The ever-watching gargoyles of Notre Dame Cathedral
Paris held a chilly glint as I wandered the narrow alleys of the Marais. Perhaps because the cold winter winds have finally begun to whip around the city’s tight corners, or because the once festive Christmas decorations wait unlit to be removed from their perches, or because the city seems a bit empty without its inhabitants, many of whom are nestled in their country homes for the holidays. But perhaps this glint is instead due to the realization that I’ll be leaving Paris in just a month and the inevitable reflection that accompanies the start of a new year.
So reflect we shall. 2013 has been a year filled with both familiar comforts and new adventures. My family has grown even closer despite our physical distance. There were countless bouts of laughter and reflective conversations with old cohorts. My long-time goal of living in Paris was realized and accompanied with delightful new friends and delicious new food. While three months ago, I could stammer through only a few sentences in French, I’ve just returned from my Christmas holiday, having spoken only French for three days. I’ve biked through glaciers with my sister, walked across the Brooklyn Bridge with my parents, eaten scones, ice cream sandwiches, and far too many cupcakes with friends, sung at Carnegie Hall and with Andrea Bocelli, lunched with one of my real-life inspirations, the Countess of Romanones, and truly enjoyed my work and coworkers. Certainly, I have much to be grateful for.
Locks on the Pont de l’Archevêché
So after watching the sun set over Paris with the gargoyles of Notre Dame, I fastened my own lock to the Pont de l’Archevêché as a memory of my time in Paris and walked home along the Quai de la Seine, listening to the lapping waves of the river on its banks. I was reminded of the words a wise friend had told me the day before, “When you pay attention, life can be quite lovely.” How true, indeed. Here’s to 2014!
It’s been quite some time since my last entry and we have a lot to catch up on: lunching with countesses, oven-less Thanksgiving, castles galore! Indeed, there are many posts to come. But first, I must share with you a tale from yesterday. I feel I owe you a warning in case you ever find yourself at a French Christmas market.
I spent yesterday working in my apartment with the curtains drawn, only to find that by the time I finished, the sun had already set. Determined to leave my couch, I took myself on a walk to the nearby Christmas market where I wandered through the warmly lit stalls, surrounded by overjoyed children and vendors selling handmade ornaments. Although the trees were a tad smaller, the Christmas lights glimmered not with a golden glow but with a bright blue tint, and the Santa was certainly less plump, I concluded that French Christmas markets live up to the joy of their American counterparts, perhaps with just a bit more angst.
But as I stood admiring the seasonal baked goods of a particularly jolly boulanger, I noticed that the odd music drifting through the market was getting closer. Naturally, upon hearing such a clatter, I turned to see what was the matter, only to find that I was within an arm’s reach of my worst nightmare: dancing mimes on stilts.
Suppressing a shriek of terror and nearly knocking over a stall in my clambering backwards, I ran from the most unsettling thing I have ever seen: three winged mimes with white painted faces swaying on stilts to the eery mechanical music of a sound system pedaled along by a fourth swaying mime. From my pitiful hiding spot behind a scraggly French Christmas tree (American Christmas trees are much better hiding spots) I marveled at the fact that the nearby Parisians seemed entertained by this sight and regained enough good sense to whip out my camera. So here you have it, a French Christmas market complete with dancing mimes on stilts. You have been warned:
Yesterday was my first day in both my apartment and the office. Oh what a day it was! I awoke early to meet the landlady and real estate agent and the three of us squeezed into the elevator of my new building, keys in hand. As we strolled down the hallway, the two of them discussed logistics in French while I trailed behind, imagining myself sitting at an open window nibbling a croissant while a Parisian breeze gently rustles the curtains behind me. I missed the the trash room instructions in my daydreaming. But then the apartment door swung open to reveal a charming flat, with a large window perfect for croissant nibbling. Outside were layers of Parisian apartments, seemingly stacked and squeezed together, with balconies, chimneys, and window boxes added for effect. The bells of a nearby church began to chime as I looked out at the view – a sign that I was meant to be there!
Then it was on to the office! The most notable difference between a French and American office is not the people. It is not the language. It is not the fancy espresso machines. It is the keyboard. It just so happens that there are some subtle differences between the QWERTY and AZERTY keyboards. To illustrate, this happened:
I refused to admit to any of my new colleagues that I couldn’t figure out how to type a period, (you can see above that I hadn’t yet mastered this), so Google France and I spent a frustrating 45 minutes together researching this particular skill. I declare that by the end of my four months in Paris, I may not be a bilingual speaker, but I will be a bilingual typist! Take that, AZERTY.
The rest of the day went smoothly. I gave a presentation in which the French audience laughed when I attempted humor, successfully managed to lug both of my suitcases into my apartment (after nearly flattening the taxi driver who tried to lift my bags from his cab), and unpacked all of my things, which magically disappeared into the drawers, cabinets, and shelves of my new Parisian flat! Pictures to come!