to Monet’s home and garden, and finally entered paradise!

Well, actually the giftshop, which used to function as Monet’s studio before capitalists decided to profit off of his artistic genius by selling cheap calendar reproductions of his masterpieces…

Outside laid the most beautiful gardens I’ve ever seen (living 10 minutes away from the Chicago Botanical Gardens most of my life, this says a lot)! Bamboo, roses, lilies, and various flowers I don’t know the names of sprouted colorfully in every direction, completely negating the grey overcast sky hanging ominously above us.

After a brief, hurried walk through the flower paths, we reached the main event: the lily pads. THE lily pads! The ones you study in paintings your entire life, the ones reproduced on coffee mugs and mousepads all over the world, the ones Monet painted as his vision faded and his life drew to an end. The paintings I saw in the MOMA only a few years back were now right in front of my face. Monet was here. Monet painted this. He saw this and was inspired and created something beautiful. Something so much bigger than he ever expected.

Standing on the green bridge I’d seen painted so many times, I finally remembered why I came to Paris: to challenge myself, to see new things, to experience another way of life. It would have been so much easier not to pack up, not to argue with the ticket lady or sprint back from Giverny to catch the shuttle and train back before class, but life isn’t easy.

I had no expectations for Paris, no itinerary, no plan.

But this was it. This was my life. Seeing things I never even knew I’d see, being inspired by I don’t even know what. Sharing an experience with a legendary artist who lived long before my time, whom I rarely think about, and probably will continue not to. And I was there, and it was, put simply, amazing. And I was just so happy to be alive and be there in that moment.

Les Petites Chiens

Dogs in Paris are much better behaved than American dogs. (Cory, are you reading this?)  It’s actually unbelievable.  I say this, because I see dogs doing things, and I don’t believe what I’m seeing.

So many dogs walk around off-leash, strutting in front of their owners like they own Paris.  They never bark, run away, or cause any trouble.  Where are these dogs bred and where can I get one?

I saw a golden retriever jogging alongside a couple bicycling down Saint Germain des Pres this morning.  Just jogging next to them. No leash.  No bird chasing.  No running in front of cars.  Who even knew this was possible?

There’s a dog by the Maison who hangs out on the window ledge, like a cat.  Doesn’t bark, whine, or jump.  Just sits there and looks cute.  Give me one, please.

Ladies carry around tiny Chihuahuas and Yorkies and swanky mixed breeds in petite designer purses to department stores, boutiques, and even restaurants.  I can’t imagine a NYC restaurant welcoming a purse-dog/rat inside…

My favorite dog experience, by far, was last Sunday in a café. I enjoyed a delicious brunch at a crepe place near the Maison and continued on down the road to meet other friends for a second brunch.

There’s nothing like French portion sizes to make you feel like a glutinous American.  I’m always eating and always hungry.  Everything is delicious.  Everything is overpriced.  I’m waiting to get back to NYC before I let all of this set in, but at least my clothes still fit…

We sat down at a table near the window and made ourselves comfortable.  Well, as comfortable as one can be without a dog.  After we placed our orders, a family with an adorable, off-leash Bichon sits down behind us. No restaurant in the US would allow this, but Europe is awesome!  The dog ended up spending the rest of the meal on my lap, greatly enhancing my afternoon and definitely making the case for pets in restaurants!

After lunch part two, I left my friends to write in a café otherwise known as chez Starbucks and then went for a walk to Ile Saint Louis, which is just past Notre Dame and apparently famous for its ice cream.

I braved the forty-five minute line at Berthillon for a scoop of chocolate ice cream in a cone, and like many things with a wait that long, it was overrated.   However, I read a good chunk of my book and eavesdropped on some fantastic Canadian tourists, so all wasn’t lost!

Gay Paree

Saturday marked Paris’ Gay Pride, an event the entire city was proud of. All morning, wherever I walked I would be reminded, “Don’t forget, it is ze pride fest-ee-vahl later!”  “You must go to ze pride!”  “You know where is ze Pride today?” For breakfast/brunch/morning dessert, we stumbled into an adorable patisserie, Sadaharu AOKI,  where we enjoyed sugary custard-filled macarons and sesame rolls that were actually worth their outrageously high prices. The mix of Asian flavors and French pastry techniques was unique, every bite being more flavorful than the last (think Magnolia banana pudding on crack, shared with the Spice Girls, and you may be able to imagine how delicious this was)

But of course, there is only so much time to savor pastries when a Parade is consuming the winding streets of Paris.

If you have any type of seeing or hearing capabilities, you cannot miss Ze Pride in Paris.

The parade (more on this later, it was not quite what an American expects a parade to be) began at 2:00pm at the Montparnasse Metro stop, right by my school, and continues over the river and down into Bastille where it concludes in a major party.

Perhaps I should mention now that there are no gay people in Paris.  Gay Paree has not lived up to its name.  Yes, there are a spattering of queer clubs in les Marais, but I almost never see gay couples or recognizably gay people on the street.  A day in New York City without seeing a gay person on the street is practically unheard of! Either my Parisian gaydar is failing, or all the gays of Paris hide below the streets until they emerge in glitter and rainbows for Ze Pride.

French Pride brings out any and all people willing to witness and make a spectacle.  Bodysuits, face paint, glitter, and colorful wigs are frequently spotted on the streets near the parade.  Men selling large balloons and boas and beers push carts through the streets and blow whistles. You cannot hear yourself think, you cannot see anything but rainbows, everyone is celebrating.

True to European fashion, the parade did not start on time.  There’s actually no reason to ever arrive to a parade on time, but I think all the hype on the streets convinced us that we didn’t want to miss a minute of Pride.  No police blockades kept viewers off the streets and someone in a STAFF shirt helped us open our bottle of wine.  Pure chaos had consumed Paris.

The Parade was more of a rave/dance party/reason to day drink than what one may imagine as a parade. The floats were few and far between, mostly because masses of screaming and dancing people followed behind each one. I ran into a friend from New York at the parade who explained to me that this is the point, you’re supposed to follow the float of your choice and continue on down to Bastille where the festivities are even larger.  This struck me as extremely Parisian:  why watch a parade when you can be in the parade?  As I’ve said, it’s all about seeing and being seen here.

Exhausted and semi-dehydrated, I was fine being the voyeur, absorbing the absolute madness of teenagers dancing on top of bus stops and old men making out with each other in the middle of traffic.

Ready to call it a day, I grabbed some groceries from Picard, the supermarket which sells exclusively frozen foods (think frozen sushi, tiramisu, rhubarb pieces, etc), and settled into bed, where I napped and eventually began writing.

Life in Paris is unpredictable, and what better day to have an unpredictable evening than Ze Pride?

Tempted by the thought of a second pasta dinner and perhaps more wine, I met friends in Les Marais.  After a delicious dinner of linguine, and a dessert sampler, we headed out into the streets, which were literally overflowing with people celebrating Pride.  The crowd was huge, even by New York standards!  Everyone was thrilled and drinking and kissing and hugging and dancing, as if the 3rd Arrondissement had turned into a magical amusement park for the night, anyone who stepped inside had no choice but to celebrate whatever he or she was proud of. Perhaps Paree is a little gay after all...

Paris I love You but You’re Bringing Me Down

I’ve survived the greatest fear of my generation: losing an iPhone. Wednesday marked my first day of disenchantment with Paris. I woke up early to walk to Starbucks to catch up on work. The petite dejuneur at a Parisian Starbucks offers fresh squeezed orange juice, an espresso beverage of choice, and a pastry of choice, so I was set to camp out for the morning. An hour into editing, negotiating, and iMessaging later, a kid comes up from behind me and rattles paper in my face and over my laptop screen, while his sister yells at me in French.

“Go away, go away.” They left. As I turned back to return to the review I was working on, I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. Yes, my iPhone had left its comfortable spot on my keyboard, and was gone forever. Apparently, this paper-waving distraction is a common trick, it’s all about getting you to lose your focus, but I was not aware of this until after it happened. “Oh, the paper trick, that happens all the time!” That would have been good to know…

So Paris is not perfect. I already knew this much with their overpriced salads and stupid Metro tickets that only work when they want to, but really? My phone was taken by kids? And there’s nothing I could do about it? Paris was getting less magical by the second. Yes, it’s just a phone, and it’s easily replaceable, I’m still safe and healthy, so it’s nothing to get too upset over. But being stolen from is a pretty terrible feeling. I was taken advantage of right before my eyes and there was nothing I could do to stop it. While I still feel safe in Paris, perhaps safer than in New York in many instances, there’s now this suspicion I can’t leave behind, that at any time, in any place, someone may try to take something from me, with or without my knowledge.

After the child-theft, I walked to class for a writing workshop followed a lecture by a woman who translates American books into French, including all of Mary Higgins Clark’s work. After class, we grabbed dinner at an Italian restaurant (after only a week and a half I’m easily known as the girl who eats only pasta, and I truly appreciate everyone’s effort in finding me delicious pasta-serving places) and then headed to what is becoming our regular bar, WOS, to watch the Spain vs. Italy game and mourn the loss of my iPhone.

End of blog post for Wednesday. Text me for deets, BFFS.

Shopaholic Takes Paris

Thursday morning was gorgeous! Finally nice weather in Paris! I walked to the Musée Maillol, which is not one of the more famous museums in Paris, but was highly recommended by a friend, and I completely endorse that. Artisde Maillol’s artwork and art collection is featured permanently in the upper-level galleries, and the current visiting exhibit is of Artemesia Gentileschi’s paintings, who I originally fell in love with on a trip to Italy a few years ago. In short, she’s a female Baroque painter with plenty of masterful portraits of women kicking ass. Go see it. It’s worth the 9 euros. The museum also has a beautiful tearoom and restaurant, with extremely reasonable prices for a classy afternoon meal.

A friend living here told me that sale season would soon come to Paris, and I would be overwhelmed by all the Soldes signs in windows. Overwhelmed by shopping? Moi? I’m a pretty expert shopper, but I’m going to say she was right on this one—the entire city is on sale! Where to start? Where to go? Am I getting a good deal or is this 90 euro shirt that’s half off and then 20% off still overpriced? Am I at the Forever 21 or J Crew of Paris? Why are all these colors on the same dress? I went into many, many boutiques, and left empty handed. PARIS WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO ME? Everyone in Paris looks truly fashionable, but I’m having a hard time figuring out where they actually purchase their clothes…

Thursday evening after class we had Salon, in which writers presented their work along with other various talents. We were treated to unbelievably delicious varieties of goat cheese and cream puffs, and a bit of Paris’ magic was re-instilled in me. After Salon, I walked to Odeon to meet a high school friend for crepes, where we caught up and reminisced, all while taking in the streets of Paris.

Friday began with more crepes, and a walk to les Marais to visit the Picasso Museum, which it turns out, is under renovation. Why I never think to consult the Internet before planning my day is beyond me.

I decided just to wander, because getting lost in Paris is every American’s dream! I walked around the Orthodox neighborhood; many Parisian Jewish women look indistinguishable from hipsters: vintage peasant skirt, headscarf, oversized sweater. Is Brooklyn headed in this direction? #Assimilation.

Before crossing the river back home, I stopped into Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville (BHV), the big Parisian department store, similar to Harrod’s or Macy’s. I browsed clothing and makeup on the 0 level, and continued on up to look at everything from art supplies to window treatments to sushi and gelato. Paris is a place to be looked at and a place to be seen, but at BHV I finally felt that anonymity I love about the streets of New York. Everyone was too self-absorbed and determined in their shopping to care about what I wore or how poor my French was. Only I could feel at home in a department store. Or walking down streets where dogs think they're cats...

I headed home for a Friday night pasta dinner and met friends on the steps of the Pantheon, where local students hang out at night. At risk of sounding like an alcoholic, New York’s open container laws are making less and less sense to me. While yes, there is always potential for street-drinking to go awry, it’s so nice to share a bottle of wine with friends outdoors on a beautiful summer night, and not be forced into a sketchy bar or tiny apartment in order to socialize. In Paris, while wine is more popular than water, drinking is not about getting drunk, but much like getting coffee, about socializing while enjoying a beverage, sipping slowly and talking quickly and not worrying about where the night will end up.

A Quick Guide to Showering in the Maison

Alternate Title: Beware of Vomit. In order to take a shower in the Maison, one must accomplish a variety of tasks.

1. Be clean. Unless you are absolutely rancid, moldy, and absolutely disgusting to all people and cats, you may want to rethink your recent decision to shower. It is, in fact, a myth, that one must shower on a daily basis.

2. If personal hygiene is truly that important to you, you may want to consider the various alternatives:

a. Sponge bath. Each room in the Maison has a personal sink inside. Think about it. b. Sit in a Patisserie, absorb the smells of fresh baked macarons and tasty French treats. Or, alternatively, take a walk in the Luxembourg Gardens and gently brush past a few too many rose bushes c. Go for a stroll in the rain. Bring a bottle of shampoo. Lather, rinse, repeat.

3. If you absolutely insist on taking a proper shower, prepare yourself mentally. And physically. Listen to calm music, wrap yourself tightly (I emphasize tightly) in a towel, slip on some flip flops, and grab your Lysol, shower supplies, and pepper spray. All of these will come in handy over the next five minutes.

4. Tell a friend that you will be showering and if you haven’t tweeted fifteen minutes from now, she should send out a missing persons report.

5. Sprint to the shower room. If the shower is full, well, turn back already!

6. Lock the door. Oh wait, it doesn’t lock? How dirty are you, really?

7. Hang your towel on the towel hook. Towel hook? What towel hook? I don’t see a towel hook! Exactly.

8. Sanitize the shower. Put your shower supplies on the floor, there’s simply no other choice. Do not remove your flip-flops.

9. Beware of vomit.

10. Turn on the shower. Unless you’re a fan of ice-cold water, give it a minute, or five, to warm up. Yes, it will cool off over the course of your shower, but it’s nice to start out with some warm water.

11. Wash your hair and body quickly. You can shave in the sink. Any longer than five minutes in here, and you’ll leave smelling worse than when you arrived.

12. Do not be afraid of the dark. The lights will inevitably turn off during your brief visit to the shower, just remove any and all scenes from Psycho from your memory and you’ll be okay.

13. Tell the drunk German who opens the door to the shower you are quite obviously using that if he steps any closer you will fucking punch him in the face. If he doesn’t understand you, make random guttural sounds, scowl, and perhaps he will get the message. Otherwise, you have that pepper spray...

14. Oh, the towel that you threw over the door is missing? Fascinating. You can

a. Shout for help out the door, perhaps someone will maybe hear you a little bit? b. Sprint back to your room. Streaking is cool in Europe, right c. Wrap yourself in the shower curtain and strut down the hall in your new fish patterned vinyl couture. Tres chic.

15. You have showered. You have survived. Presuming you didn’t contract a deadly flesh eating disease during your short time bathing in Maison, congratulations!

Où le Starbucks?

Paris is all about "café culture."  You order a tiny espresso, chain smoke, and read a book or chat with friends for hours in the café.  Getting coffee is an activity, not an errand.  Carrying a plastic cup of the hot beverage (forget iced coffee, that doesn’t exist outside of Starbucks here) down the street is practically barbaric.  Coffee in France is a verb, not a noun, it’s something you do, not merely something you drink. While I adore the café culture, and it may be one of my favorite things about Paris, I cannot, and will not, give up my green plastic straw.

Therefore, on a street dotted with adorable cafés and boulangeries and patisseries, I shamefully write this from a Starbucks.

French baristas call out “bonjour” in a sing-songy voice each time a new patron walks in the door.  You place your order and chat a bit while they make one of the three overpriced menu items. I don’t know how to order iced coffee in French, and I’m far too embarrassed to ask for a mocha “not hot” so I’ve had to stick to Frappuccinos, as there is no translation. Being an American in Paris is rough.

I spent Saturday morning much like any Saturday in the city: slept in, walked down to the farmers’ market, did some light shopping, and made myself cozy in Starbucks to write and catch up on work.  It’s actually amazing how thousands of miles away from home I can still lead the same daily routine! It’s also incredibly sad.  #Americanization.

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But daily routines have not been my Parisian experience.

So far, nothing has gone as planned, and I’ve loved every moment of it.

I guess this is similar to a summer in New York City, but in Paris, I never know where my day will take me and where my night will take me and who I’ll meet and what we’ll talk about.  On a quiet night on which I planned to watch a movie in bed I ended up on the roof of the Maison, drinking wine and being convinced to eat “tofu” sausage by a bunch of vegetarian-hating Parisian students. You think you’re headed one place with friends, and suddenly you stumble upon an even better destination.  The impulsive unpredictability makes every night so unique and fun!

Americans think of Europeans as being very chic.  At least, I do.  This, it turns out, is not the case in many situations.

Last night, after dinner at a delicious Italian restaurant in the Marais and a quick visit to a bar playing The L Word  and Robyn simultaneously (seriously?), I ended up at an American bar/club with a group of Spanish students. The bar was covered in ads for PBR and Alabama Slammers and other things Americans presumably like.  “Who Let the Dogs Out” was blasting on the speakers.  Everyone was attempting to speak very poor English.  The dance cave in the basement really topped it off.  I could mention that I was proposed to, and if it weren’t for my excellent moral judgment, I could very well be engaged right now, but that’s not part relevant to American culture…

Walking home past the Sorbonne at dawn, laughing about our cultural exchange, I was glad for another unpredictable night in Pareee.