29 September 2008

The Beginning of a Love Affair

September 19, 2008

Paris, the wench, has finally decided to befriend me.

Today, as I was walking in the sun on a cobblestone quay, she left huge golden heart shaped leaves all over the ground to tell me that she loves me.

I’ve had some interesting times recently, random conversations with Parisians in parks, awkward aperitifs with my host on her birthday, my first ramble through the Louvre, and planning my travels to Belgium, Greece, England, Ireland, Finland, Italy, Switzerland and beyond!

Last weekend I walked hours to the edge of the city, where I found the expansive Bois de Vincennes, a rustic park with a huge boat-filled lake and a little, and a creepy cave. The noise/people/dirt/car/moped-packed city faded away as I rambled through the noise/people/dirt-packed park. But it was still lovely.

But today. Today I found the most beautiful green little park (Parc de Belleville), perched on the hill within 10 minutes of my house, with shade covered benches, ivy covered trellises and little pathways everywhere. And at the top, with its layers of sun-drenched lawn, you can see the city skyline and the Eiffel Tour. It claims to have free WIFI too; so I’ve found my new favorite study, picnic, nap spot. I can’t wait to take Josh there, or anyone else who visits me! And it kept getting better. I kept walking and found the Parc de Buttes Chaumont, a larger rambling space with steep hills, expansive lawns, a lake, and a cliff towering in the middle of the water with another beautiful white dome. But instead of being blocked off like the dome at the Bois de Vincennes, I walked right up to it, sat in the center, and laughed with pleasure. The wind was whipping my hair around my face as a grand halo of green park separated me from the magnificent skyline of Paris, the huge exotic domes of the Sacre-Coeur gleaming in the distance.

I followed some canal through the city, walking on the quaintest cobblestone quay with the water literally glistening from the sun beside me. I worked my way to the Marais, the stylish 3rd arrondisement (known for fashion, jews and gays) and found myself eating the most delicious falafel sandwich and a cone of Italian gelato, crafted into a flower with a lemony scoop in the middle, and passion fruit petals. Then I went to the modern Centre Pompidou, a controversial landmark, where all the pipes, ventilation and structure of the building are completely exposed on the outside, forming this atrocious, bright blue, tubey sort of building. But they give you an hour and a half of free WIFI a day!

Now I’m sitting in part of the Carrousel du Louvre, a little statue-centered, tree-lined, hedge-perimetered park, with the Louvre and her glass pyramid ambling out in front of me, and the arc de triumph casually hanging out 30 meters to my left (okay, not the real one on the Champs-Elysee, but I swear its still called “arc de triumph”. The Louvre is open until 10 tonight, so with my free pass, I might ramble through a hall or two, pretending like I hang out with ancient Greek statues all the time.

For some reason, Paris seems happier now that I have parks to hang out in. And with Josh coming so soon, I’m excited to be finding some favorite places (those little hidden places not in the guide books), to show him. I think we’ll also go to Mont-St-Michel, the towering monastery on the Brittany Coast that was named after me.

Tomorrow should be great too: Hand washing my laundry and homework!

02 September 2008


Lesson of the Day:
The French don't put up "Wet Paint" signs.

Especially on days that you are wearing your favorite black coat.

And were woken up min
utes before by a woman towering above you in your tiny, dark room, speaking quickly at your foggy brain in French, pretty much telling you that you have to leave so she can clean.

It was an angry morning.

I decided to walk to school to cool off, knowing that a steamy, packed metro wouldn't help my angry morning mind.

So there I was, walking down Parisian streets in the morning, wearing a nondescript black trench in the windy, gray weather, scowling and looking down at the sidewalk.

And I realized that I finally looked French.

And then I smiled, and broke the spell. And honest to God, almost walked into a man that happened to be crossing the sidewalk in front of me with a roller of dripping white paint.

30 August 2008

Day 4

I was a wreck the first two days. Letters from home made me cry. Seeing couples by the Seine made me sad. And I felt lonely without all my amazing American friends.

But. I’ve pushed through, slept off the jet lag with generous naps and 10pm bedtimes (that’s 1pm for you, friends), and finally figured out how to work the coffee machine in our hotel. And by hotel, I mean the tiny room with the pretty view of the cobbled streets, brimming with piles of my and my roommate’s clothes and suitcases and books and bags. We can’t see the floor. And… although I promised myself I would forget it and never speak of it again --until we had it fixed this morning-- our bathroom sink was clogged and sprinkled with tiny black worms.

La belle Paris.

But it really is a beautiful city. People honestly walk down the streets carry baguettes, and there actually are cafes with outdoor patios on every corner. Like people say, the French don’t really smile or make eye contact on the street, but I’ve noticed that the people sitting in cafes feel like they have the right to blatantly stare at you as you walk by, people watching, not expecting to get caught. Oh, but I catch them!

One of the first days we went on a Bateux-Mouche cruise on the Seine, surprisingly not as visually interesting as I thought it would be, the green water around you, the flashing cameras of other tourists, and the best monuments covered in trees. But it made me want to explore everything on foot. I think tomorrow, my free day, I’m going to explore the banks around the Louvre and Jardin Tulleries, and then check out the infamous studenty Left Bank and “Shakespeare and Co,” an Anglophone bookstore that purportedly lets you read in the store for hours. (On the right you can see me and Notre-Dame from the boat!)

And since my school trickily put “Art Student” on my student ID, I can sign up for a pass that allows me to get into any art museum (like the Louvre and Orly) for free all year. Devious, devious people. I love it.

I think I really started to love the city when I walked around by myself one lunch break, and suddenly ran into the beautiful Church Saint-Euguene, just casually tucked around a corner and hidden between street buildings. Here is me finally happy!

We walked around the Ile de la Cite a bit yesterday (on the most boring 2 hour tour imaginable), but Notre Dame is amazing to see up close. (Left)

Today we had a day trip to Vaux de Vicomte, a beautiful very French looking castle, and then rambled around the back 33 acre sculpted gardens for a few hours.

That is how I like France.

So probably going out tonight, and rambling around the city tomorrow. Intensive language course next week (I’m in the more advanced half of the program and considering taking a course or two in French), and then we move in soon to our apartments.


26 August 2008


Days Until I Leave For Paris And Can't Call Josh Anymore: 1

So I'm finished packing. And I didn't even have to sit on the suitcases to close them.

I mean, I did. But it was just for show. They weren't THAT full....

Okay. So I sat on them, and struggled with the zippers. But they closed, and that is the point.

High Points of the day:

My sister DJ-ing while I packed (with various French selections)

A pretty pedicure

A hasty 3 minute pay phone conversation with Josh

Sitting on the suitcases

Low Points of the day:

The ugly manicure--then coming home and spending a half hour trying to get all the ugly polish off of my fingers
(But I'm going to call that 18 dollars a valuable learning experience. Whenever someone who can't speak English mumbles "18" at you and then shakes his head encouragingly--when you know the cheap manicure you wants only costs ten--you should say "No please" and make some archetypal NO face. I suggest a frown)

The minute after my hasty 3 minute pay phone conversation with Josh
(and realizing that I'm flying away without a phone, and he's decided to be a rustic woodsman, build a lean-to in the wilderness around Mt. Ranier, and have the woodland creatures for friends, and won't be able to e-mail me for 14 day

Sitting on the suitcases

But I'm packed. And I'm going to Paris. Tomorrow.

Miss you! (Picture taken with my amazing new camera from amazingly generous, lovable friends).

19 August 2008

That Unadulterated Kind of Hate

Days Until I Get to France and Realize that I have all the wrong shoes: 9

I just read this book on French women-- okay, 3 pages of a book on French women-- and I 've already learned that I'm screwed. I don't have the mandatory 2 lipsticks, I don't have ANYTHING in chasmere, and my hair wouldn't know how to twist itself into a flawless bob. And apparently, a real "francaise" would NEVER leave the house wearing tennis shoes, not even to buy a loaf of bread, because they may run into someone they know. Apparently tennis shoes give the wrong impression. And I think that impression is: American.

Okay, so I'm an American. So what? Who cares if they know it? Maybe this red flag tennis shoe monstrosity (that I'll have to wear just to relieve my feet from the blisters and pain from the heeled-boots and stiff flats I've bought for France) will have an upside. Maybe my tennis shoes--even the sleek black ones I bought to be as discreet as possible--will let them know to talk to me in pedantic, easy French that I'll actually be able to understand.

I hate shoes.

But I don't hate everything French. Specifically not Chez Shea, the haute cuisine restaurant downtown above Pike Place Market, so beautiful and delicious that you force yourself to eat every bite of the four course meal until you're sick. And then get dessert. It's that good. And my beautiful boy (man soon) looked handsome, all dressed up and smiling (the wine may have helped).

So it's really just the shoes I hate.

Except the delicious black flats Aisha gave me. It's like she handed me this unwanted rock and I polished it to find a diamond. Or something.

It's raining today, the first water I've seen after this desert-90 degree stretch of Seattle torture. And I'm happy, the rain reminding me that i'm going to spend fall in Paris.

09 August 2008

The Countdown Begins

Days Until I Leave For Paris, Become an Ex-Patriot, Perfect Walking in Heeled Boots, Take up a Smoking Habit, and Publish the Great American Novel in French: 17

So I'm sitting in a parking booth at an hour that has only really seen my face a handful of times, brooding about summer homework but pretty happy that its raining and that all the blisters on my feet are heeling. I've bought boots- and flats- and they all seem pretty angry at my toes for shoving themselves inside, so they've started to attack. But with an eye for French fashion standards, I've begun some pretty aggressive defensive maneuverings: band-aids on blistered toes and some of those jelly-sole inserts to really let my shoes know who is boss.

Who knew I was so good at rambling? Here's all I know: despite mostly beautiful, simmering Seattle days, beaches, summer reading and Seattle's one month allowance for frozen coffee drinks, all I can think about is this elusive, perfect black coat. And maybe a black trench. And a fitted peacoat. And a pair of flat boots....

And some black flats.

I'm drooling. I'll stop. Okay. But summer isn't over. Even though I can't wait until the dreary, freezing rain that Paris promises (you just THINK I'm joking), summer in Seattle is still proving to be amazing. Last Sunday I went sailing with my friend Nanette in Puget Sound-- six hours of a lackadaisical bobbing to get around a bend and back, and it was magnificent. We sailed right out to where we could see the Seattle skyline, a beautiful view that I never figured I'd see from that angle.

And last Wednesday--some of you will never believe this of this late blooming, blond, California girl-- I went surfing. Can I still call it surfing if I never really stood up on the board, and I got to my knees about once? Oh, but on my stomach, I rode those waves real good! It was more fun than I'd guessed, less scary (until the waves got bigger, and I took my well-earned place on the beach, snacking on cookies and making well-informed comments about the other surfers), and I was amazingly sore the next day, although it didn't feel like I had worked hard at all.

But that was an amazing surfing trip to Seaside, Oregon, Josh and I road-tripping down to meet his sister, Kindra, and brother-in-law, Mike. They are amazing people, fun, interesting, kind and generous. I met Josh's openly embracing grandparents (his grandmother already wants me to write to her, and told me she loves me-- but that was after a glass of wine).

Anyway, not sick of summer yet, just sick of Shakespeare. Although I've been know to "nail" Shakespeare essays. As the countdown continues, I just hope I can resist my natural urges to shop.