Posts Tagged ‘Visitors’

Today is yet another religious holiday here in France —meaning closed shops, empty avenues and general public bliss. Granted, I no longer have school in the first place, so holidays here don’t really affect me any more beyond their frustrating tendency to close grocery stores on days in which I desperately need food items (like today), but I will give the French a break. It’s a beautiful day, and it was a beautiful weekend and everyone loves a holiday.

My weekend was a kind of holiday itself, as my dear friend Allison arrived on a train at the Gare du Nord from London, where she is taking part in a UNC Maymester summer program, studying theatre and education and generally being British. I haven’t seen Allison since December, and this was the first time we have spent time together outside of Chapel Hill, so it was absolutely fantastic to have another visitor with whom to enjoy the flawless spring weather here in Paris.

Our weekend was lazy and lovely and full of fun excursions. On her arrival Thursday night, we shared a delicious and très français dinner of ratatouille, citrus salad, baguette, wine and a fantastic strawberry-asparagus tart with our fellow Carolina scholar, Char. The food was great and we all enjoyed ourselves immensely.

Friday, I had to finish up my third day of opera research at the Médiatheque Mahler, so I deposited Allison in Parc Monceau, where she caught up on some assigned reading and enjoyed French people watching. We then headed off to the Champs-Élysées, where we took pictures of the Arch de Triomphe and wandered in and out of fancy-looking stores. Dinner was a picnic with friends in the Jardin de Luxembourg, followed by a trip to the Tour Eiffel for photos and gawking. So, it was pretty much a perfect, touristy day.

We decided to visit the Musée de Louvre on Saturday, heading there in the early afternoon and wandering around the rooms in the less-popular wing before braving the sweaty hordes in the Italian art wing. We then prepared for our epic picnic date in the Parc des Buttes Chaumont — something I owe Allison from a botched date attempt at a school banquet last fall — which was tasty and elegant and a true delight. Later, we met up with some of my friends for wine and conversation on the quais of the Seine, just underneath the shadowy and towering Notre Dame.

Allison informed me before she came to Paris that she had a few things she needed to see: the Tour, the Louvre, a baguette and Versailles. While I had seen and done and eaten most of those things, I had never been to Versailles, the epic and monumental palace of the former Kings of France, located just outside of Paris proper. So naturally, it seemed that now was the time to go. With Char and an elaborate picnic lunch we purchased from a market by the Tour — including a ridiculously delicious apple tart — we boarded the train and headed out to Versailles.

The lines were very, very long and the people very, very sweaty and high in number. Part of this comes from the weather — it was a legitimate 80-something degrees Fahrenheit yesterday in Paris — but part of it just stemmed from the palace. Inside was beautiful — the Hall of Mirrors, the galleries, the chapel, the fantastically elaborate meeting rooms and salons — but our favorite part was the park and gardens that stretched out behind the chauteau for miles upon miles of boundless, perfect green.

Hedge mazes, lagoons, canals, fountains, guest houses, statues and more tumble outward from the back of the palace, arranged in perfect geometrical shapes and patterns. We spent a few hours in the park, stopping in hidden cafés in hedge mazes, walking along narrow paths and marveling at the endless green that encircled us everywhere we looked. It was a magical end to a magical weekend.

With a hearty hug and a happy smile, I sent Allison back to England this morning, with both of us looking forward to August in Chapel Hill.

But I’m still here, and my time in Paris is not yet over. True, my rent is up in seven short days, and I only have two finals and three weeks separating me from my summer opera adventure, but I plan to use this stretch of flawless spring weather to truly enjoy the end of the chapter in my life called Paris.

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It’s been quite a week. I must apologize for my long absence from this blog. What, with classes at SciencesPo finally ending, my summer planning getting into high gear and the arrival of my high school chum Charlotte for a weekend in Paris, I’ve been out and about and moving around and hardly had any time to keep you, my dear readers and friends, updated on the goings-on in my life.

And as I’ve said above, it’s been a wonderful week. True, the weather was iffy, and true, when it wasn’t rainy the tourists came out in droves, but I had many wonderful adventures and now will do my best to relay some of them to you.

Classes ended last Wednesday — or at least our journalism program ended; I still had a class on Friday — so the director of our program took everybody, and I mean everybody — all the students, many of the professors and even our guest speaker for the day in French reporting, British author Stephen Clarke — out for drinks at a lovely little bar close to the journalism school. We all had a fantastic time getting to know our professors in a more informal setting, and afterwards all the students went to Rue Mouffetard, a student area in the Latin Quarter, to continue the evening.

It was weird to think that our program was over, and here we all were, in a bar in Paris, realizing for perhaps the first time that we really did enjoy one another’s company. We parted ways Wednesday, agreeing to meet up again for dinner parties and such before we all fly off to our respective home countries in June.

Thursday was a lazy day, as I waited for my old Cranbrook  friend Charlotte to arrive from Ireland for our madcap weekend in the city. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t have a fantastic afternoon playing a game of extreme urban hide and go seek tag on Île Saint-Louis — because I did.

The game, called ‘Manhunt,’ was brought to us from Montreal by our friend Alain, an exchange student from Concordia University there. Essentially, the game is this: players assemble in a public square and count off in an ‘eeny-meeny-miny-moe’ type fashion until all players have been counted out. Upon getting counted out, the player takes off running as fast as they can, and the last person standing is ‘it.’ The person who is ‘it’ must then tag all the other players, with each subsequently tagged player also becoming ‘it’. Finally, there is one player left, who must avoid all other players until the round’s time limit is reached and all players return to the starting point.

All players must wear some kind of identifiable arm band — we chose plastic bags of various colors — to make it easy to see the player in a crowd of people. Players must stay outside, in public places, within a defined playing area. We chose the Île Saint-Louis, one of the two main islands in the Seine. The island is mostly residential, with no metro stops, few access points and lots of tiny, twisty streets. Along with the Île de la Cité — the island on which the famous Notre Dame resides — Île Saint-Louis is often cited as the place where the city of Paris began hundreds of years ago.

And for us, the Île Saint-Louis was the birthplace of one of our new favorite games.

We ran around the islands for a few hours — half of the island on the second round, seeing as the whole island was far too big for the small amount of players — dodging tourists, hiding behind cars and sprinting away from our plastic-bag wearing antagonists. At the end, we all agreed to play it again, and soon.

That came later, but first I had to pick up Charlotte from the Porte Maillot bus stop. Charlotte, one of my good friends from high school, was visiting Paris and staying with me at the tail end of her end of term European tour. She spent her spring term in Bologna, Italy, but realized she couldn’t leave the continent before visiting Paris.

We had a fantastic weekend, visiting parks, having picnics, exploring the Musée d’Orsay on the once-a-year free museum night — La nuit de musées — and most importantly, playing Manhunt on Île Saint-Louis. This time however, there were many more players — and with the warmer weather, the island was covered in tourists.

By the time we finished playing in the early afternoon, it was clear to us that the tourists on the island were sick of the crazy kids yelling and screaming and hiding behind cars. I must add, however, that there was a small coterie of island-goers who got into the game, yelling encouraging thoughts and discreetly warning us when another player was close by.

Sure, I could talk more about our weekend adventures — the tasty croque monsieurs at Le Select, the most delicious croissants in Paris near Place de la Bastille, the delightful picnic in the Parc des Buttes Chaumont, the Sunday night showing of “It Happened One Night” at the Cinéma Action Christine, the spectacular frittata we cooked for dinner one evening — but just know that we had a fantastic time.

Now, it’s just me and Paris for a few days — most of my friends in the city are off having continental adventures of their own, and my Carolina friend Alison doesn’t arrive until Thursday night — but that’s alright. I’m looking forward to researching opera at the Mediathéque Mahler, running around the canal and cooking tasty meals for one, among the other things that have come to define my time in Paris.

I have just under a month left in this chapter of my life, and I’m going to make the most of it. If you happen to come to Paris in the next few weeks and seek to find me, go to the Île Saint-Louis. I’ll probably be there, with a plastic bag on my arm, hiding behind a car.

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So, I have this thing — some might rightly call it a complex — about being a tourist.

While I do enjoy traveling to some extent, and while I continue to preserve every young writer’s romantic fantasy of hitting the highway à la Kerouac’s “On the Road”, I just don’t like the feeling of being obviously out of place that tourism engenders.

I wrote extensively on my feelings on the tourist side of Paris in an earlier posting, but my thoughts are essentially this: Paris is a museum city, a dead city remembering the lively excitement and creative spark that so animated it in the late 19th century, the early 20th century and the middle of the 1950s and 60s.

So, with the arrival of my parents for a week long tour of the city, I had the opportunity to try and figure out how to play tourist in a city in which I had no desire to do so.

Seeing my parents was absolutely wonderful. Even though we endured roughly the same amount of time between parent-child reunions last spring, I was only a 12 hour drive and a quick phone call away that time, making the distance seem ever so much slighter than the ocean and continent and time zones that separate us now.

Together, we had a lovely week, exploring the city that I have come to know fairly well. We went on long walks, ate delicious meals and drank good wine every night.

Saturday, after some difficulties in locating them in the massive Place de l’Opèra, we dined in the tiny and tasty Chez Prune, a café on the Canal St. Martin. We then split for a while, reuniting for a light dinner of bread, cheese, strawberries and wine at my house. My parents got to meet both of my roommates, our cat, and my landlord, which was very strange, considering that weeks often go by without me seeing any of these people.

Unfortunately, my landlord took both my month’s rent and my dear friend Flocon with him when he left Saturday evening, saying that the spunky cat had another job to do in a neighboring apartment. I really miss him, and I think this separation will do us both good. I never realized how nice it is to have a cat waiting for me when I come home until he left.

Sunday was Easter, and we had a small lunch together in L’Atmosphère, another café on the Canal, followed later by my award-winning Easter Dinner. The menu was as follows:

  • Savory tart with pears, caramelized onions, bleu cheese and rosemary
  • Balsamic and honey-glazed salmon served over whole grain rice
  • Baguettes
  • Pecan-Carrot Cake with Marscapone-Cinnamon Frosting
  • Various Wines
  • Coffee

Except for the salmon, I had never prepared these foods before, so making them for Easter Dinner was a big risk on my part. And it paid off handsomely, if I do say so myself.

Monday was Easter Monday, a strange holiday that seems to be the French version of Good Friday, so we wandered around the city, visiting the Jardin des Plantes, picnicking in the Jardin de Luxembourg and having a delicious dinner in the Café de la Petite Bourgette, just around the corner from my apartment.

Tuesday, the parents took a long and epic walk through the Jardin de Tuileries and the Champs-Elysées, ending up at the Arc de Triomphe. I was in class, so I could only hear their reactions afterwards. They were impressed by the grandiosity of the city and its monuments.

“There are a lot of statues,” my mother said. She’s right.

We had a picnic dinner in my favorite place in Paris, the Parc de Buttes Chaumont, and retired to my apartment for coffee and carrot cake.

Wednesday was more walking for the parents — this time, around the islands of the Seine — and more class for me, followed by a visit to a famous café in Montparnasse — Le Select, home to Picasso, Hemingway, and others — and then on to a dinner party with friends and friends’ respective parents.

As a group, we poor ex-pat students decided it would be nice to show our visiting parents how we spent a lot of our evenings here in Paris. Also, it was nice to show them that we actually had real friends here.

Thursday, we headed over to the Eiffel Tower for pictures with our local hometown weekly, The Milford Times, and then returned to the neighborhood for an elegant and absolutely superb closing dinner at the Hôtel du Nord, a little café-restaurant on the Canal. It was fantastic, and we agreed that I should probably find the money to go there again at least once while I am here in Paris.

Saying goodbye to my parents, it was hard to believe that the week was over. As strange as it was to have them here in Paris, it was also a real delight.

They brought three of my favorite things with them: Peanut butter, good food, and unconditional love.

As spring continues to blossom here in Paris, those are three things I could certainly get used to having.

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Everyone loves visiting Paris.

Or at least, that’s what it seems like. I’ve had three rounds of visitors here in the City of Light since my arrival in January, and each one has told me pretty much the same thing about their initial impressions of the city:

Oh how lucky you are to live here!” or “I’m absolutely in love with this city!” or “This is the most wonderful city…how can you ever be bored or unhappy here?


If you recall, my opening few weeks here in Paris weren’t the best few weeks of my life. Yes, I found the city breathtakingly beautiful and truly relished the chance to live a life à la française, but I had a hard time adjusting to that very same idolized daily life in that very same romanticized city.

I think that those who visit the city — including maybe my parents, who arrive at Charles DeGualle International Airport on Saturday morning — have a fixed image of Paris that they come here to live out. They are informed by the innumerable images of the city they see in films or read about in books, and for the most part the omnipresent French tourism industry has done a good job in preserving that kind of sugar-glazed, one-size-fits-all experience in the center city.

You want to see the Eiffel Tower? WHAM there it is. You can even climb it! You want to go into the Louvre and see the Mona Lisa? SLAM come on in. You don’t even have to see the thousands of other works on display — you probably don’t know them, anyway. You want a crêpe? BAM eat one, here, there — everywhere in the city. Same for baguettes or Berthillon ice cream or croissants or traditional French cuisine.

The other side of the city, the real living part — that’s not entirely on display, and most tourists don’t care about it, anyway. They come to see Paris from the movies, and that Paris is there for them the moment they walk out of one of the city’s six train stations or pull their luggage from the airport bus.

But I’m not a tourist — I live here — and my impressions of the city are based on repeated, varied views. I see the city just after a snow storm, in the morning after a light rain fall, in the evening when spring seems to be finally descending.

I see it as a resident, and my view wasn’t always so rosy. Things here in France are nuanced and often inconvenient, and require a certain kind of stubborn persistence that I may not have been born with.

Even more, my own touristy impression of the city the first time I visited it two years ago was far from rosy. I admired the architecture and the melodious language of the inhabitants, but I came in the middle of la saison morte — the summer months when most Parisians with sense flee the city in advance of the onslaught of foreign tourists. So the Paris I saw then was a shell of its usual glittering self.

Life gets easier every day. I dive into school, French language, my friends, cooking, running, exploring the city, reading, living — and I gradually forget why I was ever unhappy here.

But the memory lingers. So, when every happy guest tells me how lovely my city is, I agree — knowing how long it truly takes to get to know the city in all its real, rough and quirky charm.

(As a side note, I was graced by the presence of some lovely old — and new — friends from Carolina who are studying abroad this spring in Sevilla, Spain. We shared dinner, wine and conversation for four delightful hours on Saturday night. It was great to see some old friends from the other side of the Atlantic, especially over a delicious meal.)

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So, it’s been a week since I last updated this blog. And while I do mean to cut down a little on my blog posts — the once-daily regimen of earlier in the term just can’t happen anymore — I never intended to move to once a week posts.

But this last week was some kind of busy. What, with schoolwork, visiting Germans and the full onslaught of spring weather here in Paris, I had a hard time finding space to squeeze in a quick update. Eventually, it just got to the point that I decided a full report this morning would be better than a few tiny dispatches from the field during the week.

Monday, after my idyllic run through springtime Parisian streets to class, I went to the dinner party gang’s house to make Gypsy Soup for dinner, a favorite recipe from Molly Katzen’s incredible veg-head tome, the Moosewood Cookbook. The soup went over well — although I did get a rather nasty blister on my left middle finger — and we had quite a lovely evening together.

Tuesday, I didn’t have class in the afternoon, so I went back to the dinner party gang’s apartment to plan our spring break and steal/drink some of their delicious, French-pressed coffee. After much cajoling and convincing, I gave in and purchased a ticket to Valencia, Spain for 7 glorious late April days on the Mediterranean beach. All things considered, it isn’t going to be a terribly expensive trip — especially if my girl Merkel keeps delaying a Greek bail out, driving the Euro down a little bit everyday — and I think it will be good to have a relaxing week by the sea. In the warmth. With friends. In a country where everything is cheaper than here in Paris.

Plus, the night of our return to Paris, we have tickets to the She & Him concert, which will be a lovely, but not completely satisfactory, makeup for the missed Joanna Newsom concert in Durham this month. But I can’t hate too much, because Zooey Deschanel is a true delight, and I can only imagine how much her gleeful energy will be doled out in generous portions when she is on a brightly lit stage in front of me.

We then spent the afternoon in the Jardin de Luxembourg, fighting the scores of other sun-starved Parisians and tourists for the green metal lawn chairs scattered around the park. As the resident runner of the group, it was up to me to dash around La Grande Fontaine, scooping up empty chairs as they became available. Needless to say, by the time I left to go home to run and do homework — sort of — we all had a chair.

But Wednesday is when the real fun started. Tim, an old German exchange student from my junior year at Cranbrook, flew in Wednesday night from Berlin, where he is spending his year of public service looking after old West Berlin shut-ins. I haven’t seen Tim since the summer after my senior year, when we had a reunion of sorts in Munster with our other German chum Friedemann after Friedie and I backpacked around the continent.

And yet, when he got off the OrlyBus, it was like it had only been a few weeks. Granted, we both look a little older, and a lot has happened in both our lives since that year at Cranbrook and that late summer day in Germany, but I instantly knew that my weekend with Tim was going to be a good one.

Plus, Tim was quick to let me know that even though this was his first time in Paris — which surprised me, considering that he is from Dusseldorf, has spent considerable amounts of time in the UK, and will be a student at Cambridge next fall — and he hadn’t seen anything yet, he didn’t want to do the touristy things. He wanted to see MY Paris, the Paris that I lived in.

Which suited me just fine.

We had dinner at Breakfast in America, which was tasty good, per usual, and bought a bottle of wine to split and catch up over in my apartment. Tim loved my neighborhood, and the funky weird vibe of my apartment. Also, Flocon, our cat, loved him, and in turn seems to like me a little bit more now. Go figure.

Thursday, I took Tim to the St. Germain neighborhood by school, and he wandered around while I had my French reporting class, where we finalized the details for our culture feature stories. I will be working on a story on the Ciné du Réel documentary film festival at the Centre Pompidou — more on that below — which I am very much looking forward to.

Since Thursday was such a pretty day, we walked back to my house, passing through the Jardin des Tuileries, the Grands Boulevards area, and everything in between, speaking snatches of French as we walked. Tim hasn’t studied French in a year or so, but he still is really good at the language, so it was fun to have another non-native speaker to mumble incomplete French thoughts with.

That night, we went to the dinner party gang’s house Thursday night to make my famous French toast and scrambled eggs dinner. It was a huge hit, and we left fat and happy.

Friday, we picnicked in the Jardin de Luxembourg, pausing for my class in the evening. We then joined up with Claire of the dinner party gang for a film at the Ciné du Réel festival, which was lovely.

I had to get my press accreditation, which I managed to successfully do all in French, and the helpful (!) women at the press desk were amused with my obvious excitement.

“This is your first press accreditation, isn’t it?” one asked gently. When I responded in the affirmative, she smiled and said, “Well then, this is a big moment for you!” And it was.

The press accreditation — thanks to my French reporting prof —  allows me to see any and all of the films for free. Meaning that I probably won’t get much homework done this week. Maybe.

We saw two interesting short films, and then headed back for dinner and cards at their apartment. A truly successful, evening, indeed

Saturday was the day of walking, with us visiting my favorite park — Buttes Chaumont, of course — heading down to the beautiful Musée de Rodin — where the grass was closed off, or “La pelouse interdite” as the signs helpfully indicated — and pausing occasionally to speak French with each other, still returning home for tea.

By Sunday, I decided that, even though Tim didn’t want to be a tourist — and truly hadn’t been — one can’t come to Paris and not see La Tour Eiffel up close. So we bought a picnic lunch from a street market — complete with an absolutely delicious pistachio macaroon — and found a bench in the Champs de Mars on which to eat and people watch in the shadow of the towering symbol of la France.

By the time Tim left Sunday evening, I realized that not only had I spent the weekend enjoying the company of a good friend, I had also spent the weekend enjoying Paris — pointing out things I liked about the city, telling stories about my time here, taking my visitor to secret spots and boasting of things I loved about the place.

In short, having Tim here reminded me — or rather, made me aware — of how much I have come to truly love Paris. Sure, there are problems sometimes. I am homesick sometimes. France isn’t the most welcoming of countries, it’s true.

But having Tim here, and seeing his obvious delight with the city and my life here, really just pushed me over the edge. I love it here. I’m glad to be here. Really.

I’ll leave you — after this massive post — with some thoughts from storied film maker Albert Maysles, part of the team that produced the legendary cult film “Grey Gardens,” detailing the lives of Big and Little Edie Beale, living in splendid squalor in a decrepit Long Island manor home.

Maysles, who was in Paris for the Ciné du Réel festival and who I was lucky enough to see speak after a showing of “Grey Gardens” on Sunday evening, told the audience that he often was criticized for filming these supposedly “crazy” women. He is often accused of exploiting their story for his own benefit, he said.

“I respond, ‘Well, they’re just like everybody else, only maybe more so,'” Maysles said.

I’m aiming to be more so, too.

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As you might imagine from the title, the last few days have been up and down. One might say my days have been as erratic as the weather here, which is currently below freezing and showing rather pathetic signs of warming up. It is, however, sunny, which is a win.

Small problems, small victories.

My weekend was rather uneventful. I was a homebody on Saturday — with the exception of a glorious run to the Parc des Buttes Chaumont — and Sunday I went to the American Church in Paris with Victoria. It was a traditional service — sans actual denomination, although it leaned towards Presbyterian — and we both felt very American and very much like children in church again. Afterwards, there was much plentiful and FREE American style coffee.

We then headed off to the student brunch in the south of Paris, which was cheap and tasty — cereal, bread, pastries, yogurt, milk, orange juice, potatoes, eggs, coffee and more for less than 3 euro! — but we had to battle it out with hungry French students for food and for a place to sit. In the end, it was worth it, and we left full and happy.

Small problems, small victories.

School started up again on Monday, as it is often wont to do, and I can honestly say that I was glad to get back into my somewhat regular routine. Classes were interesting, and the sky was blue and sunny, albeit a tad bit cold.

Monday evening, my friend Matt from Carolina got in on the train from London, where he is spending the majority of his spring break, watching football (British football that is) matches and wandering around aimlessly. His visit was sort of spur of the moment, but when he got off the train, I realized how nice it was to see a familiar face from my regular life back in the real world.

We made dinner for ourselves and for some friends of a high school friend — the people who introduced me to the first batch of French people here — which was delicious (mac and cheese, only the fancy and elaborate kind). I also made butterscotch, which everyone always loves.

Tuesdays are my busy days, and yesterday was no exception. French class in the morning — where the clock is always mysteriously stuck on 4 o’clock, exactly — followed by a quick stop in the library to begin the book check-out process and then lunch and Media and Politics class, concurrently.

You see, you aren’t allowed to actually go into the stacks in the library here. You fill out a little form with the book number and title, scan it into a timestamp machine and give it to the people behind the circulation desk. They then send someone into the stacks for you to see if the book is there, and bring it back after a period of oh, say, 45 minutes. When I explain the American university library system to French people, they are stunned.

The short of all of this is that the book I wanted for my paper on the landmark Supreme Court case New York Times Co. v. United States (the Pentagon Papers case) — called “Nixonland”, a book which we used in my favorite history class last term — was checked out, even though the library’s database told me otherwise.

My difficulties continued when I went to my French bank to attempt to deal with a problem with my account. Let me just pause a minute here and explain something. I opened this account in January. I chose the BNP-Paribas student option, because they have some sort of deal with French universities in which they give you free money for being a student and opening an account with them, so I had to give them my SciencesPo student ID. Which I did. In January.

Last week — the first week of March, mind you — I got a call from the bank, explaining that my student ID card has the wrong birthdate on it, or rather, it doesn’t match my passport birthdate. You see, the French — and the rest of the world in general, methinks — write dates as “day/month/year” and not “month/day/year” like we do back in the states. So, somewhere along the line, I must have made an error in filling out the student card registration form, because my card says I was born March 9, or, 9/3/1989.

(So I just had a fake birthday yesterday. Holler.)

The ever vigilante folks at BNP wanted further proof that I really did go to SciencesPo and that my birthday was September 3rd, 1989 and not March 9th. I explained to them last week that, since SciencesPo was on holiday, I would have to wait a bit. Which was fine with them. (I mean, they had already waited more than a month to tell me there was a problem, so what was another week, right?)

In digging through my piles of official papers and things, I discovered a “Certificat de Scolarité” that the UNC Study Abroad Office gave me right before I left campus in December. It basically just says, “Hey people reading this, this kid is really a student at SciencesPo. And also, he was born September 3rd, 1989, in case you were curious. Cheers.” For some reason the dates on the paper are written in American format, unless of course the French have discovered a 25th month (the date in the top right corner is 11/25/09).

But there’s a very official looking stamp on this paper, so I thought it would suffice. I brought it in to the bank first on Monday afternoon, but they told me they needed my passport — a copy of which they already had — so I had to come back yesterday, as I do not usually carry my passport around with me for safety reasons.

Yesterday I returned, and much confusion ensued.  First, the woman at the front desk had no idea what I was talking about. Then, she disappeared with my information and passport and went to talk with one of her superiors. She came back and told me everything was cool. Which was false, and I told her as much, reminding her of the phone call I had received from someone in the office. The woman then disappeared again, for longer this time, and returned with all my stuff.

“You need to fix this date thing with SciencesPo,” she told me, pointing to the birthdate on the certificat de scolarité. “This date doesn’t mean anything to us.”

“Oh,” I said. “But you see, this paper is written in American-style date format, as evidenced by this corner date here. So I’d imagine this is correct then.”

“No,” she told me. “We don’t write dates like that here in France. This means nothing to us, I don’t care if it is inversed. You need something else.”

Okay, I’ll admit, this afternoon was just a big fail. No small wins at all. But I am at the point where I just might give up this bank account quest. So, that could be construed as a win. Maybe.

The evening was one big win for all. My French class had our first — of hopefully many — “dîner de conf”, or “class dinner” at our professor’s lovely apartment. Everyone brought food to share, and the professor provided wine, cheese and bread.

It was a truly delightful evening. I simply adore my French prof, and the class is a fantastic mix of students from many different countries and academic backgrounds. We had a delicious meal of random dishes — including my own contribution of my famous fatoush (FATOUSH!) —and had lively and interesting conversation in French. I truly hope we can do it again soon.

Matt is still asleep right now, and I need to get him up and going so we can have a picnic in the Jardin de Luxembourg before my class today. He leaves tonight on the Eurostar to London.

Life may be a series of difficulties and successes, but hopefully my life is headed more towards the “success” column and away from the “difficult” one.


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