1 Feb 2019

Nostalgia: A Home is Found on the Left Bank- My first blog post 2010

Here is my first blog post ever from 2010...

After weeks of pain-staking searching and running all over Paris, I have finally found an apartment to call home. Apartment hunting in the City of Light is a ruthless business. There are too many people searching and not enough apartments/rooms to go around. You have to be quick and ready to jump at it if you spot someplace you like. I met many a strange -or perhaps more appropriate words could include 'unique' or 'tres interessant' -person on my quest for a Parisienne adresse. And many a person who was willing to fight me for it. Ugh... give me a break!

There was one apartment I visited in the very prestigious 7eme, which would be shared with two other girls. The room was lovely but then the owner said 'oh oui, c'est vrai. Les deux autre filles aient acces a la salle de bains dans votre chambre.' : The two other girls would need to use the ensuite in my room to shower every day. Walk through my room, past the bed to the ensuite. 'Oh non Madame, c'est pas possible pour moi!'

A young French girl almost impaled me... yes, that's right, almost impaled me with the daggers in her eyes and on her tongue for another in the same chic 7eme. It was an interesting experience for me to attempt to talk back to someone in a foreign language... but at the end of the day, I was like 'hey, you can take it if you want it that much!'- I've got another 3 apartments to visit tomorrow!!

And I visited another which I think I could rightly call a 'shoebox'. It was 9 metres squared- it was entirely one room- with the shower placed nicely against the kitchen sink. Oh! And the toilet (a hole in the ground) was in the hall, which would be shared with 3-4 other apartments on the floor. Hmm... je pense, peut-etre pas! But it was fetching a rather hefty monthly price due to it's close proximity to Bir-Hakeim Metro and the Eiffel Tower.

Rue Mouffetard (lovingly nicknamed La Mouff) is one of the most famous and oldest streets (circa. the FIRST century) in Paris' Quartier Latin in the 5emeIt is a hip mecca for French students and tourists alike. Opening the door into the ancient building, which housed the apartment I was to visit, I felt like I was going back in time. Cobbled stone floor and walls, it was an amazing bit of history and architecture right here- but the actual apartment- well, not so much! I think my reaction after the owner opened the door was 'OH!' and then '...Oh...'.Yes, it was one of those 16th century buildings. Almost untouched by contemporary... well...anything. Need I say more?

And this is only a brief taste of a few of the beaucoup des appartementsI visited. It was difficult just getting more information out of someone about their apartments. Simple things such as sending some photos, answering questions about what is actually in the apartment ended up being a long trial. A lot of the time I received no answer or 'Oh yes, you could visit the apartment in person. But mmm... I'm not in Paris. I'm in... uh... the UK at the moment, so unfortunately you can't but happily send me the deposit anyway'. Woah, hang on a second! Oh, I would rather forget.

I am so happy and relieved that it is all over now. I have a lovely little studio apartment of my own. My very first apartment. It is amazing to think that my first apartment ever is in Paris with a balcony view of the Eiffel Tower!
My new home is located only blocks away from the Champ de Mars and the Seine. I love the area that it is in. Even though it is only walking distance to the Eiffel Tower, it is mostly residential- and not at all a touristy district. Everything I could possibly need is located in this quartier. Whether it be les restaurants, supermarches, boutiques, La Poste, les banques, boulangerie, boucherie, access to four Paris metro lines- it has everything. And yet, it is still a peaceful area to live.
Today, I went to sign the lease and pick up the keys. To my delight, I discovered that there is a twice-weekly market that is held right next to Dupleix Metro- 2 minutes from my front door. C'est Magnifique!
I will start moving tomorrow after I finish class (this will be my 5th week) at l'Alliance Francaise de Paris and officially begin living there the day after.

I have been living with a lovely French family for the past four weeks in Vanves, one of Paris' southern suburbs or Banlieues. I feel so priviliged and lucky that I was placed with this family. I have learnt so much about the culture and dynamics of what it is to live a real French lifestyle. The family have worked hard to include me and we have still been able to have some of the funniest and serious conversations- even though my French is not advanced.
They have two very eccentric pets- a dog and a cat, both with very strong (and according to the family- very francais) personalities and thus often ending in tres amusant situations and moments.

I have been forced to use all the French I know and have been learning at l'Alliance Francaise as the family can not speak/understand English apart from the odd word here and there.
It is an experience that I would never exchange for anything. It is one of the best things I could do. To really learn about a foreign country's culture and customs, you really should try and live and immerse yourself in it. That is truly how you can reach your maximum potential. If you ever get the chance or opportunity to do so, live it.
I think I was lucky enough to be in the 'transition period' of just completing a degree and beginning full-time employment to actually be able to do this. It is obviously not easy otherwise to just pack up your bags and head to France. And it is mon grand espoir that by the end of my time in France, I will be able to articulate myself proficiently with the family so I can carry on a more sophisicated conversation.
Not to mention, I have also acquired a very keen taste for les fromages!!! I've tasted cheese made from the milk of cows, goats and sheep. From all over France, from high up in the mountains (Pyrenees, and the Swiss Alps) soft, hard, doux, runny, mild, 'un petit peu' smelly and very, very, very strong. And always with a glass of red wine... c'est une bonne vie, non?

30 Jan 2019

Dreams in a Parisian Sky

I came to Paris because I had one of those dreams. A three year old infatuated with the haunting musical scores and the romance of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’. Memorising the lyrics before I could read. Hours spent lying on the soft, cream carpet in the living room by my parents’ record player. Admiring pictures of the Opera Garnier. With such wishing, I could vividly picture myself there. Sending letters to the tormented Phantom out my bedroom window; letters embarrassingly my father found as he cleaned the dry, wrinkled leaves from the spouting when I had assumed the Phantom had taken them.

At the age of eleven, I walked the streets of Paris with my father. We had to go see the city that I had admired for such a significant portion of my short life. I sat in the auditorium of the Paris Opera House looking up at the chandelier, the critical piece for Gaston Leroux’s story of the Phantom. The ceiling painted by Marc Chagall diverging with the opulence of the Baroque exterior. I remember wanting to run off and try to find the labyrinth below the opera house where the Phantom resided.

I grew into a young woman with this sense of curiosity and adoration for a foreign land that always seemed so far away and just out of reach. When I was old enough to go alone, I bought a plane ticket.

A beautiful view from my apartment on Rue de Lourmel; my small balcony offering a view of la Tour Eiffel. The sun dimming over the skyline. A brilliant orange hue setting over the little ceramic red chimneys of the most romantic city in the world. The city of lights. Just uttering the word Parisconjures up unrealised dreams and endless possibilities.
Cobblestone streets. The hustle and bustle of la vie quotidienneLes petits motos zooming past and the sound of ambulances wailing. Dogs are immaculately groomed, obediently sitting at their master’s feet whilst they sip on a cup of coffee in the café on the corner. The robust odour as I pass my local fromagerie is enough to knock me over. Every Parisian knows, the smellier the cheese the better. 

An afternoon walk in the warm sunshine conjured up images of Audrey Hepburn dancing down the banks of the Seine or Jean Seberg selling newspapers down the Champs-Elysees, Belmondo by her side. I could imagine Edith Piaf singing in the worn-out streets of Menilmontant in the north east of the city. I loved visiting Shakespeare and Co, where penniless writers would sell their stories of despair to the owner to have a place to rest their head at night. 
Countless writers and artists have used Paris as a backdrop to some of the greatest work the world has ever seen. How many people have fallen in love in this place?

I recall that late Autumn day. It was cold and grey. The rain pitter pattering to the ground. I saw him as I gazed up from underneath my umbrella standing in front of la Fontaine Saint Michel. Our eyes met. The first thing that I noticed were his big blue eyes; an intense blue like a summer day’s perfect sky. They could take you to faraway places.

We sat at Le Petit Pontopposite the Notre Dame. No awkward moments, our conversation like two old friends, flowing like wine. Several hours passed. 

It transitioned to midnight walks along the Seine, listening to the water rippling in the dark and watching the twinkling lights of the stars reflected in the river. Under incandescent moonlight, we passed monuments that have inspired awe in people for centuries hand in hand and laughing. Passing the Eiffel Tower. There was no one and nothing but silence. These moments made us feel as though we are the only ones in the entire city. Paris was à nous. We spent hours walking. Discovering each other at the same time as discovering the city.
Kisses in doorways; it was a game as we walked the cobblestone streets and through the grounds of the Louvre. There is a doorway; another; another. He always walked me to my apartment and bid me bonne nuitas he cycled off back to his home on the other side of the city taking the ve’lib. Always walking hand in hand feeling so lucky to have met and being thankful for each day together. Neither had been looking to have a romance. 

But we had to eventually separate. 

I returned home to Australia; to the house that I had grown up in. I took many walks to Ricketts Point beach, where I stood watching the sun slowly fall asleep beyond the horizon. The sand warm and soft beneath my toes. Such a contrast to the city I now considered to be my second home. The distance was lessened with love letters received in the letterbox from Paris. The most beautiful words that I have had the opportunity to read. He joined me in Australia three months later.
After a couple more years together, we parted. I remain happy for the time we shared as not many are lucky enough to experience anything like it. What we had was real. With him, I grew up and learnt so much. I am who I am today because of that period together and I had the opportunity to learn to love someone else as much as I did. 
Many people dream about finding romance in a foreign land. But there is so much more to it. Being torn between different sides of the world and cultures. At least one needs to leave their family and friends.
We will always look back fondly of our days in Paris together. Beautiful memories that are precious and no one else can ever understand or experience. Times that were so perfect but you cannot get back. It is a special place to both of us. We simply joined centuries’ worth of people who already held significance and love for Paris.
As I have learned, reality can in fact be better than the dreams you have. And when you realise this, you can live life to the fullest. Paris stays with you. The roots delve into the deepest depths of the soul. Paris is something that the locals have always said wherever in the world I have met them. Paris is in hereDans le coeur. In your heart. No matter what you do or where you go, it is part of you.