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Posts Tagged ‘The End’

(Cue the sappy travel music and slide show of pictures that my friends took instead of me, because I don’t have a camera)

I love Paris in the springtime.

And I do, I really do. It took me forever to learn how to love it, but now, at the end, I finally love the City of Lights.

I love Paris in the fall.

Okay, I wasn’t here in the fall, but I’m sure it was a pretty time here. I think we can take this particular line to mean that sometimes during the term, things didn’t always work out for the best — my difficulties in finding an apartment, the eternal and incessant cultural issues, monetary concerns, academic ennui, etc. — but in looking back on all of them now, I’m proud of myself for having endured and pushed through and done it. I’m glad to be here,  on the other side of five weird and wonderful months.

I love Paris in the winter, when it drizzles

I think this particular bit is a little upsetting, because this refers to the time of the term when everything was upsetting and I was depressed and not really feeling the whole “France” thing. But when I think about it from here on this squishy, lumpy couch in June, I have to admit that the city began to slowly grow on me during those difficult, rain-soaked weeks when the chilly mist just crept through the edges of your coat and sweater and you felt just terrible. It was hard not to love a city where you could round almost any indiscreet corner and find yourself face to face with a staggeringly beautiful forced perspective of a church or monument or elegant civic structure. It is truly a beautiful city that can look good in the month of February — which, now that we mention it, was perhaps the best February I have ever had. I remember being on the metro with my dear friend Dana and saying to each other, ‘You know what? February is the worst month ever. And this February was the least worst February we have ever had. Life is on the up and up.’

I love Paris in the summer, when it sizzles

Wellsir, I definitely have seen this part of Paris. It has been pretty sticky here during the last couple of days. It isn’t helped by the fact that there were five of us living in a tiny apartment not even really large enough for the three people who actually live here — or rather, I should say lived here; Chris and Claire left for Carolina this morning bright and early out of Charles de Gaulle. And yet, Paris in these last few sizzling, simmering weeks has been positively magical. True, there have been tourists left and right and up and down and everywhere, and true, the metro has been more crowded than ever, but now that I truly know where to go and what to do in this city, none of that seems to matter. Like last night: I met my friend Char for dinner at our apartment, and then we took the metro up to Café Prune on the Canal St. Martin, where I had eaten once with my parents. It was bursting with people, as were the quais of the canal, and we waited a short while until a table became available, shoved between a large group of Americans, a French couple on a date and a meeting of young neighborhood mothers getting drinks while their infant children looked on from their laps. Apparently, Café Prune doesn’t serve food-type full meals during the week, so we ordered two glasses of Chardonnay and a delicious cheese plate, and then walked over to the Marais to L’As du Falafel, where we commandeered two portions of the best falafel in Paris. This was followed up by a walk to Place de l’Hôtel de Ville, where we ate said falafel, wandering over later to Place St. Michel to stop by the small Turkish café there called “Welcome to Istanbul,” where Char used her formidable Turkish skills to order us killer Turkish coffee and desserts. She told my fortune in the grains — hard times ahead, but luck sprinkled here and there to balance it out — and then we strolled on home. It was a scrumptious Parisian dinner adventure quest, and the weather was pleasant and so was the city.  I’ve worked hard to be able to have casual, enjoyable evenings like this here, and it feels ever so good to have them.

I love Paris every moment…every moment of the year

Okay, this one is a lie. I haven’t seen Paris every moment of the year, and I definitely didn’t like it here in the early part of spring when things were grey and gross and life was upsetting. But I’m coming back in a few short weeks, so my nascent love affair with the city can renew itself.

I love Paris, why, oh why do I love Paris?

The thing is, I don’t know why. I don’t even know if I really do, despite the entirety of this post and most of this blog saying otherwise. Cities are weird places. Some love you right away, whether or not you love them back, and especially if you do — I’m looking at you, San Francisco. Some love you until winter hits, and then they hate you with a blustery, unbearably snowy passion — Chicago, that’s you. Some want you to love them, even though nobody seems to except out of an obligatory hometown pride — Detroit, I love you, we’ve talked about this already. But Paris…Paris just keeps on going, knowing that it is the City of Love and the City of Lights without doing much about it anymore. Life in Paris is full of problems and quirks and annoying odd jobs and unusual cultural interactions and social procedures. Paris has so many visitors, she doesn’t notice the real temporary residents. If you aren’t from Paris originally, she will never really be yours, and if you are from Paris, she will never be what you want her to be. If Paris is the City of Love, it has that moniker because it mimics so much of the intricate details of a real romantic relationship: dazzling first impressions, swooning first quarter, annoying habits in the midway point and always a constant refusal to change for you (I didn’t say it was necessarily a successful romantic relationship).

I don’t think I’ll ever really figure out Paris, and I think I’ll be okay with that. I also will never figure out what I can take away from this term. People go abroad for different reasons — to run away from something, to come home, to grow up and prove that they can be independent and culturally educated individuals in the globalizing world. You usually don’t find you were looking for when you get there, and you never seem to find it no matter how long you stay there, because the things you left behind keep calling you back, wanting you to fly home right away and resume your daily duties and responsibilities and routines, because they miss you so much. Through it all, you grow up and learn about all the things you didn’t think you would miss, and about how life is really just a series of strangely connected circumstances in random order, the kind of random circumstances that a big transition to somewhere different can really upset.

You remember all the things that happened — the meeting of the angry French feminists in the workers’ hall basement, the palm tree in the shower, the never-ending dinner parties, the bottles of wine by the canal and by the river and on the steps of the church on top of of the biggest hill in the city, the museums, the bread, the homeless men, the runs, the parks, the life.

And you come home, and maybe come back again, but look forward to the end.

Which, of course, is now.

FIN

(Stay tuned for my return Stateside, my transition between the spring term and the summer opera adventure, and my continued adventures in Europe starting next Monday.)

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To begin with, I’m now, at this very moment, done with my term abroad at l’Institut d’Études Politiques, or SciencesPo. Yes, I am still in Paris and yes, I have not yet come home, but let’s be frank: the academic work of this semester is over. I took my last final and walked out of 27 Rue Saint Guillaume for the last time.

I am now allowing myself a small moment of celebration.

But as the term comes to close, and I find myself currently living in another part of Paris in an place not entirely my own, I must look back at the place that I called home for more than five lovely and unusual months: the apartment in the back of the first floor of the last building at the dead end of  Cité d’Hauteville in the 10éme Arrondissement of the Right Bank of Paris, France.

It was an unusual apartment, found in an unusual way. Craigslist isn’t always the  most reliable of classified sources, especially aboard — Bay Area, I’m looking at you, you lucky city with your reliance on successful and legitimate Craiglisting — but when I looked at the apartment back in January, I knew : this was an apartment that would inspire many a humorous and witty story. As a fan of storytelling, I dove in and signed the lease.

My apartment, with its huge kitchen, oddly placed skylights and peculiar layout, was home to many a dinner party and stray international guest. It was where I learned to love Paris, where I hid when it was cold and nasty outside and from where I planned my day trips and morning runs and summer opera adventure.

It is where I made my parents a delicious Easter dinner, toasting each other over a bottle of light French wine and eating a superb pear-gorgonzola tart with caramelized onions.

It is where I dealt with the antics of a silly but lovable cat, Flocon, feeding him, petting him and making sure he didn’t flee the apartment at the sign of an open door.

It was a magical, wonderful place to live. From now on, whenever I think of Paris, I’ll think of Cité d’Hauteville, and Flocon, and Gregoire the Palm Tree and my life in Paris.

And I’ll smile.

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