Life in Little Berlin

This weekend, my friend Susannah came to visit from Arles, where she’s teaching English on the assistantship program. Thanks to her need to experience as much of Paris as possible in one weekend (she studied abroad here too, but living in France away from Paris can cause strong pangs of longing for Paris, so she needed a good dose), Alfie and I did not spend the whole weekend sitting in our apartment, but rather got off our butts and explored our neighborhood, at last. And we have dubbed it: Little Berlin (or, Petit Berlin).

Why, you may ask. We all love Berlin – coolest city ever, I kid you not – and in our rainy-Saturday explorations, we realized that our neighborhood resembles some of our favorite parts of that city. A similar artsy aesthetic pervades the area, in architecture (a mixture of 70’s modern and varying degrees of old), the retro-chic cafés (one of which actually serves bratwurst and currywurst) and coffeeshops (real coffeeshops!), the plethora of vintage shops, and just general coolness of everyone walking around. Inasmuch as I would move to Berlin in a heartbeat if I spoke any German, I feel like we’ve won something.

All of this has contributed to what can probably be called the best weekend I’ve had since moving back to Paris in November. I got to leave work “early” on Friday. My Christmas presents from my family finally arrived, so it was like Christmas in the middle of November. The weather has finally taken a turn for the warmer, and we’re looking at definitively positive temperatures for the next week at least, and I’ve been able to feel my toes consistently since Friday (a real coup). This latter also meant that we walked around outside a lot this weekend, which is my favorite way to spend time in Paris, but I’ve been unfortunately prevented from doing so the last few months thanks to the weather. Yesterday was rainy, but we only let that dampen (hehe) our spirits and adventures a little bit. Today, on the other hand, was positively sunny and warm! Warm being a relative term here.

I always think that I know Paris really well. As those who read my blog then know, I spent most of my year abroad here walking around the city and exploring new areas. And yet, in the now three times that I’ve been back here in the last year, I have discovered more new places than I thought possible in such a relatively geographically small city. Honestly, within the last two days, I have gotten to know areas I never even imagined were here.

We discovered a local market which is like stepping back in time the old Halles of Paris – the famous central farmer’s market, essentially, that was finally closed around 40 or 50 years ago now, to be replaced by the worst underground shopping center ever. In all my explorations of markets – I love wandering around markets, of all kinds – I didn’t know that any like this still existed in Paris. They’ve mostly been relegated to several times a week street markets that pop up along major boulevards and then disappear as if they had never been there. Ours is that and so much more. I intend to go back and take photographs sometime soon. Today, I was too overwhelmed to do so, but next time.

Last night, we also had our little housewarming soirée, which I think was far more of a rousing success than I anticipated. The attendees included one of my Spanish friends and her boyfriend (French, from Reunion Island), a couple of our Oxford-year-abroader friends, a French friend of Alfie’s, Susannah, Alfie, and me. A very international little crew, weaving back and forth between English and French, enjoying a wonderfully convivial atmosphere; I think it bodes well for the future, being the first soirée in my first “real” apartment.

There’s no real point to this post, but rather to say that I am genuinely happy here, once again. Damn you, Paris, you made me love you again. Paris – like many places – is one of those cities that beats you down, is miserable and ugly and expensive, and then suddenly, just when you’ve had enough, gives you a few beautiful days when everything goes right and it reminds you that you love it, and any thoughts of leaving were foolish. Like any loves, you go through rough patches, but the good things are always there, just waiting below the surface, ready to pop out when you need a reminder. Like with any relationship, you have to be ready to stick it out through thick and thin. Paris, I’m in this for the long haul, just don’t let me regret it.

3 Replies to “Life in Little Berlin”

  1. It sounds very sweet and brimming with affection when you call Paris miserable and ugly,
    that’s how a doting mother would call her child may be.Paris does chisel into a visitor an
    Object de art dimension// but aren’t Parisians
    a tad haughty standing out as a national trait and why so i have never understood.

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