Tag Archives: france

10 things I miss about Paris

Before I left for Paris more than one year ago, I made a list of things I would miss about my life here in Arizona. Now, more than a month since my return home, I’ve found there are things about Paris that I miss dearly and desperately. Some of them are gems that make the city unique. Others are mundane things that were part of my daily life. No matter the case, I long for them all now:

1. Fresh food that is full of flavor (because it probably came from the local farmer’s market just hours before)

crêpe au saumon

The first thing I noticed when I got home was how lackluster all of the fruits and vegetables were in the grocery stores. They tasted like they’d had all the flavor sucked out of them. Then I noticed the breads I was eating tasted like big loaves of sugar. Bleck. You just can’t beat locally raised, freshly harvested food.

2. A bakery on every block

Bakery

Bakeries are as French as handle-bar mustaches and self-rolled cigarettes. The smell of fresh dough wafts through the alleyways every morning as the little boulangeries prepare for the city’s most fundamental daily tradition: the buying and eating of bread. Meanwhile, the pastries are being frosted and adorned, and the viennoiseries  are being filled with chocolate, raisins, butter. How I miss this daily ceremony, observing it, smelling it and tasting it.

3. Green spaces around every corner

Père la Chaise

Though I’d say Paris is in need of more green space, it certainly has readily accessible gardens and parks in abundance compared to Tucson. Every neighborhood has its little (or big!) outdoor sanctuary, where the gates are open, the trees are tall and the pathways are calling to be strolled upon.

4. Beauty for beauty’s sake

Sénat

The French have a profound respect for beauty. So much so that they strive to cultivate beauty in every building, every patch of dirt, every ensemble. I miss this intentional aesthetic, this sense of presentation and pride in the human capacity for art, whether it be in trimming of a rose garden, in the ceiling of a cathedral, or in the glint of a woman’s lipstick.

5. Sunday, a true day of rest

The distinguishing feature of a Sunday in Paris is something my camera cannot capture: silence. A penetrating silence that rises and sets with the sun. On a Sunday in Paris, you can guarantee that 85 percent of all businesses and institutions are closed. At first, this bothered me, because I needed to DO things, dammit. But Sunday is the antithesis of doing in Paris. It is a day of calm, when one may get out of bed a little later in the morning, enjoy a pleasant brunch with loved ones, take a stroll through the garden, drink two glasses of wine at dinner instead of one. This couldn’t be more different than a Sunday in the U.S., where everything runs business-as-usual—fast, loud, busy. Too busy.

6. Things—demonstrations, protests, festivals—happening! All the time! 

Femen 2

Something is always happening in Paris. A girl is never bored.

7. The lights shimmering in the Seine at night

La Seine

I know I’ve used this photo time and time again, but that’s merely because I find what it captures so breathtaking. Paris at night is a magical place. It glows.

8. High heels

march 2

There is a way of dressing here in Tucson. It is called “Tucson Casual.” After a year in Paris, where dressing up is the norm, I find that I prefer a pair of heels and a splash of lipstick over a pair of sandals and a glob of sunscreen. Tucson Casual isn’t me anymore, and yet, when I reach for my heels, I recoil, knowing that wherever I go I will feel over-dressed.

Call me snobby. I can take it.

9. The changing of seasons

Preview!

When the leaves in Paris started to turn from green to orange yellow red, I behaved like a child who has just seen snow for the first time. I had never experienced this natural phenomenon, even in my hometown in the mountains of northern Arizona. Being able to see and feel the world shifting from one season to another is a wonderful feeling that brings a person down to Earth. It reminds you that you’re spinning.

10. The social custom of saying “hello,” “good morning” and “good evening” to everyone you meet

In France, and in most of Europe, hello and goodbye are required upon any one-on-one encounter with a person, whether you know them or not. When you enter a store, you say hello. When you pass someone in the hallway, you say hello. When you see a neighbor down by the mailboxes, you say hello. If you don’t, it is terribly rude.

Although this custom was a little daunting at first (who do I greet and who do I ignore?), it soon became a pleasant part of everyday life. Every time I exchanged hello’s with someone, often a stranger, I felt we had exchanged a gesture of mutual human compassion. Sometimes acknowledgement is all a person needs to feel special.

me in paris

These are only a few of the things I miss about Paris, a city that has become closer to my heart with each day spent away from her. Of course, I only realized how much I treasured her after I’d left her behind. I guess I’ll have to go back so that I can let her know, won’t I?

What customs and details do you miss about your own travels? How do you cope with the nostalgia? Share your stories in the comments below!

Smiles and all the best,

Savannah

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If You’re for Equality, Clap Your Hands

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Tens of thousands swarmed the streets of Paris’ 4th arrondissement  on Sunday  in support of gay marriage, or le mariage pour tous. The “marriage for all” bill entered the French parliament a little more than a month ago, and demonstrations both for and against the legislation have been resounding throughout the country since.

The fierce opposition to gay marriage has sent an “electroshock” through France’s LGBT community, Nicholas Gougain, the spokesperson of the Inter LGBT, told Le MondeOne month before Sunday’s demonstration, protesters mobilized nationwide to voice their disapproval, and recent polls show that the country remains divided on the issue, with 41% of the population against gay marriage and 48% against gay parents’ adoption rights. Yet as we saw in the U.S. elections, gay marriage is becoming accepted more and more, and some think it is just a matter of time before France follows suit. so french

Despite the gravity surrounding the mariage pour tous debate, Sunday’s manif felt like a party. Marchers brandished rainbow flags and musicians played big band tunes on the sidewalks. Children ran through the crowds with ribbons in their hands and friends drew hearts and peace signs on each other’s cheeks. These militants were there to manifest, but they made sure to have fun doing it.

In Gay We TrustFemen 2 Femen 1

While the demonstrators were mostly ordinary citizens of all ages, genders and backgrounds, there were a few well-known activist groups among them. Perhaps the most famous, and the most controversial, was Femen, whose participants came with their bodies painted in bright colors, forming a topless rainbow.  The women led the stream of people protesting behind them with a banner that read, “In Gay We Trust.”

Chorale Sax 2Sax

An unexpected addition to Sunday’s demonstration turned out to be the variety of music. One group sang gay-friendly versions of classical choral songs, another played contemporary jazz. The UNEF, Ile de France’s student syndicate, marched behind a band of percussionists dressed in pink. Every song sounded like the kind of music a high school band might play to rally a football stadium.

UNEFUNEF 2

Another creative feature of the mariage pour tous demonstration was the various slogans and chants. “Si t’es pour égalité, tape dans tes mains!” one demonstrator sang into a megaphone, “if you’re for equality, clap your hands!” After each line, the crowd behind her erupted with cheers. “Si t’es pour égalité, encore plus fort!,” she yelled, “again, and even stronger!”

Annoyed Balloons across the Seine

Sunday’s manif expressed the fervor with which the LGBTQ community and its allies are fighting for their rights. In a demonstration of diversity, passion, creativity and dedication, these citizens proved that they will not give up until their rights are realized.

Want to see more of my photos and hear some chants and music from the march? Check out the video above! 

To read more about the fight for gay marriage in France, check out this article from the New York Times;  take a look at this Wiki article to learn more about the country’s LGBT history.

In gay we trust,

Savannah

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Enter the Madness: Braderie de Lille 2012

I had the pleasure of visiting ma soeur française in Lille, a college town in Northern France, last weekend. This was the perfect time to be in the city because it was the weekend of la Braderie de LilleImagine a giant flea market that falls on Black Friday, and all weekend long! It seemed that all of France had flocked to Lille to partake in the city-wide shopping bonanza. Shoppers flooded the streets and sidewalks, shuffling inch by inch from store to store. Why all the frenzy? Every store and business in Lille cut their prices in half, or more. Pieces of furniture normally priced at 300 Euros sold for 100. Designer clothes normally priced at 150 Euros sold for 30. If you are the kind of person who marches straight through the front of the boutique and into the clearance section (me!) then this is the event for you!

I spent all of Saturday shopping and I managed to get some smokin’ deals:

2 Embroidered Scarves– 6 Euro

2 Jean Paul Throw Pillows– 50 Euro (originally 110 each)

Manoukian Skinny Jeans– 19 Euro (originally 79)

Another aspect of la Braderie is the the food. The menu? Mussels, fries and beer. So delicious! But quite perilous for the little sea creatures! Thousands upon thousands of empty shells sat in mounds along the streets; the piles stood several feet tall– pauvre moules!

By the end of the day, my feet were aching from wandering the city and my hands were throbbing from carrying my purchases. Even so, attending la Braderie proved to be a fantastic way to explore Lille and all it has to offer. It’s a lively place, and I can’t wait to visit again soon.

Merci beaucoup à tous, spécialement ma soeur française, for making this weekend so special!

À bientôt!

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Regard sur l’avenir

As I write this from behind the wide, towering windows of the local library, gazing out across the Cottonwood trees and the weary, shingled rooftops, it is July 16, nearly five o’clock. In exactly one month from this moment I will set foot in Paris, where I’ll spend the next 11 months living and learning. One month and I’ll say goodbye to this sleepy town, to my family, my friends, the desert. One month, and everything changes. No matter how many times I write those words, they never manifest within my consciousness. The reality of my future is far from real, even further from tangible. But that won’t stop this month from turning into weeks, the weeks to days, the days to hours until, finally, I’m at the airport. If this were any other adventure, I’d grin till my cheeks hurt as the plane lifted from the runway and shot into the sky. But this time, I think it’ll be my stomach hurting, clenching, burning as I fly away. I’m scared shitless, really. And I’m having a hard time laughing about it.

Let me fill you in: I’ll be spending this next academic year studying in Paris at Sciences Po, an institute of political science, where all of my classes will be taught in French. Now that’s immersion. I’ll be living alone for the first time in my life, in a studio on the seventh floor of an elevator-less apartment building in the sixth district. It’s a good neighborhood. A ten minute walk to my university. I have a little balcony overlooking  the city. I’m sure it will be an enchanting view, a nice place to sip my coffee in the morning, read, maybe even write. My shower is inside the studio, but the toilet is out in the hall, shared between myself and another tenant. My sister thinks my neighbor will be a foxy young Frenchman, and we will fall in love. If so, I hope there’s a romantic place to get espresso around the corner. I’ve always wanted to fall in love in a coffee shop.

Doesn’t all of this sound so picturesque? Think of all the wonderful things I’m going to see and do! The people I’ll meet, the knowledge I’ll gain. The food! What an experience. Even more exciting is the fact that once I’m in Paris, I’ll be a stranger to everyone I meet. I’ll have no reputation, no predetermined identity. I’ll have the opportunity to be exactly who I’ve always wanted to be, and no one will know the difference.

But–

I’m still scared shitless. As in I wake up every morning with a python coiled around my chest…figuratively. I go through the day with my heart in my mouth, blocking my windpipe. I’m gasping for air, for assurance, for anything that will take this fear away. But it never leaves. I just keep praying I’ll wake up one day to find that the python has slithered away and been replaced by something fluffy and warm, a Koala bear perhaps.

Anyway. My year in Paris means a year of blogging about my year in Paris! Lucky you! I’m hoping to create a few more regular features that will be designed to capture my Parisian experience, and I’d like to get your input. What would you like to read about regarding my year in France? Food? Fashion? Tourism? Tell me in the comments below so I can get a few ideas.

In the meantime, I’m going off the grid for about 10 days. I’m taking a family trip up to Northern Idaho to see my relatives and I’ve decided to leave the laptop behind. I will, however, take plenty of photos and (hopefully) do some blog-worthy writing. I think being disconnected will rejuvenate my spirit and help center my thoughts and intentions. It will certainly stave off my inevitable transformation from human to robot a little while longer.

Till my return, I wish you a week and a half of happiness and creativity– untethered.

Smiles and all the best,

Savannah

PS– Don’t forget to let me know what you’d like to read about concerning my year in Paris! I can’t wait to hear your ideas!

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