The End of Paris and Other Myths

tu est belle
je sais

Since I was old enough to have interest in the novelty of travel, Paris had repulsed me. Paris drips in pink glitter in the North American imagination, lodged in the front lobe of everyone’s mind since they learned the significance of “culture.” A city that attracts a sickening amount of tourists per year cannot have anything of value, no matter how good its patisseries might be.

Yet there I found myself at age twenty, jet lagged but in total awe as my plane descended in the cotton candy haze that surrounds Paris, the Eiffel Tower protruding through the mist like a religious idol. Armed with only Ernest Hemingway’s teachings in A Moveable Feast, I had no idea of the literary phenomenon that awaited me. As anyone who has spent more than five minutes talking to me or reading my blog will know, I live and breathe by Hemingway’s Paris quotes. I regret nothing about the literary obsession the man’s book propelled me into, as I spent my time in Paris creating my own portrait of a writer as a young woman.

IMG_0655.JPG
page 309, The Diary of Anaïs Nin (Volume 1)

Trying to write in a city that created all my literary idols was not as easy as I thought it would be. I am intoxicated with my friends, trying not to fall down a cobblestone street in Le Quartier Latin when we stumble past James Joyce’s old apartment. The next morning I come back to the same area and stand quietly beside an old American man, reading the memorial at Hemingway’s former apartment at 74 Cardinal Lemoine, where he once lived in poverty with his first wife, Hadley, and their son. At sunset I stroll along the banks of the Seine and try to feel less like Owen Wilson à la Midnights in Paris and more like Henry Miller. By day I walk the entirety of Rue St Denis, my eyes trying not to linger on the aging sex workers in the alleyways as I revel in the grit that made Miller who he was. My phone breaks and I don’t fix it for a month, instead reading Anais Nin’s diaries across the city, watching the train pull out to Louveciennes from Saint Lazare.

There’s an odd feeling of trying to step into the shoes of writers past, as I recline on the terrace of Les Deux Magots, hoping the cafe’s patrons see my notebook and inference that I too am a writer. Essences of literature’s greatest haunt me here, which is confirmed when I look up and note that I am sitting in Square de Jean Paul Sartre et Simone de Beauvoir. Yet I linger in cafes writing mostly in my journal, thoughts of my novel at the back of my mind. My dreams of being a 1920s jazz age writer fall short as I seem to resemble more of a 21st century blogger with each passing paragraph. To be fair I did start writing a book over the summer, which was put on hold when I decided to follow my fake Parisian lover across Europe, but has since been resumed. Still, I do not consider my time in the City of Light to be an artistic failure. It is a triumph, and I have realized my potential as an internet age creative non-fiction writer (that is NOT the same as a blogger). 

Processed with VSCO with x1 preset
modern day de Beauvoir et Sartre (literature’s power couple)

What is it about this dirty city that is so appealing to me? What lies within its uniform architecture that throws words so easily onto the page? I’ll never stop complaining that it smells like pee, put me into debt with the already-frightening French banks, and is filled with some of the most unaccommodating people you will ever meet.

But when the sun sets on Haussmann’s meticulously mapped quarters and I am writing from afar in Parc de Saint Cloud, or sipping wine from the bottle in Montmartre, I feel that there is nowhere in the world that I’d rather belong. It is the only city where I’ll ever feel comfortable sitting alone in a bar on a Friday night eating a crème brulée and sipping a glass of sangria. I can’t imagine another place where I could still feel dignity after having to return all the new clothes I’d already worn to allow me to buy more cheese, Muji pens, and wine.

Scan 1 cb.jpeg
AJOUTEZ DEUX LETTRES À PARIS, C’EST LE PARADIS (J. Renard)

I spend my last night in Paris alone, like I have been for the past week. Even though all my friends have already returned to their home countries I do not feel lonely as the streetlights wrap me up on each corner. For my final French meal I buy a banana nutella crepe with my remaining two cent coins and the vendor is uncharacteristically pleasant, putting me in a better mood as I stroll down to the Seine. I walk and prepare myself to feel nostalgic for how Paris was in the early days when I was very poor and very happy. I wait for the feeling to sink in that it is my last time strolling the river’s banks, never again to feel this young and this free under a pastel sunset. Yet nothing comes. 

quote
Lemony Snicket, Horseradish (not a Parisian writer but I’m sure he’s visited at least once)

It’s 10pm on the first Monday night of August and I’m pulling up to a house whose cracks I could trace in my mind like braille. I know the creaks its old floorboards make at night and the food I’ll find in its cupboards and the feel of its towels after a shower. Everyone warned me that when I arrived back home Paris would feel like a distant dream. Anaïs Nin writes that “The New Yorker dreams of Paris while the Parisian wonders about New York. And we go through life without definitely realizing any place. They all remain unreal for us.” Here I am weaving between dreams in the familiarity of my own bed, and still nothing was more real than Paris was. The friends I loved, the art I’d written, and the streets that taught me how to wander were as dreamlike as the croissant weight I had gained.

This is by no means a final goodbye, as you will find me strolling with a baguette in hand on Parisian streets by next autumn. I fall asleep my first night with my curtains open as I watch the reflection of the lights flickering on the lake and wonder what Paris’ veins must look like at that moment. I am 8000 miles away but I whisper to myself, There is never any ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other. We always returned to it no matter who we were or how it was changed or with what difficulties, or ease, it could be reached. Paris was always worth it and you received return for whatever you brought to it” (E.Hem). I take a deep breath, for once hoping to smell that familiar scent of Parisian stale urine, but I am somewhat forlornly greeted by fresh linen.

Surely I am being dramatic and these concluding events did not actually happen. But nevertheless, Hemingway is right again. Of course there is never any ending to Paris. It follows you wherever you go.

Scan han at efiffel
photo taken circa 1920, just two decades after the world expo 🙂

How To Say Goodbye to Your Foreign Lover at the Airport

Scan TRAIN

When living in a foreign country it is inevitable that you will fall in love with something. Perhaps not necessarily a person, but maybe a city or quiet park or secret cafe. Given the “foreign” factor, it is inevitable that you and your love will be forced to part ways at some point. I say not necessarily a person, but judging by the title of this post you know I could only possibly mean someone.

This is nothing of a new narrative in the expat or exchange experience. It comes as a matter-of-fact, an essential loss you must pay for having the most beautiful times of your life: the pity of being forced to leave someone you love. There is no cutesy 1920s romance filter I can throw over this tale to make it seem less tragic to myself. One minute you are strolling along the Seine, brunching in Monaco, taking night trains to Italy. Laying in parks with empty bottles of wine and thinking maybe, just maybe, this life could last forever.

Soon it is the end of July and the past three weeks were the best of your life. But they are ending, even though your visa isn’t. You are packing up suitcases that aren’t even yours and hiding love letters in them just to have something that will survive the distance. Of course you will go to the airport for your tragic movie-esque farewell, which is every bit sad as you imagined.

Yet, there are some things I wasn’t aware of before I set off to say goodbye to my foreign lover at the airport. So to ease the pain of the farewell and embarrassment of crying in public, I wanted to present to my loyal readers of this under-utilized blog with my top six tips for the broken hearted traveller to survive saying goodbye at the airport!

Scan jll
salida is spanish for exit (you should start tearing up now)
  1. if you are the one departing: do not watch a sad movie on the plane

I will admit that one of the lowest moments of my life was when I sobbed in the midst of eating Air Canada’s finest coleslaw while watching Her on a plane. Tears were streaming down my face as I tried to chew through the rubbery vinegar cabbage, all while the Quebecois man beside me pretended like he wasn’t staring. Opt for something more heartwarming like going to sleep where you can forget all about your life for a few hours!

      2. be aware of your closest bathrooms at all times

It is crucial that you locate the bathroom closest to your designated farewell spot ahead of time. This step is often overlooked by lovers saying goodbye, yet it is a key component of keeping your cool at the airport. Having knowledge of the closest bathroom will allow you to make a quick dash there to lock yourself in for a good cry as soon as you’ve bid farewell, otherwise onlookers will be staring as you wander in a daze, crying loudly through the maze of suitcases and tourists.

      3. bring sunglasses to the airport

It is inevitable that you will be sobbing during the goodbye. While bystanders may find this tragically adorable and even touching while you are together, you must remember that eventually you will be forced to turn and walk away….alone. To avoid people staring at your puffy watering eyes, bring sunglasses to hide your shame and heartbreak. The bigger the better!! Darker too!!

Scan pere
really worried i sound like bella swan in New Moon

      4. don’t forget tissues either

If you have forgotten your travel size pocket tissue pack, please refer to tip number two. But to save time it is better to stop at your local Monoprix beforehand to avoid trying to discreetly wipe your nose on your beloved’s shirt.

    5. do not wander around the arrival gates

There is a great disconnect in the aura between the departure and the arrival gates at the airport. No matter if there is a Mango, a Laduree, or a Starbucks located near the arrival gates, avoid this area at all costs as it is full of pre-travel excitement and happy reunions between lovers and families. The departure gates are 100% more likely to have sad goodbyes, as every day people leave their foreign lovers without any inkling if they’ll ever see each other again!

Scan 2smoke
we only smoke when within proximity of high quality cameras

     6. if your goodbye is in Paris: fly from CDG, not ORY

Paris Orly Airport has a serious disadvantage if you are planning to say goodbye to your significant other there, mainly that the only form of public transport is a nausea-inducing bus that is always crowded. If possible, opt for CDG airport which is connected to the RER B train. It might smell like urine but at least you won’t vomit on your way home while you are crying and sitting backwards across from highly uncomfortable men who don’t know how to deal with public displays of emotion.

I hope my tips help you survive your sad parting with your significant other! If you are like me and now live in Paris sans amour, at some point you may wonder is there a point of even living in the City of Love if you don’t have a lover anymore? It will surely be sad, maybe just outright depressing, and maybe you won’t be able to eat the same food or listen to the same music or go to the same places anymore or even hate coming home to your formerly shared apartment, but there is never any ending to Paris. If there is anything that lasts, it will be the love this city has fostered and annoyed many city officials with on its lock-covered bridges.  

What to See, Do, and Eat at Aeroporto Milano Malpensa

Milan: a city famous for its cutting-edge style, magnificent architecture, and beautiful people. Millions of travellers make a stop in this northern Italian city, but very few know about its hidden gem, just 60km from its city centre (12€ by train). Aeroporto Milano Malpensa is Milan’s biggest airport, with two terminals serving both national and international flights. It used to be Milan’s greatest kept secret, but after this post you’ll realize why it’s the best day trip from Milan!

eb02ed974b
Nothing quite like the Italian landscape.

Very few tourists make the stop at the Milan Airport due to many reasons: it is quite far from the city centre and is expensive to get there on a budget. Nevertheless, it is still worth the day trip.

The Aeroporto can easily be covered in 12 hours, but I’d recommend staying overnight to get the full experience. I slept on the floor on the right side of the EasyJet counter in Terminal 2, right before you pass through security. I would recommend bringing several blankets and (if you have room in your backpack) an inflatible air mattress. There are a few armchairs to sit on, but they present a challenge because like all armchairs, they have arms, which prevents you from sprawling out on all four seats.

Shops and restaurants don’t actually open until 6am, so if you arrive past midnight like I did it’s best you pack snacks. Otherwise, there’s a vending machine where you can buy highly questionable tuna sandwiches (TONO in Italian) for 3€.

The Aeroporto has two terminals that are connected by a free shuttle service, so you can easily ride stress-free between the two to optimize your sightseeing options, as well as heighten your people-watching chances.

Once you are in Terminal 1 and have proved you are capable of putting liquids into little bottles, I would recommend going for brunch at Caffe Milano. This isn’t as chic as other options, like the first class lounges, but it guarantees overpriced food with an unparalleled view of the Ferrari boutique. I got the smoked salmon bagel for 9€, which I would highly encourage. As you feel the cream cheese melt in your mouth you will realize that overpriced Milan airport food is still cheaper than a regular Parisian cafe, and suddenly the salmon will taste that much more smoked.

20160628_093403
snag a table by the hall to get the best people watching angles!

After eating, take a stroll towards Gate B where you will pass by numerous chic Italian boutiques like Zara Home or H&M. There is this great locally-sourced concept store on the way to the international departures where you can buy magazines, travel pillows, gum, or paperback romances. I’d recommend picking up some chips maybe so you can snack on them loudly on the airplane as everyone around you tries to sleep.

20160628_093748
support local!

What’s a day trip without a little wanderlust? Aeroporto Milano Malpensa has these great little electric screens that name various cities around the world. This is one of the must-dos of the Aeroporto: stand in front of the screen, and think a city you’d like to go next!  The world really is your oyster. Maybe next time you’re at Aeroporto Milano Malpensa you can actually take a flight there.

20160628_093804
The world is a book and those who do not travel do not have the same privilege as the socially advantaged ❤

For those high-rollers on a bigger budget than exchange students such as myself, you can take a stroll by the Lufthansa Lounge or the Emirates Lounge. Getting in the actual lounge might be the most difficult part of the day trip, as it will involve strenuously impersonating one of the rich Italians in suits and heels you passed at the chic boutiques.

Depending on how much shopping and eating you want to do, I would recommend budgeting at least 100€ for this day trip. I’d recommend this for couples, families, and solo travelers especially, such as myself. I really learned a lot about myself on this journey and saw how Vueling Airlines tested the limits of my patience, but I persevered in the end and thus was able to share my experiences with you.

20160628_093418
Dont forget to stand up and awkwardly charge your phone at this high tech station while writing your travel post!

I would like to thank my friends for being able to board their flight eight hours earlier than me, leaving me all alone on this journey of self-discovery. But most importantly, I’d like to thank France’s airstrike. I couldn’t have embarked upon this wonderful day trip without you. CIAO 4 NOW!

We Accept the Stretch Limos We Think We Deserve

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset
our chauffeur hitting the breaks

On the first day of spring break in the City of Light, the metro was flooded with Parisians running with every kind of luggage you can imagine. This week-long holiday coincides with Paris Fashion Week, which results in many unfashionable folk fleeing the city to escape the harsh reality that they have zero style.

Instead of loading up my backpack and buying a budget airline ticket to Vienna, my best friend and blogger-mom-to-be (Jacquie at dnutqueen.wordpress.com) and I decided to have our own STAYCATION at her trendy residence in northern Paris. With the city all to ourselves, we made the best decision of our entire 20 years: we loaded up our metropasses and hailed ourselves a private STRETCH LIMO!

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset
some would call us best friend GOALS

The Paris stretch limos are a well kept secret that many tourists don’t know about. If you are planning a trip to Paris anytime soon, I would recommend omitting the expensive double-decker tour buses and just hailing yourself a stretch limo. Otherwise, you might find yourself squished like a can of sardines with all the Parisians on the stank bus (more commonly known to locals as the RER A).

We caught our first ride on Monday to Jacquie’s twentieth birthday, arriving in style at the Eiffel Tower where we would later ascend to the champagne bar on the top floor. All we had to do was stand on the side of a cute street and look at these little boxes that light up with how long you have to wait until your limo arrives. For those of you who are tech-savvy, you can compare the experience to using UberX, just with less harassment.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
so easy to use!

The next day our limo picked us up at Gare du Nord after our day of exploration was thwarted by rainy weather. Just as we had hoped, we had it all to ourselves! We cozied up at the back of our ride with a blanket we brought from home and put our feet up, ready to see Paris in STYLE! In that moment, I swore we were infinite. 

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
the comfort is unbeatable. just like home!

The chauffeur was even kind enough to keep the lighting dim on the bus, which was really helpful because Jacquie surprised me by pulling her laptop out of her bag. She then hotspotted her phone’s 3G to Solar Tv, which allowed us to catch up with the latest episodes of the Bachelor. We were having a great time bonding over this season’s unlovable bachelor, when we were rudely interrupted by a Parisian man who told us to put our feet down. He didn’t seem to have gotten the memo that this was our private stretch limo. I guess we forgot to tell our chauffeur that we didn’t want to pick up hitchhikers, but we were close to our stop anyway so it was okay. 

For anyone who is planning to visit Paris soon, we would recommend taking stretch limo No. 74. Make sure you keep your head on swivel when on this route, otherwise you’ll miss some cute cafes that would look great on your Instagram. On Tuesday night, after we were hungover from the Eiffel Tower champagne bar, we just rode the 74 around and admired all the beautiful lights along the Seine. Sometimes the chauffeur forgets to turn the heat on, so we would recommend bringing your own fuzzy blanket so you can feel right at home.

If anyone has any questions at all about the stretch limos, please don’t hesitate to comment below! Hopping on a stretch limo is the quickest way to feeling as trendy as Karl Lagerfeld drinking an espresso at Café de Flore. I guess it’s true what Owen Wilson says in Midnight in Paris. Paris really is most beautiful by bus!

Processed with VSCOcam with x1 preset
Jacquie enjoying the view

Bread and Anxiety: The Story So Far

blurry eiffel
just like I imagined ❤

Bonjour to my loyal readers, dearest friends, social media acquaintances, and any unfortunate souls who have stumbled upon my blog. The rumours are true- yes, I am on exchange in Paris, and yes, I’ve already become at least three times more annoying on Facebook and Instagram.

I’ve been pounding back croissants for approximately nine days now and I’ve only gained about six pounds so far. My exchange experience is already exceeding my expectations so hopefully my good fortune continues, as will my unabashed consumption of gluten products and complex carbohydrates.

I’d say I’m adjusting well to French life and could become une Parisienne by the end of the summer. Paris has made me aware of not only my glaring class privilege but my serious lack of street style. It was only natural that my first purchase here was a fur coat (vegan, of course) for the low, low price of ten euros, complete with the musty but comforting smell of thrift. A steal even with the plummeting value of the Canadian dollar! I think this fur coat will really help me stand out in the sea of foreigners who have no real grasp on French culture nor language.

Currently my French is at a level where I can walk into a café feeling moderately anxious and come out wanting to hurl myself into La Seine. So far I’ve mastered the art of nodding hesitantly and uttering a questionable oui when French people speak to me. I figure even if I don’t become conversational, at least I’ll still return home with some Hemingway-influenced short stories I wrote in cute cafés and enough #tbt pictures to make you vomit for months to come.

I have about seven months to learn the Parisian ways and I’m already feeling overwhelmed by the narrow streets that bring you to a new garden square every time you set down their paths. You’re never really “lost” in Paris. There’s a reason Paris is romanticized by the best white, upper class, predominantly Anglophone writers and artists of the Western world. To live in Paris is to learn to flâner, to stroll around without a destination whilst ignoring the racial and economic inequality all around you!

But even when my feet are aching from walking all day in my heeled boots, my literary aspirations keep me stumbling over the cobblestone streets. It won’t be easy to become a style icon, wine connoisseur, literary socialite, and Francophone in such a short time, but with the rate I’ve been Instagramming at you’ll have no choice but to join my journey 🙂

BISOUS *cringes and recoils awkwardly* BISOUS