Bonjour! I’m sorry to have abandoned you all for so long, but it is finals week. I’m back now, though, because I took two of my exams today – fonética and contemporary Spanish feminine literature – which only leaves one for Thursday, and a paper. And then I’ll be home for Christmas, you can plan on me, please have snow and mistletoe and presents under the tree, etc.
So, back to Paris, which is where I was last Monday through Friday. For the first of my travels so far, my airline actually permitted me to check a bag free of charge. I felt outrageously extravagant as I packed myself an extra pair of jeans, two different sweaters, shampoo, my laptop. On the plane, I picked up a copy of Le Monde to help get my French back into working order – it’s been five years since my last French class and reading the newspaper aloud to myself made my face hurt and had me almost drooling at every r. It was a fine moment in my linguistic career, but what made it okay was that everyone else on the airplane seemed to be either French but trying to speak Spanish, or Spanish but trying to speak French, and the pile of funny accents building up around me was hard not to giggle at. So, got off the plane, grabbed my bag, hopped on the Orlybus, got off the Orlybus, bought a metro ticket, hopped on the metro, got off at Porte d’Orleans and walked to Meghan’s apartment. Meanwhile, Bridget calls me because she’s in Paris too, just leaving, and would like to meet up so she can get a book from me so she can write a paper while she’s in Rome. So Meghan – my friend and suitemate from last year, with whom I stayed – and I hop back on the metro, back to the train station, basically throw Bridget her book as she hops on the Orlybus, and then buy ourselves crêpes in celebration as we realize that we are in Paris. Together. Who woulda thunk it. I order my crêpe with Speculoos, since the word looks funny, and it turns out to be a spread the color of peanut butter but that tastes like graham crackers. I searched in online later and the official website tells me the spread is made of “caramelized biscuits,” which sounds about right. I made Meghan stop at the grocery store with me so I could purchase my very own jar of Speculoos to bring home with me (that’s right, people at home, get excited!).
On Tuesday, Meghan had class, so I whipped out the little scavenger hunt my dad had made me based on his time living in Paris way back in the day, like probably a hundred years ago when he was around my age. I spent the morning in Montmartre, where I bought a chocolate pastry on Rue des Abbesses before winding my way up the hill. I got up there and toured Sacre Cœur, walked around and admired the artists on the streets, argued with some of them who wanted to draw a portrait of me, got asked if I was Belgian, and turned down a very friendly offer from the guy who said I could kiss him if I wanted.
After fending off all artists, etc, I wandered down to the street grocers and picked myself out some purple grapes. Next stop, Camembert, then the spice store, where I drooled over dried pepper and cinnamon and salts, then walked south until I hit the Louvre – well, figuratively speaking, that is – and sat down on a park bench for lunch.
While in line to enter the Musée d’Orsay, I befriended a little old Frenchman with white hair and a bright red coat, who forgave me not understanding his jokes when it started to rain and I let him share my umbrella. I saw him in the naturalisme gallery later and he waved. Meghan and I had crepes for dinner again, this time with eggplant and chèvre and walnuts, and with fig jam for dessert.
On Wednesday we went to Notre Dame, which was cool – the number of cathedrals I have toured this semester is reaching an absurd level, but what can I say, they thrill every time. Next it became clear that we would need to invest in berets, which we did before hopping over to the Eiffel Tower to meet another suitemate from last year, who had just called to say her flight from Madagascar had been changed, did we want to meet up in Paris during her layover? Of course we did.
We hung out in a coffee shop until it got dark, which was an excellent decision, since the Eiffel Tower got all fancy and lit up and was very picturesque.
On Thursday Meghan had class again, and so I trundled off by myself to the Cimitière Père-Lachaise, which was actually really creepy. It’s a huge cemetery, crammed full with tombs, threaded with cobblestone paths and surrounded by high walls. The tombs are covered in moss, unkempt, overgrown. Doors broken and rusted, crucifix with a legless Christ, Mary missing her head and arms and child, crosses and headstones fallen over, very spooky. It didn’t help that the sky loomed gray and the trees were skeletally bare and black from the recent rain. I had been planning on searching for some famous tombs, but instead kept my distance and stayed on the path.
I found myself a chocolate eclair to cheer me up, and a baguette (90 Euro cents), and headed to the Louvre, this time to walk around inside and escape the rain.
Meghan and I spent the afternoon exploring the Christmas market on Champs Elysée, trying the vin chaud and the soup provençal and sampling cheeses as we made our way past the enormous ferris wheel toward the Arc de Triomphe. The Christmas decorations were notable – it looked like the trees were all hula hooping along the sidewalk, with fluorescent rings floating around their midriffs. Apparently the Parisians are not particularly happy with the deco scheme this year, too modern and weird.
Okay, off to study Art.