The impressive thing about January is that I don’t have classes. Which means, lots of free time. This of course doesn’t include babysitting and teaching and the one class I do actually have, but still, lots of free time. Which means, doing lots of things.
First, though, I forgot to cover a few things last time I wrote:
1) Christmas. No, I know you don’t care about my Christmas at home, which is why I will spare you the details. Actually, my first real Sunday back here – that would have been the 7th – we had Christmas here. Since none of us were in Paris for Christmas. This was quite possibly one of the best days ever. (Yes, I know, Dad, I say that a lot, but at least I appreciate it all, right?) Woke up to the whole family home and bustling around the house, everyone laying out presents under the Christmas tree (sapin de Noël!), last minute preparations every which way, classical music and opera resounding through the apartment, the grandparents arriving, and just general silliness.
Finally, we got down to business: apératifs (champagne) and presents first. The way presents work here, when you’ve got a big family, is that each person has their own pile under the tree. And every year there’s a different order to when you open presents. This year, we started with the adults, and then went back and forth between youngest and oldest children until there was no one left, which meant that I, being right in the middle, got to go last. Which I actually quite liked. And the person who’s opening their presents has to sit in front of the tree and guess what each present is as they got to open it, and there’s lots of teasing and ooh-ing and ahh-ing, and lots and lots of pictures are taken. It was so wonderful and fun and warm and family; I love these people, and I’m so happy that they’ve welcomed me here so unconditionally and love me as part of the family.
2) New people. Yes, the new Sweet Briar people whom I briefly mentioned in my last post. For a while, they all effectively looked the same to me, and it was weird. However, we’ve slowly been meeting them, and Liz is friends with some of the Haverford girls, so we’re slowly getting to know them and integrating some of them into our group. It’s still horribly weird, though, to walk into the Sweet Briar office and be surrounded by people you don’t know. We were all so used to it being such a comfortable place where you always knew there would be someone with whom you could talk. Now, it’s so strange. I keep expecting that all the people who left will be coming back from break soon, and we’ll be able to tell them about the weirdness of having other people here while they were gone. That feeling is slowly starting to subside as we get back into the flow of things, and classes are starting for some people, and we get to know the new people, but I think it will be a while before it goes away completely.
And now, for the new stuff:
1. Since I have so much free time, I’ve been on a mission to explore. My rule has been that if I don’t have an imminent time deadline when I have to be somewhere, I walk. And even the other day, when I had to meet Selene at 2, I left with enough time to walk. As a result of this rule, I am getting to walk all over this city. I have walked from my house all the way to the other side of the river several times, and each time I try to take a different route, in order that I get to see and experience more. It’s really quite fun. I stop at random churches, stores, museums, cafés and other places along the way, if they strike my fancy. I turn down streets that look interesting, even if I don’t know where they lead. I spontaneously decide to do things, like go to movies alone, try on clothes at expensive stores, go to cafés and restaurants I’ve been meaning to try. As I walked through the 15th and 7th the other day, looking at the tiny streets named after random people of no importance, I decided that one day I want a Parisian street named after me. I take pictures of scenes that strike me, even if it makes me look like a tourist. I accidentally stumbled upon Nicolas Flamel’s house a week or two ago, if anyone knows who that is; two points if you do, and props if you knew before his use in a popular novel.
Part of this whole exploring thing is also desire to get to know certain areas better. For example – in particular, actually – Montmartre. Since my last post about my wanderings up there, I have not spent enough time there, much to my own chagrin. So I have recently made a point of spending more time up on the hill. Every time I go, no matter the weather, no matter my purpose, I love it. And I always find something new. I feel rather like Amélie Poulain, which is cliché, I know, but I can’t help it. Montmartre has it’s own feel apart from the rest of Paris, and it’s not something I can explain with words, which you might find rather extraordinary. It’s its very own combination of welcoming and quaint and almost silly. I rather feel like it is winking at me. Or perhaps it is a wink. I don’t really know. I do feel, though, that I have to live up there someday, but that it really doesn’t count as living in Paris. Because I’m not sure I’d ever leave if I didn’t have to. One wouldn’t need to, and, perhaps, one wouldn’t want to, no matter how much one loved Paris.
2. I know I mentioned the New People earlier, so I’ll keep this short. Just wanted to note that as a so-called “godmother” (marraine) for the newbies, I got to go to yet another dinner at the Eiffel Tower. Once again, not great food, but still wonderful company. More meeting and bonding with the new kids, and then afterwards, we went to this bar Virginie’s been telling me about since my first week in Paris. It was definitely worth it, both for the atmosphere and the cheap drinks, not to mention the general good times had and the new friends.
It is funny to see how the new kids are in comparison to us, just in terms of everything. There are things we take for granted that are new to them, and it’s funny to get a chance to see that again through their eyes. It’s weird, but it’s a little bit of a reality check. While we never forget that we live in Paris and how amazingly lucky we are to have this experience, it’s interesting to get to see it as fresh and open once more. For them, there is still a whole city to be discovered and conquered, whereas for me, I by no means know the whole city, but I can tell you where everything is, I know the names of random streets, I know obscure métro stops and where to change to get just about anywhere. I am no longer trying to discover, but rather, I am trying to get to know better. This, I think, is the benefit of staying for a whole year; the ability to become good friends with a place, to know its nuances, its tricks and twists and turns, its sense of humor, its insecurities, its secrets of all sorts, the face it puts on for the world as well as the one it keeps hidden. And I’m finally really getting past the exterior now.
3. Have you ever heard of the Paris Sales? Or, as they say here, Les Soldes. Because they are crazy. And famous. I went to the Bon Marché on the first day to experience them just as much as to shop. Seriously, it’s insane. There are so many people, it’s absurd. I have never seen so many women cramming into stores and practically pulling stuff out of each other’s hands, cutting each other off to get to a table faster. Kind of hilarious, really. However, what’s unfortunate is that the hype is far bigger than it’s worth. The discounts are hardly big enough, sadly, and most of what is on sale is not the stuff you want anyway. Solène got a bunch of stuff when she went shopping with Patricia, but much of it ended up being the new collection anyway, and, consequently, not on sale. Thus, I have not bought anything yet, much to my own chagrin. Here’s to hoping.
Well there you are, my friends. Apparently, it’s finally going to get cold here this weekend, because it hasn’t been. It’s been more or less a California winter, which is very bizarre, particularly for the Parisians. Lots of rain, but not too cold. And not half enough snow in the mountains. Ahh global warming.
Something else you all have to look forward to: the French presidential election is coming up. I’ll keep myself informed so I have something to say about it.