According to Julie


1 Comment

May in Paris

Since we have so little time left in this city, each day should be "miraculous", according to Julie*. Finals? What finals?

Miraculous things to do in Paris on a long weekend:

  • Eat as many meals as possible outside.
  • Drink wine with all meals except breakfast (a baguette and some strawberries is a meal btw)
  • Make an effort to trick tourists into thinking that all Parisian girls are cute and friendly. Pose for photos in the park, wave at boats on the Seine and give up your park bench to people whose French is worse than your own(!).
  • Listen to musicals that take place in Paris (Les Miserables, Moulin Rouge etc). Sing along. In public.
  • Visit the Orangerie to see Monet’s water lilies. Get yelled at for being too loudly happy about it.
  • Dip your toes into the Seine and think about how disgusting – and embarrassing – it would be to fall in.
  • Go to Showcase, a club conveniently located under the Alexander bridge, to hear a band called – of course – The Parisians. Try to avoid getting your feet squashed by the group’s biggest (literally) and most enthusiastically jumping fan in the front row.
  • Spend Saturday night watching a movie with a friend rather than going out – you know you’re "at home" when that feels acceptable.
  • Waste time in the Tuilleries.
  • Live on a diet of dessert, fruit and wine – and maybe some "fake chicken" at a vegetarian restaurant in the Marais.
  • Walk. The Paris metro is great, but why charge your Navigo Decouverte when walking lets you waste time and get sunburned?

Soundtrack for all these miracles:  

The Legionnaire’s Lament, by The Decemberists

* According to this Julie, and also according to Julie Balise


Leave a comment

Testing…

I am testing Windows Live Writer. If this works, blogging without a stable Internet connection will be possible. But I actually started this post to tell you that I am not planning on blogging that much this month. It is my last month in Paris, the weather gods seem to have come to their senses after my rant, and I would like to spend my time doing things that do not require me to be inside near a source of electricity.

Right now for example, I wouldn’t mind being on the Champ de Mars with my classmates, after having said "Yes please!" to supposedly "Italian" vodka smoothies and Czech beer, rather than: "No thank you, I need to write this afternoon." AUP just had "world’s fair", where the nationalities of the school are represented with tables of food and alcohol. I have had coffee from Saudi Arabia and food from Thailand, Sweden, the USA, Romania and Armenia for lunch. And now I’m back in a very much deserted university library, sitting by an open window and hearing birds chirp in the courtyard outside. I am writing a paper on Joseph Nye. And you know what? I’m really enjoying the day, even though I’m stuck inside. And if I get some work done now, I will reward myself by spending the evening on the steps in front of Sacre Cæur.

I will be leaving Paris on the morning of Thursday, May 22nd.


3 Comments

Rant of the day: Parisian weather

Update, a few hours after this was written: After reading your comments, I have learned that this weird weather is happening all over Europe. Maybe I should just be thankful that I am experiencing it in Paris of all places. Whatever, I needed to write a rant today. If it wasn’t the weather, it would have been the schoolchildren in front of me in line at the boulangerie. And that would have been meaner of me.

In Zadie Smith’s On Beauty (recommended by the way), an Englishman who lives in New England reflects on how delusional New Englanders are about weather. He is annoyed by the way they say things like: "Oh, England. It’s cold there, right?". Because let’s face it: New England is cold. In the summer, it is humid and hot and uncomfortable unless you are under water. But in all the months when you want it to be warm, it really isn’t. I practically live in the Arctic, but I have never been tipped over by the wind (as in standing still and then falling, only because the wind is blowing) in my home country. No, that only happened to me in Arlington, Massachusetts.

I would like to expand on this character’s theory: All people, except Scandinavians, are delusional about the weather. I’ve been compiling lists in my mind ever since I got to Paris: things I miss when I’m here, things I will miss when I go back, and things I definitely WILL NOT miss when I go back. And it does not make sense at all that Parisian weather is on the last list. Norway is supposed to be cold and miserable, right? Norwegians are supposed to be able to handle any weather, right? Guess not, because I am not handling this weather well.

Today for example, I put on sunglasses as I left my apartment. As I walked out of my courtyard, the Parisian weather gods saw me, saw the smile on my face and decided that I was just too happy. Enter HAIL. When was the last time it hailed in Oslo?

Yes, it’s cold up north. But it is predictably cold. I walked outside in a tank top, eating ice cream, last Thursday.  The following Sunday, IT SNOWED. No wonder I keep getting sick. And no wonder Parisians are fashion-conscious – in order to dress for the weather, they need to change three times a day.

And now that I am inside, in class, it’s not raining. The forces of nature are against me.


1 Comment

The French according to the New York Times

This is all very true. And with the exception of their horrible rules for interviews, I generally like the French and their attitudes. I like the idea of a country where fitting in means you need a knowledge of history, lingerie, manners and always choosing the right outfit. And the double bisou is a lot more practical than I once thought. I mean, a hug is actually more intimate, in my opinion, and kissing the air next to someone’s cheek doesn’t require you to put down your shopping bags.


Leave a comment

Home

I’m not sure what it was. A couple of sunny days in a row always helps my mood. Maybe it was the five different people who asked me for directions in both English and French in fifteen minutes – and the fact that I had answers for all of them. Or how happy I was to see my American friends when they got back from spring break, and how much I had missed them – each one specifically and individually for different reasons. When my mom and then friends of my friends visited Paris, I could point out interesting things for them to see. I have a favorite bench on L’Esplanade des Invalides, and I have internet access there. I understand enough French to eavesdrop on conversations. And – this might just be my imagination – but sometimes I can pass people on the street.

For whatever reason, as I rode the escalator out of the Invalides metro station on Sunday afternoon, with a view of the Eiffel tower, the golden dome under which Napoleon is, and my own building, I felt like I was home. I live in Paris.


1 Comment

Being a tourist in one’s own city

After my week "back home in Oslo", I went "back home to Paris", and my mother visited me for a few days. My parents usually don’t enjoy touristy things, and they have brought me up to dislike them too. With my family, visiting a foreign country involves getting back in touch with whatever friends we have who are currently living there, and following them around while they go to school and go grocery shopping. Naturally, the original plan was for my mom to follow me around and observe my daily life in Paris, but since there are no classes, most of my friends are travelling Europe, and watching me blog from the library gets old, we gave in to tourism instead. 

I realized that I was never a tourist in this city. From the moment I got off the bus that took me from Charles de Guelle to Avenue Bosquet, I have been either busy or tired from having been busy. Not counting the pictures for the coffee shop reviews, I’ve taken maybe seven photographs, most of them really bad ones. So, nearly two months after first arriving in Paris, I opened a guide book. I read what travel writers have to say about my new home. I posed for photos in the classrooms, at the Louvre, inside Le Bon Marché, in front of Hôtel de Ville, and with the Eiffel Tower in the background at various times of day and night. I chose cafés based on which authors used to sit there. I got up early and walked in the rain to an outdoor market, just because it’s more interesting than getting groceries at an actual store.

And I realized that there is no reason not to continue living like this. 


5 Comments

Coffee in Paris

I always thought that if I lived in Paris, I would have a favorite café just around the corner, where Parisians have noisy two-hour lunches with wine, while the friendly, yet efficient waiters know me by sight and start making me an espresso as I walk in the door. And then I moved here and learned a sad, little secret: Parisians are good at cafés and bad at the actual coffee.

Most French cafés use Robusta coffee, which is cheaper, can be stored for longer, and is generally considered to be of lower quality than Arabica coffee. About half of the coffee beans imported by the French are Robusta beans, according to the International Trade Forum. US coffee imports on the other hand, are composed of 76% Arabica and 24% Robusta. Canadian and German imports are similar to the US, and the Nordic countries barely import Robusta at all.

So how do you get good coffee in Paris? Italian brands illy and Lavazza use only Arabica, so look for their logos. Le Malar, for example, on the corner of rue St. Dominique and rue Malar, uses Lavazza. Look for brûleries, the French word for coffee roaster. And then there is Starbucks, which is becoming almost as common as the traditional Parisian café. Just make sure you get your Starbucks coffee in an actual cup, as paper cups cool the coffee too quickly, seriously damaging the taste. Starbucks gives you exactly what you expect from a chain: consistently decent coffee, but never a fantastic experience. So where do you go for fantastic?

On rue St. Dominique, there is a specialty coffee store called Comptoirs Richard, with a bar in the back of the shop where you can get excellent espresso. It’s a five minute walk from the Bosquet building, so this is a good choice for a quick dose of caffeine between classes.

If you want to sit down, read newspapers and use WiFi, try espressamente illy, near Opera. With shiny metal decor and a display of brightly colored espresso machines, the atmosphere is far from traditional or French – in fact, it might seem a little cold. You can still enjoy a pretty good espresso.

In the same area, you’ll find Verlet, with a long line of people waiting to get coffee for their homes, and gesticulating Parisians at every table. I loved their coffee cups, and I wouldn’t mind occupying a table here for a few hours with friends. However, while their espresso was good, it would have been much better if it wasn’t stored pre-ground in an open container. Once coffee has been ground, the taste is getting worse by the second. As a general rule, if you don’t see a coffee grinder behind the counter, get tea.

My favorite is Cafeotheque Soluna by Hôtel de Ville. The espresso, which changes daily, is delicious, the friendly baristas clearly know what they’re doing, and the comfortable atmosphere makes me want to bring a stack of books and newspapers and stay for hours. And as Parisian clichés go, a favorite café overlooking the Seine is just as good as one around the corner.

List of recommended coffee shops:

Comptoirs Richard
145, rue St. Dominique
Nearest metro stop: Ecole Militaire
Espresso at the counter: 2.60
(There is another Comptoirs Richard at this address: 48, rue du Cherche-Midi)

espressemente illy
13, rue Auber
Nearest metro stop: Opera
Espresso at the counter: 2

Verlet
256, rue Saint-Honoré
Nearest metro stop: Pyramides or Madeleine
Espresso at the counter: 2.70

Caféotheque Soluna
52, rue de l’Hôtel de Ville
Nearest metro stop: Pont Marie
Espresso at the counter: 2 for coffee of the day, 2.50 for other espresso coffees

Cafés Amazone
11, rue Rambuteau
Nearest metro stop: Rambuteau (not far from Hôtel de Ville)
Espresso at the counter: 1 (cheapest espresso shot tested)

I have not had time to visit these, but they’re worth mentioning:
Malongo, a French coffee chain
Nespresso on Champs Elyssée
Hediard, 126, rue dur Bac, by Musée D’Orsay

Two brûleries, not cafés:
Brûleries de Ternes 10, rue Poncelet, by the Arc de Triomphe
Lapeyronie, 3, rue Brantôme, by Centre Georges Pompidou

Originally published in The Planet


1 Comment

Passing strangers

During my first month in Paris, at an American university, (waiting for money from Norway), I have thought about what culture I really feel that I represent here. I am European because I drink wine without getting drunk, feel comfortable in heels and fishnets, and know that there is a price difference when someone calls my French number when I’m in France vs. if I go to Italy. I am Norwegian because I know that neither a croissant nor a baguette is real bread, think all drinks in Paris are cheap and arrive at parties wearing boots and woolen socks and carrying indoor party shoes. I am American because I sound like one and use "we" when I talk about the US.

The ultimate test might be how I handle passing strangers.

Paris is not designed to cope with this situation at all. I have this theory: There are too many Parisians in Paris. The metro basically works, as do the wide boulevards (although not near Galleries Lafayette) and even parts of the Champs Elyssée (although not on weekends). But the charming narrow cobble-stoned streets and the sidewalks on any street were not built for actual people who really need to walk from point A to point B. They were built for chairs and café tables, for smoking waiters, for signs advertizing the "formule" of the day, for slow-walkers who take their time choosing which boulangerie they should buy their morning croissant from, and of course, for small dogs.

Oslo wasn’t designed for people either, but this doesn’t matter. First off, there aren’t that many people in Norway. Secondly, Norwegians don’t like interacting with strangers. This fear is hard to explain to Americans. What Americans call "friendly small-talk", Norwegians call "crazy/drunk/American/all of the above stalker tendencies". Norwegians back off when I come anywhere near an invasion of their personal space, which means they get out of my way. French people on the other hand, will not notice that I am standing right behind them. To get past them, I must either yell: "Pardon!" or just walk around them, in the actual street. If I meet someone face-to-face, the general rule seems to be that I must wait while they walk first, no matter what. Americans on the other hand, say "Excuse me," even if they are nowhere near me, just in case. They also smile more.

The last time I went to the US, the first thing that happened when I got there, was that a stranger talked to me and smiled at me and it didn’t feel weird. I knew I was home. When I came back to Europe, the first thing that happened was that a stranger ran over my feet with a loaded luggage cart and didn’t apologize. And I knew I was home again.