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Posts Tagged ‘French Cafe’

I had a rather relaxing weekend, something I realize I truly needed. I needed two days to sleep, to laze about, to eat good food and have nice runs and enjoy the almost-spring like weather here.

And that’s exactly what I had.

I started off Saturday with a long and leisurely solo breakfast, followed by a visit to the Hotel de Ville (City Hall) for a free photography exhibit with the dinner time gang, replete with images of my absolute favorite artist, Marc Chagall — turns out Izis, the photographer in question, was a big fan of Chagall — followed by an equally long and leisurely lunch.

But the lunch was not long by our choosing. You see, as a very astute article in the BBC pointed out just yesterday, customer service here in Paris is virtually nonexistent. In order to obtain our food, our coffee, even our check, we were required to perform elaborate and difficult maneuvers — it was almost as if the waiter didn’t want us to leave.

Granted, this is quite different, and at times more welcome, than the traditional American idea of waitstaff — hover around until you are finished and then throw you out in favor of incoming customers — but you want just want to leave, the welcome feeling of being left alone wears off rather quickly. I am actually pretty sure that our waiter’s shift ended in the middle of our marathon meal, leaving us with completely new garçons to deal with to obtain our dessert coffees and final check. It was quite the meal time ordeal.

We then headed off towards one of the biggest shopping districts of Paris, searching for “la saison de soldes” (Sales, illegal here in France except for very specific periods of the year) and find them, we did. We also found most of Paris.

The stores were an absolute ZOO. It was impossible to move, and the lines at the cash registers snaked around the outside of the store multiple times over. I think this shopping atmosphere must be a truly Parisian thing, because I can’t even imagine this kind of chaos in New York. It was a true migraine in motion.

But the evening was lovely, as we made a carrot-honey soup and garlic bread dinner together and cozied up to watch “The Little Mermaid” and “Aladdin”  — both movies of which the majority I have largely forgotten — feeling fat and childish after the end.

Today, I went on a brisk and refreshing jog in my favorite park, and then headed out to the Musée des Arts and Metiers for a school assignment, meeting up with some friends in another part of the city for a quick lunch.

Then, it was off with another friend for dinner and a scooter ride, and back home for a quick edit of my next Daily Tar Heel column — see it tomorrow here! — before drifting back off to sleep in preparation for another busy week of school work and French-ness.

Stay tuned, mes enfants! Restent ici!

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So, yesterday was pretty much a big win for me, in terms of things accomplished. I bought groceries, picked up a letter at the post office, went for a nice run and hosted a lovely and quasi-elegant dinner party for three friends. I even did the whole stereotypical French thing and had an afternoon, post-lunch coffee in a café just down the street.

It was a good cup of coffee; tiny, strong and perfect. I had my notebook on hand and was writing in French, trying to feel the whole atmosphere of the place, the French people, the moment, when I noticed the music chiming in overhead. It was an Alanis Morisette song.

I was in France, in Paris, in a café, drinking a cup of strong, black coffee, writing my musings in French, as the angry 90s rock-pop queen told me about all the things she was thankful for in that strained, emotional voice that made her famous.

It was a strange moment. A weird juxtaposition. I already knew from past experiences that Europe really loves American popular music, especially bad American popular music — witness my road trip in Bavaria in the summer of 2008 to a soundtrack of 80s-tastic music selections on the local German radio — but it was strange to find myself in such an iconic French moment and yet still have it feel familiar. I mean, Starbucks doesn’t even play Alanis.

It’s times like this, or the poster in the metro advertising “Pas Si Simple” (It’s Complicated), or the jazz radio station eagerly playing selections from the upcoming release of “La Princesse et la grenouille” (The Princess and the Frog, which I WILL be seeing in French); all these things show how connected this foreign place is with the home I have left.

And as I edge nearer to actual purpose here in Paris — meaning attending actual classes and having actual things to do — I’m finding certain little things more familiar and other certain things stranger than I thought I would. The French language has really permeated my consciousness quicker than I had imagined, but at other times it feels and sounds stranger than ever before.

Food here, which has mostly been things I prepared in my lovely kitchen with the help of my landlord’s cat, Flocon (Snowflake), also feels familiar, although I had quite the trip yesterday to try and assemble the ingredients for my fatoush. It is also hard to buy groceries when most of the stores CLOSE for a two hour lunch break, as mandated by the government. True story.

Given actual responsibilities and a dictated schedule, things might fall into place more smoothly. But right now, I’m in a weird, inbetween place, wandering around doing things without any end goal in sight.

I’d like to start doing something else soon, please.

“I want you to try to help yourself,” Sad Brad Smith, “Help Yourself”.

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